Racket Box Review: A Monthly Tennis Equipment Service

Racket Box

Racket Box

Earlier this month I received a Racket Box in the post for me to review for my blog. I immediately posted a photo of the goodies inside the box on my Instagram profile (along with a cheeky flash of my legs, which haven’t seen the light of day for quite a few months now!) Since then I have had a chance to try out some of the items in the box, and I wanted to let you know how I got on, and my thoughts on these subscription tennis boxes.

First up, let me list the contents of the racket box that I received:

  • Two tubes of Robin Söderling tennis balls
  • A pack of three white Wilson overgrip
  • A bright yellow Karakal grip
  • A pair of white Asics tech running ankle socks
  • Luxilon Savage Black racket strings
  • A Wilson emoji vibration dampener

Now, I would estimate that the contents of the box, if you were to buy them individually, would cost just under £40 (about  €45), whereas if you sign up for a monthly racket box it costs £29.95 (and a bi-monthly box costs £14.95 per month). Hence, you are certainly saving money by signing up, but is it still worth it?

I have so far tried the Wilson overgrip, the vibration dampener, the tennis balls and the socks. These are obviously all good quality products: I liked the feel of the smooth overgrips; the socks provided great cushioning; the balls, though super stylish, were a bit too hard for my liking; I was pleased to find out via Instagram that Dan Evans has the same emoji dampener 😉

Signing up for a monthly (or bi-monthly) tennis box is certainly an investment that is best suited to regular tennis players. I like the fact that there is an option to receive boxes every two months rather than every month, as monthly boxes might lead to too many products for some players. Those of us that train and play regularly know how useful it is to regularly stock up on tennis balls, strings and overgrips and we are always on the look out for new tennis gadgets and equipment to try out. And by investing in a racket box you are going to be exposed to lots of different tennis products that you might not otherwise have heard of or have access to. The producer of Racket Box also tells me that there may be the possibility in the future to request particular items, such as tennis balls, as this is something you might not want to constantly change.

Have you ever signed up for a tennis box? Let me know your thoughts on these boxes in the comments below.

 

Setting Up a YouTube Channel

Last week I set up a YouTube channel and started posting videos. I wanted to have a place where I could share some of my longer footage from my training sessions, and provide more background context to the videos. I like posting videos on Instagram, but they are limited in length and I think some people that watch them (and who don’t follow me) don’t realise that I am only just learning to play tennis.

I had no idea where to start with editing, but I knew it couldn’t be too difficult given how many bloggers are posting good quality videos on YouTube. I have tried using iMovie a few times in the past, but had never quite understood the workflow, but thanks to a couple of ‘How To’ YouTube videos, I soon realised it was actually really easy to do a half-decent video. I started with a fairly simple video, which just required me to clip some longer footage to remove dead time, and add some music on top. I also added some transitions between the clips to make them run more smoothly together, and a title page at the beginning and end. I took the music from the YouTube audio library which includes lots of open music that can either be used freely or requires attribution according to a Creative Commons license.

In my second video I stepped way out of my comfort zone and decided to talk to the camera for the first time. I don’t even talk to the camera on Instagram Stories and they only last 24 hours! I must admit that I wasn’t super pleased with the outcome, but I think most people find it difficult to see or hear themselves speaking. I decided that I didn’t have the time or patience to repeat the recording until I was happy with it, and I just decided to put it out there. I am sure I will improve with time and I look forward to seeing that progression play out.

Today I posted a new video which focuses on my recent training for my first tournament match that I played yesterday. I was planning on showing a lot more of the match itself, but I didn’t have much footage in the end and what I did have wasn’t very good. Or perhaps I just didn’t think my tennis playing was good enough! I did lose the match after all 🙂 Just kidding, I was actually happy with how I played once I had got over the initial stage fright.

I hope you subscribe to my channel and let me know through the like/dislike button and comments whether you enjoy my videos. There are so many inspirational posts and videos on social media that show how good your abs could look, how flexible you could be, how often you could work out, how fast you could run, and how strong you could become. I love following these types of posts, but I want to achieve something slightly different with my social media posts, which is to show the journey. I am not (yet!) a great tennis player, and I am not super fit, strong, or flexible, but I plan to share with you my progress, dedication, and motivation to do better.

A Trip To The Court With Our TopspinPro

A couple of months ago I posted a boomerang video on Instagram of me playing with my TopspinPro (that was acquired by my partner with the official reason being to teaching his son a good top spin technique, but the real reason being that he – and I – have a serious addiction to buying tennis goodies online!). After posting the video, Phillip Hofmeyr (the designer of the TopspinPro) asked if I would like to publish an affiliate link on my blog (which means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission). I said I was very happy to do so, because I really do feel that the TopspinPro is a great product and I was planning to post about it on my blog anyway. So if after reading this post you are interested in purchasing one, you can find out more via my affiliate link: https://topspinpro.com/ref/40ish_love/.

