Improving Work-Life Balance & Playing Tennis in Jordan

Last week I had my first taste of feeling like a professional tennis player that travels the world and plays tennis in hot climates. Of course, no one had actually asked me to travel to play tennis, but as I was accompanying my partner to a conference in Amman (Jordan), I decided that this would be a good time to start playing tennis in all the places I visit around the world.

I have actually already been to Jordan twice in the past, for work conferences and meetings, but this was the first time I went with a plan to actually enjoy myself and get to know the country a bit better. This is all part of my newly improved work-life balance that I have developed over the past 18 months. Previously I would always put work first, and would often only see the airports and hotels of the places I travelled to for workshops and conferences. Now, I always make sure I make time to do some sightseeing and have some downtime, to go for a run (which is a great way to visit a city), visit the hotel gym/pool or (in this case) play some tennis.

So my partner and I packed our tennis rackets, clothing and shoes (we took an extra suitcase exclusively for our activewear!) and flew to Amman. On the way there we transported our precious tennis rackets with us on the plane as hand luggage. However, on the way back, we were told by the Jordanian security staff that we could use them as weapons on the plane (?!) and so they had to be checked in. The tennis bag we had didn’t really provide much support to our rackets and so I will need to get a proper tennis bag for future travel – finally an excuse to treat myself to an Epirus London weekend bag?!

When I got off the plane the first thing I noticed was the smell – a spicy, exotic aroma that got me thinking that this is the one thing that you will never fully appreciate from reading travel blogs or watching YouTube videos (until they add smell-o-vision, that is). We arrived after midnight, but the air was warm and it turned out summer had arrived in Jordan with us. The following day was one of the hottest days so far this year, and so we decided to book the hotel tennis court (which we could see from our hotel room) for the evening.

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The tennis court had a great view over the city of Amman. The air was hot, humid and dusty, and we soon realised that playing tennis in Jordan was going to be a lot more difficult than back home in Italy. In addition to the heat, the surface of the court was very hard, and we struggled to get used to the fast pace and high balls. So I asked my Instagram friends for tips, and I got a lot of advice that I tried to put into practice over the few days we were there, and I think by the end of the trip I had certainly improved.

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โ€ข Hard and High โ€ข No tennis yesterday but we did go to the Dead Sea and today we are off to Petra (more on my Insta stories!). I found the time to put together this short clip of our tennis date from the other day – the court is hard and the balls sometimes go so high I hardly reach them, and sometimes they just fly through what appears to be a hole in my racket! Btw, is it wrong to go for a winner when playing a friendly rally?! ๐Ÿค” Am I the only one that does this?.. ๐Ÿ˜Š #tennis #tennistraining #tennispractice #tennisvideo #tennisdate #tennisaddict #tennisgirl #tennislife #tenniscourt #tennispassion #instatennis #instatennisgram #tennislove #lovetennis #tennisday #tennistime #tennisfashion #tennisstyle Wearing: see previous post!

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On the last night we played at the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan (that is where I was in the sweaty photo at the top of this post), which has some amazing tennis facilities. As we had lost two of our balls during our attempts to play at the Landmark Hotel tennis court (despite the very, very high nets!) we were given some balls to play with. We soon realised that they were a bit flat, but this was exactly what we needed to recreate the slower surface situation we were used to! We did feel like we were cheating a bit, but we were able to do some great rallies (and I managed some winners which is always a bonus!).

