Are Your Tennis Courts Getting a Workout?

With more attention being given to the nation’s obesity epidemic, people are looking for unique workouts that don’t feel like exercise. Although there are plenty of entry-level tennis activities, most people probably don’t think of tennis as a heart-pounding activity, unless you’re Jim Courier or Serena Williams.

In the past, park-based tennis lessons consisted of stretching, whacking a few balls, retrieving the missed balls–and it was over. It wasn’t much of a workout because one’s heart rate probably never popped above that of a couch potato reloading the snack bowl. (The Centers for Disease Control recommends a weekly dose of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity plus strength-training exercises.)

Additionally, most of the class was usually spent listening to an instructor, so participants didn’t get much on-the-court practice time.

That was until the Tennis Industry Association created Cardio Tennis, a workout program that raises participants’ heart rates, challenges and improves skill levels, and provides plenty of hands-on practice. Plus, participants of all skill levels can play together.

Cardio Tennis

“Cardio Tennis was launched in 2005 at the U.S. Open when it was formally introduced to the world,” says Michele Krause, national Cardio Tennis program manager with the Tennis Industry Association. “There are now over 1,700 official Cardio Tennis sites in the United States. The program is in 30 countries, and is very popular in the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada and Germany.”

The program is taught by certified tennis professionals. Each session includes stretches, a warm-up, a cardio workout, games and a cool-down period. Participants hit backhands, forehands and volleys. In addition to the aerobic activity, improvements in flexibility, strength, reaction times and balance are typical. Moreover, the program doesn’t become stale because instructors use a set of interchangeable drills to achieve the coveted aerobic-training zone of 65 to 85 percent of the participant’s maximum heart rate.

“The warm-up is dynamic, hand-eye coordination and other skills are used, and then the class moves to drill-based exercises,” says Krause. “The games are the largest component of this fun and very fast-moving class.”

“I can change the dynamics of the workout to make sure I hit everyone’s skill set,” says Brad Douglas, director of tennis for Parkside Athletics, Pekin Park District in Illinois. “The Cardio Tennis session starts with stretching, a warm-up, some easy footwork, tossing and catching the balls and progresses to feeding drills at a medium-to-fast pace, ball pickup, and then games with transition balls, followed by a cool-down.”

Transition balls are larger in diameter than normal tennis balls, and compress less when hit. This slows down the speed of the ball, making the game safer and leveling the playing field between an experienced tennis player and a newbie.

Tennis Business

“People are attracted to the words “Cardio Tennis” because it sounds exciting and gives them the perception that the class is going to be much faster and more exciting than tennis,” says Krause. “Essentially, this program is incredible for getting people into the game of tennis because it is a good entry point. For infrequent or past players, Cardio Tennis is a way to get people to play more frequently or to pick up the game again.”

Cardio Tennis is proving to be a revenue generator for facilities and tennis professionals. “Cardio Tennis is our biggest program. In fact, it has grown our business by nearly 40 percent,” says Chris Ojakian, president of Ojakian Tennis Inc., and National Cardio Tennis Speaker. “We’ve seen increases in all areas of our business, including private lessons, equipment sales and kids’ programs.” Ojakian Tennis now teaches over 35 hours of Cardio Tennis between its seven facilities.

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