Let me tell you a bit more about the TopspinPro and the fun we have had practicing with it. The TopspinPro is a gadget that teaches you to hit a ball with a ‘wind-shield’ wiper action. You need to hold the racket with a semi-western grip and hit the ball with the racket at the right angle such that it will spin, but the racket doesn’t touch the mesh screen – as shown in the video below:

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• Indoor Tennis Training • The tennis court we usually go to on a Sunday is being refurbished, but it turned out to be a good excuse for me to dress up in my @sweatybetty tennis dress and practice indoors with our new @topspinpro 🎾👗🙌🏼 There are some great videos online with footwork drills you can do with the TopSpinPro, and I hope to try them out in the future and post about them on my blog. In the meantime, I have been researching adult tennis training camps for my blog – check out my latest post (link in bio) on a unique tennis academy in Spain -@equeliteferrero – that uses the @playsight system. #tennis #tennistraining #tennispractice #tennisplayer #tennispassion #tenniscamp #topspinpro #boomerang #tennislesson #tennisgirl #tennislife #tennislove #lovetennis #tennisdress #instatennis #tennismotivation #tennisaddict #blogger #blogpost

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Although you certainly can (and should) use it at home like I did to practice the right grip and angle with which to hit a top spin heavy forehand or backhand, it is also a great gadget to take onto the tennis court with you, and to incorporate into some footwork exercises. We discovered some really useful YouTube videos made by Clay Ballard of TopSpeedTennis.com that use the TopSpinPro and so after watching a couple of them, we decided to take our TopSpinPro with us to the tennis court and see how my partner’s son would get on with using the gadget.

First we started off with some static exercises – a simple split step followed by a step forward to hit the ball (as shown in the top photo of this post). We focused on making sure we were at the right distance, with the ball in front of us at the point of contact. We then added in footwork, using a small cone as a marker and to force us to move in a circular fashion when returning to the base line and then moving back to hit the ball. Finally, we removed the TopSpinPro and tried to repeat all the same movements during a normal forehand shot.

TopSpinPro

TopspinPro

We had lots of fun and it definitely helped my partner’s son with his forehand technique. We plan to take it with us every time we train from now on. I think that it is also a good gadget to use during the warm up, and would work really well if you arrive early to the court and want to spend a bit more time warming up before your opponent arrives.

I have lots of video material from our training today, and so I think I’ll soon put together a YouTube video of our drills for my new channel. So if you are interested in such a video, subscribe to my channel so you’ll get a notification when it is uploaded!

UPDATE! I finally got round to making that YouTube video which you can view here.

 

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Squatting My Way to Better Tennis

My tennis coach often tells me to bend my knees and use my legs more during our training drills. Apparently, bending your knees lowers your centre of gravity, thus providing you with more stability, and helps with shoulder, hip and trunk rotation, which allows you to give more power to a shot. This is something I particularly need for my backhand shots, but I need to be constantly reminded to bend my knees, otherwise I will naturally tend to stand up too straight. I suppose part of the reason I don’t naturally use my legs is that it is tiring to move around with bent knees, especially if you haven’t worked enough to strengthen those leg muscles.

Once a week I will work on my general fitness and strength with a personal trainer (it is something I do with my partner, and we really enjoy these joint sessions which are very much targeted at what we need to do to become better tennis players). Last week my PT mentioned that squats are a great exercise that anyone could do without needing a personal trainer, equipment, or even dedicated time. A squat is a compound exercise which means that it uses multiple muscle groups. There are so many opportunities during the day when you can fit in 10 squats: when you are waiting for the kettle to boil, your porridge to heat up in the microwave, or are brushing your teeth before going to bed. My personal trainer said we could all do 100 squats a day (and you can find many people online that are doing such a challenge), but I think that might be a bit much for a starting point and could be difficult to maintain. You also need to make sure you have got the technique right to avoid injury, with your weight on your heels, knees over (but not beyond) your toes, and your lower back with a slight natural arch and aligned spine and neck – a search on Google will bring up many videos and webpages which can explain how to do it properly.