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โ€ข Take That! โ€ข My partner and I don't argue, we take all our frustrations out on the court! ๐Ÿ‘Š๐Ÿผ Ah, how satisfying it is to wack a ball at him and see him run! ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ˜‚ This clip is from our last night in Jordan. We were invited by a friend to the Royal Automobile Club to play tennis – an amazing tennis club in Amman. We did feel we were cheating a little as the balls were a bit flat which, with the hard surface, created just the right conditions for us! ๐Ÿ™„ #tennis #tennispractice #tennisrally #tennisvideo #tennistraining #tennisgirl #tennislove #tenniscourt #tennisanyone #tennislife #tennispassion #lovetennis #instatennis #instatennisgram #tennisnight #tennisdate #tennisfitness #tennisfight #forehand #winner

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The week wasn’t all just about playing tennis in Jordan though, and we also “swam” in the Dead Sea (in inverted commas as you can’t actually do any swimming as the high saline content means that getting any water in your eyes is a killer!), ate lots and lots of flatbread, hummus, falafel, and Tabbouleh (which did cause a bit too much bloating, but it was worth it!), and visited Petra, the archeological city that is half built/carved into the red standstone rock (and where they filmed parts of Indiana Jones). So overall I would say we managed to add a fair bit of weight to the “life” side of the scales and can consider our work-life balance much improved!

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5 Things to Do at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters

Last weekend my other half and I drove down to Monaco to spend the weekend in Monte Carlo for the semi-finals and finals of the ATP 1000 tournament. Despite the fact that every player we were supporting lost (Pouille, Goffin, Lopez, Ramos) we still had a great weekend. Here are some of the things we got up to and some tips for anyone who is planning to go to the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters next year.

40ish_love Monte Carlo

1. Stay at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort

The Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort is a 5 minute walk from the Monte Carlo Country Club, where the Masters takes place, and is where many of the tennis players stay. We arrived on Saturday, when most of the players had already left, but we still got to see Wawrinka, Berdych, Ramos, Cuevas, Moya, in the lobby, the gym, the restaurant… And with their height and size they stand out so much that there is no missing them! The hotel isn’t cheap, but by staying Saturday and Sunday (rather than Friday and Saturday) we were able to save quite a bit of money.

2. Take a Photo with an Oversized Tennis Racket

Yes, that’s me with my massive Head racket at the top of this post.ย  This is an obligatory rite of passage for any serious tennis tournament-goer.

3. Take Your Own Snacks

During the break between the two singles semi-finals, we went to get a couple of crepes with Nutella and some drinks. Although the crepes were yummy, the prices were quite obscene (5 euros for a small bottle of water!), and as the queues were so long we didn’t manage to get back to our seats in time for the second semi-final (between Goffin and Nadal) and missed the first three games.

4. Run the Formula One Circuit

Running is a great way to visit a new place (and work off the Nutella crepes, or just build up an appetite for more) and we decided to get to know Monte Carlo a bit better by running the Formula One circuit. As the Formula One takes place a few weeks after the Masters, the circuit is already marked by the fencing lining the roads. We went through the marina, past shops that were cashing in on the Masters theme, saw many super cars and ended up having breakfast at what must be the most scenic Starbucks in the world.

Run selfie Monte Carlo

Shopping Monte Carlo

Running Monte Carlo Casino

Starbucks Monte Carlo

5. Visit Djokovic’s restaurant Eqvita

If you are a tennis fan, then you will already know that Novak Djokovic and his wife Jelena have a restaurant called Eqvita in Monte Carlo. We only popped in for a protein shake, but will make sure we stop for lunch next time to test out the plant-based menu.

Eqvita Djokovic's Restaurant

If you’d like to see some video footage from our days at the tournament to get a better feel for what it is like, take a look at my YouTube video on the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters 2017:

 

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Review: QLIPP Tennis Sensor

During my long tennis career ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have tried a couple of different tennis sensors โ€“ my partner has the Babolat POP (which I have already reviewed for this blog) and I have used the Zepp tennis sensor. The Babolat POP has been a great success and my partner uses it for every single training or match. I have not used the Zepp so much as I have the flex mount that sticks out of the end of the racket, and it feels a bit strange to play with – I think I will need to buy the pro mount that will allow me to attach the sensor directly to the end of the racket. Now if, like me, you follow lots of tennis accounts on Instagram, you will have recently noticed a deluge of posts about the QLIPP dampener sensor. It looks like the makers of QLIPP are following the modern trend of using Instagram accounts with a high number of followers to promote products. And I was lucky enough to be one of those Instagram accounts! (Update: they have now also created a discount code for me, and so if you buy a QLIPP sensor with the code “helenqlipp” or directly from this link, you will get a 10% discount.)

