Four months ago I found myself home alone during the weekend with just my cat Lulu for company. Yet again. It finally dawned on me: I had become a tennis widow. Now, you may have heard of golf widows, women who are left alone while their spouse spends a long Saturday or Sunday on the golf course (including the 19th hole). In tennis the situation is generally not so dramatic, as games between amateur tennis players typically last a couple of hours. However, for me that stopped being the case when my other half heard about Tennis Fight Club, where you can take part in one-day tournaments that start at 9am in the morning and go on late into the evening (provided you keep winning, of course!). And if you are really lucky you will find local tournaments to take part in on both Saturday and Sunday! But, rather than get upset, sulk, make him feel guilty (well, not too much..), I was instead curious to understand why he was so passionate about tennis, a sport he had only taken up 3 years prior. There was also an aspect of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. So during a weekend away for his birthday I asked him to take me to the local tennis courts and teach me the basics of tennis.
This was probably one of the best things I have ever done, as learning to play tennis has had such a positive influence on my life. Here are some of the things I have learned since taking up tennis:
- Tennis is a great way to spend more time with my partner. He is obviously much better than me after 3 years of training, but he is patient and encouraging and is happy to put in the time to help me improve. That is not to say we have not had our arguments on the tennis court, when he sends me balls that are too powerful and deep, or are too short when we are supposed to be working on the base line (gggrrrr), but I just have to remind myself that he is not a tennis coach and is doing his best to help me. We soon make up, move on and get carried away with playing tennis again. Even if your partner can’t teach you tennis, you could take lessons together (which reduces the chance of arguments!) and at the same time keep fit, have fun and spend quality time together.
- Tennis really works the legs. For a year before taking up tennis I started to get in shape by working out at home with a skipping rope, kettle ball, a few weights and mainly lots of body-weight exercises. The one exercise that I really struggled with was jump squats, and I hardly ever managed to keep doing them for a full minute. Since taking up tennis I have started to realise how important they actually were and I now have a clear objective in mind when doing them. Pure aesthetics (i.e. reduction of fat and cellulite) was not enough to get me through a set of jump squats, but now I have additional motivation. I now put in the effort to complete my workouts to the best of my ability, as this will help me perform better at tennis.
- You can start playing tennis later in life. I am almost 40 years old and the only exposure I have ever had to tennis was during a few P.E. lessons at school about 25 years ago. I have never been particularly sporty – I was never chosen for the netball team, nor the hockey team, and I was one of the slowest at cross country (even when I cheated with a short-cut through the woods that the teachers didn’t know about). Getting fit before taking up tennis (see the point above) certainly helped a lot, and I would recommend to anyone that takes up tennis at a later stage in life to also do some other form of exercise, perhaps yoga, pilates, or body-weight exercises at home to strengthen muscles, improve agility and help avoid injuries.
- Tennis is not cheap but there are ways to make it more affordable. The expense was probably one of the reasons that I only came to tennis late in life. I always thought of it as a slightly elitist sport that required lots of expensive lessons and subscription to tennis clubs. I am certainly in a much better position economically than I was 10/20 years ago (after years of always putting work first, and myself and my hobbies last), and I can now afford to have tennis lessons. Nevertheless, I have realised that there are many ways you can get into tennis whilst also keeping the costs down. You could share lessons with your partner (which, as mentioned above, could be really good for your relationship) or with a group of friends; you can try and teach yourself using online tennis videos which cover all of the basics (I’ll probably discuss some of the better ones that I have discovered in a future blog post); and you can even win tennis material on Instagram competitions (if you follow my IG account you will notice I have recently won a snazzy overgrip for my tennis racket, a tennis tank top and Monica Puig’s Ellesse Wimbledon dress!). The one thing I can’t promise you is that you won’t want to buy lots of new tennis outfits / shoes / rackets if you get hooked on the sport!
If anyone reading this has a partner that abandons them to go off and play tennis during the evenings/weekends, I hope you will consider asking to join them one time and please do let me know how it goes in the comments below. You might not get as obsessed with tennis as I have become, but you will hopefully enjoy yourself, whist doing something that will make you feel fit and healthy!