Now that we are at the beginning of February and I have finished Dry January and 31 days of yoga (both of which I plan to continue as much as I can), I think it is time to introduce a new health goal into 2017. So I think I am going to try squatting every day to build my leg muscles. I will do at least 10 squats as I am waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning and whilst brushing my teeth before going to bed. That is at least 20 squats a day more than I would otherwise do, so that has to have an effect. I am sure I could manage more on some days, but I won’t be too ambitious about it to begin with. And please believe me that I am honestly not doing this for a peachy derrière – it is highly unlikely I will ever post a belfie on Instagram! – but I am doing this because I am hoping that with increased muscles I will find it more natural, and less tiring, to bend my knees and use my legs when playing tennis. Of course, I will happily accept any collateral effects… 😉

5 Things I Have Learned About Yoga

This month I have started practising yoga every day, and sometimes more than once a day! I am doing Yoga with Adriene’s Revolution – 31 Days of Yoga programme and I am also learning a lot about yoga thanks to Cat Meffan’s #Yoganuary videos. I first started yoga about 2 years ago, but last year I got a bit distracted with fitness and tennis and I let my practice slip. I am going to try and be more disciplined this year, as I know that practising yoga will be important for my tennis progress. So here are 5 things I have learned about yoga which I will use as a reminder to encourage myself to stay committed, and cultivate Tapas (which translates as ‘discipline, austerity, burning enthusiasm, fire/heat’ as Adriene taught us on Day 23).

1. You don’t have to go to a yoga class

Living in Italy, I didn’t really want to go to a yoga class as I wanted to practice in English (I do speak fluent Italian, but I just felt that I would connect better with yoga if it was in my mother tongue). I first started after I downloaded an app on my iPad called Yoga Studio. Although it was very easy to follow, with a voice over explaining the postures (asanas) shown on the screen, and I certainly learned a lot, I did feel it was a bit dry and not very personal. I then discovered the Yoga with Adriene YouTube videos. Adriene teaches us (in her own personal and unconventional style) that we don’t have to be ‘yoga robots’, but we can introduce movement into the postures, and ultimately ‘find what feels good’ to each of us. There are hundreds of other great yoga videos on YouTube, and you can find videos of yoga for bedtime, yoga for runners, yoga for healing, yoga for weight loss, and even yoga for tennis players (more on that at the end of this post).

2. Stretching is much less boring when it is part of a yoga flow

We all know how important it is to stretch to avoid injury (especially for older tennis players like myself), but it can be a bit of a chore to work through a set of stretches every day. When these are part of a yoga flow, it can make them a bit more challenging and I find this keeps my mind active and I am more likely to return to the mat.

3. Yoga teaches you how to breath properly

A few years ago I was stressed at work and I held a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders. Apparently I also developed a tick that I wasn’t even aware I had – I found that very disturbing! I’ve been told that I am much better now, and I think this is both due to my increased physical activity and improved breathing. Yoga teaches you to focus on diaphragmatic breathing so that you no longer take shallow breaths but fill your belly with elongated inhalations and exhalations.

4. It requires a lot of strength and flexibility, but also helps you to develop it

I still remember the amount my body shook those first few times I tried yoga and I was shocked by how difficult I found it to hold a simple warrior pose like the one at the top of this post. Even though I am a lot stronger this year than I used to be, I am still noticing improvements in my strength from my daily practice. Yesterday, during one of our fitness trainings, I discovered that I was able to hold a side plank with my leg raised for much longer than my partner. I haven’t focused enough on my flexibility over the past year, however, and so I am excited to see the improvements I will make this year from consistent practice. You shouldn’t be worried about not being strong or flexible enough for yoga, as most of the more difficult asanas can be adapted for beginners.

5. By committing to consistent practice, it forces you to carve a space in your life to focus on your well-being

I have a much more relaxed life nowadays and I find it easy to introduce daily yoga into my routine, but I wish I had known all of the above 5 years ago when I was working 7 days a week and travelling around the world. It is when we are experiencing the most stressful periods of our lives when we need yoga the most, and so my advice to anyone who thinks they don’t have time for yoga is to put it in your agenda and give it the same importance you would to work meetings or emails. Even just 15-30 minutes a day before going to bed with some ‘yoga for bedtime’ videos will allow you to quietly meditate, switch off, relax, and turn your thoughts inwards.

If I still haven’t convinced you to practice yoga regularly, but you are interested in stretching and preparing your body for playing tennis, then take a look at this yoga for tennis practice YouTube video by Yoga with Olga. I like this video because Olga wears a tennis skirt (way to go Olga!) and you don’t need a mat (as they are all standing exercises) and so you can do the routine (or parts of it) on the court before a match. I’ll be on the lookout for more YouTube yoga flows that are good for tennis players, and I’ll keep you updated in future posts.