The QLIPP tennis sensor is a dampener that collects information about your shots on an application installed on your smart phone. It retails at around 100 US dollars and can be shipped internationally for free. It is a little heavier than typical dampeners, but the extra weight did not bother me, and I liked the dampening effect it gave. Once you have installed the app onto your phone, you need to turn on the sensor, and it should pair automatically (provided you have Bluetooth turned on). You then start the sensor from the app and start playing. I left my phone on the chair at the side of the court, and the sensor did disconnect a couple of times, but in almost all cases it reconnected itself straight away. I recorded 20 minutes of my training, and afterwards I was able to get a summary of the whole session in terms of average speed, sweet-spot and spin power as well as a log of each stroke. It will distinguish flat shots from those with slice or top spin, for both backhand and forehand. In addition to providing information on each session, it also shows your progress across sessions, so you can see whether you are improving on any of the aforementioned parameters. One thing it does not do (as far as I could tell) is allow you to separate training sessions from matches, which would be a useful feature to see whether your performance is affected by those match nerves (well, I already know that this is the case, I just don’t know by how much!)

Another feature it has, and which I tested out, is the possibility to video yourself whilst using the sensor. In addition to being able to see how your footwork and loading affects your speed and accuracy, a good use of this feature is to check whether the sensor is distinguishing correctly between the slices and top-spin shots etc. This is something that is difficult to gauge with other tennis sensors, and you have to just trust that they are working correctly. I did notice that my battery drained quite quickly with this video feature (which I used for 16 minutes in total), so it is not something you would want to use for a whole match or training session.

The final main feature, which I have not yet used, is related to the service. This is something I am really keen on using as I really hope to see an increase in my service speed in the coming months. If I manage to see any improvements, I’ll be sure to share the QLIPP statistics with you here!

Health and Fitness Blogging Summit

Whilst back in the UK for the Easter weekend I decided to attend the Health Bloggers Community Summit at the Hoxton Hotel. I had images in my mind of tens of young female health bloggers (at least 10 years younger than me), all kitted out in leggings and trainers, turmeric latte in hand, talking into their phones or cameras for their Instagram stories or YouTube vlogs. Actually, it didn’t quite live up to the clichรฉ, though it wasn’t far off! Whilst leggings and trainers were indeed de rigueur, it was refreshing to see that most people were too busy listening to the talks and interacting with each other to be staring into their phones and documenting the experience. In all honesty, I was probably one of the more prolific documenters of the day, as you will have seen if you followed my Instagram stories. But if you did not, do not fear, as I am going to share all the juicy details with you in this blog post!

Breakfast

The day started with breakfast offered by Bounce energy balls. We were all invited to make our own bounce ball creations, using ingredients that included yoghurt, bounce balls, raspberries, banana slices, blueberries, coconut, edible flowers…and take a photo to share on social media. If you have ever visited this blog before you will know I am not a food blogger, and I am more interested in what my food tastes likes than what it looks like. I do care about what I eat, and I do try and make sure I consider the nutritional content of my food, but I just don’t have the patience to carefully place my ingredients on the plate, and wait whilst I find the right light to take a photo. So I was never going to win the photo competition. But it did taste good.

Photography Workshop

I then attended the photography workshop led by Anastasia. I did a photography course last year, and I have recently invested in an Olympus pen E-PL7, though mainly for my YouTube videos. So I already knew the basics, but I did come away with a really good piece of advice related to lighting (which I haven’t yet been able to implement, as you will possibly notice from the photo at the top of this post…) I often stand near the window to get natural light for my Instagram photos (yes, those ones where I am dressing up in tennis gear), and half of my body is heavily shadowed. I thought I needed to invest in some studio lights to get rid of this shade, but it turns out that all I need is a large piece of white cardboard to reflect the light! Genius.

High Intensity Interval Training

I had to leave the photography workshop a bit early, as I had signed up for a HIIT session run by fitssi (who I think changed their name the next day to vlique?) I thought I had done a HIIT session before, but it turns out I hadn’t. My exercises (which you can see in some of my YouTube videos) are timed and use body-weight, but there is a lot more attention to form and we have more recovery time between circuits. The HIIT session with fitssi (or vlique?) was all about speed and hardly any rest. It was great cardio, but as you’ll find out if you read on, not everyone in the fitness industry thinks HIIT is the best form of exercise.

Panel Discussions

I managed to attend 3 panel discussions: 1) getting into the wellness industry, 2) how to work with brands and 3) improving the quality of the fitness industry. By far the best panel discussion of the day was the last one, led by Clean Eating Alice (and which you can watch on her Facebook page).ย  She invited Luke Worthington, (head of trainer education at Third Space, London), Jonathan Lomax (owner of a number of bespoke gyms), and Amy Hopkinson (digital editor at Women’s Health Magazine) to discuss what they liked about the fitness industry, how to achieve fitness goals, failing at fitness, how to recover, fitness trends, and more. The one thing that stuck in my mind from the discussions is that HIIT sessions and doing lots of different exercise classes will not necessarily help you achieve your performance goals, and slow, controlled, carefully executed exercises with correct breathing can be better for both your mind and body. This was good news to me, and provided me with more confidence that my personal trainer is getting me to do the right things, and the fact that I don’t have access to Barry’s Bootcamp classes in Italy (not to mention any names, ahem!) is perhaps not such a bad thing after all.

Reality Check

As I checked my Instagram feed over lunch I came across the following photo, posted by Amy Hopkinson’s boyfriend on Instagram. Amy’s handle on Instagram is wellness_ed and her boyfriend, Ted, has set up an account called wellness_ted.

All fitness and wellness bloggers will at some point or another be guilty of posting clichรฉd photos and cringy inspirational quotes, and Ted’s posts remind us we have to be able to laugh at ourselves. We need to take a reality check sometimes, and make sure we truly believe in what we are saying, doing and promoting. (And btw, Amy told me she agrees and whilst I’m sure she gave him a bit of a b******ing, her relationship should be safe!)

What to Wear To Play Tennis in the Spring

Although it is still a bit touch and go, the weather has certainly improved in Italy and I have already trained outside at least 3 times (take a look at my YouTube video to catch some clips of me training for the first time outside on clay this year). As we move from winter to spring, my everyday wardrobe starts to lighten up and I begin to replace black and grey with navy blue and white (I know, super adventurous!). I now need to do the same with my tennis wardrobe, and slowly wean myself off the dark hues I have been sporting these past few months, so that come Wimbledon I will be ready to don my tennis whites like a pro!

This task has actually been made very easy, as Tennis Warehouse Europe have just sent me a range of new spring tennis outfits to review, all by an Italian brand called Australian. Living in Italy, I was actually already familiar with this brand โ€“ my tennis coach is usually decked out in one of their tracksuits and I bought a black skirt from them last year as a last-minute addition to my wardrobe for tennis camp (it was one of the few tennis items I could find in my small town in the middle of August!) The brand is immediately recognizable from the cool kangaroo logo, and you may remember seeing it on the outfits of the Italian female Fed Cup players.

I decided to make a video of me trying on the outfits for my YouTube channel (see below), as I think that gives you the best impression of what the pieces look like when worn. To be completely honest, I donโ€™t know if I would have picked out these items for myself from the photos alone, but now that I have tried them on, I am so impressed with the quality of the material, the fit and the flattering colours. They are also all very reasonably priced. So my spring tennis wardrobe is now sorted – the only trouble is, Iโ€™m now going to have to treat myself to some new tennis shoes to match all these beautiful spring tennis outfits! ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you like this video, please do head over to my YouTube account and subscribe to my channel, so you get notifications of all my upcoming tennis videos.