Review: Babolat POP Tennis Sensor

Although it didn’t feature in my Christmas Gift Ideas for Tennis Lovers blog post (as I only discovered it afterwards) I ended up buying my other half a Babolat POP from Tennis Warehouse Europe for Xmas. I wasn’t sure if it was just a bit of a gimmick, but it actually turns out that he loves it and is using it for all of his trainings and tennis matches. He has even developed Excel spreadsheets for tracking his progress (which I have turned into a template that you can download at the end of this post!). So I asked him to help me write a review about it on my blog, in case anyone reading this is thinking of buying one and wants to find out more.

The Babolat POP is a sensor that slips inside a wristband which needs to be worn on your dominant arm when playing tennis. You connect it to your smartphone via a downloadable app. It records data related to your forehands, backhands, serves, volleys, and smashes and you can assign each recording you do to either a training session, a match or an open session (which might be, for example, when you are warming up or rallying with a friend). For your forehand and backhand it can identify the racket speed and whether the shot is flat, sliced or with top spin. It will also record the racket speed on your serves and the total number of smashes and volleys. Once the app has recorded all of your shot statistics, it will calculate a PIQ score for your forehands and backhands. We aren’t sure of the exact details of the calculation of this score, but it appears to be a quality score that combines the speed, style and spin (see screenshots below).

The first thing my partner did when he had installed the app was to record an open session in our living room, where he simulated a number of different shots. He just wanted to see how close the sensor got to reality (even if, admittedly, he wasn’t really playing tennis). The sensor did well, and identified the various forehands, backhands, slices, top spin, smashes and volleys that he simulated. This was good enough for him (phew – my Xmas pressie was a success!) and he has worn it every time he has been on a tennis court since (and so he is no longer a Babolat POP ‘newbie’, has passed through the ‘rookie’ stage, and has now reached the slightly more respectable state of ‘ace’).

The features he likes best are the racket speed and PIQ scores and the fact that he can compare the statistics from his training sessions and matches. He has been surprised to see just how much worse his shots are in matches as compared to training, and so his objective this year is to improve his scores in both, whilst at the same time reducing the difference between them.

Although the app does provide some visual representations of the data, my partner felt he needed more post-processing (for example, it only gives the average PIQ score from the last 6 sessions rather than all of them) and so he created his own template in Excel where he can copy that data from each recording, and it produces summary graphs. (I think I have told you before that we are both engineers and love our statistics!) Here is a screenshot of his summary sheet so far (I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing it with you…)

babolat_pop_piq-overview

If you would like to produce some similar plots with your own Babolat POP data, you can download his simple template (with some example data). It is rather rudimentary, but we hope the Babolat POP team can come up with something similar (though better!) in the future.

To conclude, the Babolat POP tennis sensor is a great gadget for a tennis player, it works well (as far as we could tell through simple tests), encourages improvement and allows you to track your progress over time.

My Dry January Progress | Week 2

So it turns out I used to spend a lot more time thinking about drinking less alcohol than I do now about drinking more – who’d have thought?! Hence this was a surprisingly easy week in terms of my Dry January. Being at home every evening without chilled white wine in the fridge certainly helped, and the only fairly challenging day was Tuesday when I flew to Rome for a meeting. Usually I would enjoy a glass of Prosecco or Aperol Spritz in the lounge on the way home, but I managed to resist the urge and got myself a Crodino instead (not sure if this is only available in Italy but if not, I recommend it to anyone looking for a bitter non-alcoholic aperitif).

I suppose the ease with which I have been avoiding alcohol is the reason I decided to further test myself with my diet this week. Yes, I spent this week trying to eat ‘clean’ (though I really don’t like that expression as I wouldn’t say my diet was ‘dirty’ before – I would prefer to call it ‘wholesome’). So my wholesome diet focused on eating home-cooked food and home-made snacks – you can see the type of things I was eating here. This also wasn’t so difficult and I faced it in the same way as giving up alcohol – I had made the decision to make a change and I somehow clicked a switch in my mind to change my behaviour.

After eating more proteins, less sugar and refined carbs, only home-made snacks, and drinking lots of water and no alcohol this week, I ended up losing 1.5 kilos in weight and an inch around my waist. I am sure this was mainly water weight, as I tend to store a lot of water when I eat carbohydrates (and probably also when I drink alcohol), but it has made me feel so much better. I no longer finish the day looking 5 months pregnant so my body must like something about this diet!

However, whilst I will keep up the alcohol ban for the rest of the month, I think I will start to modify what I am eating as I didn’t feel I had enough energy during my tennis and HIIT sessions this week. I need to experiment to understand what I can eat to give myself enough energy, but that won’t leave me too bloated. I also don’t want to get too obsessive about what I’m eating as I did when using MyFitnessPal and I want this exploration to be more about what I can do with my body rather than what it looks like.

Ultimately I want to turn that on/off switch in my mind into a dimmer switch, where I can still allow myself the odd glass of wine, pizza or ice-cream when I feel like it, whilst still paying attention to the wholesomeness of what I eat and drink the majority of the time. It’s all about getting that balance right in my body, much like the Tree Pose (Vrksasana) I have been practising this week during my daily yoga with Adriene. So that’s my challenge for the next week – begin to find the right balance in my diet so that at the end of the month I can enjoy a glass of wine without drinking the whole bottle! Come back next week to find out how I get on.

What to Wear to the Australian Open

If you are travelling to the Australian Open this year, then please just know that I am very jealous of you and hope you suffer terribly the heat and jet-lag. Just kidding! I actually hope you will tell me all about how awesome it is in the comments to this blog post or on my Instagram page. Even though I can’t go, that doesn’t mean I haven’t imagined what I would wear if I could. So here is my take on what to wear to the Australian Open.

If you are a fashion-loving tennis fan on your way to the Rod Laver Arena and are not sure what to wear, my advice would be to go retro. Whilst real vintage tennis clothing doesn’t have the high performance characteristics that we expect from our sports clothing nowadays, I think that they are instead perfect for watching tennis in. And with the upcoming release of the Bjorn/McEnroe film, I think the end of 2017 is going to be all about the retro tennis look, especially considering the Björn Borg tennis apparel brand will apparently be releasing a vintage sportswear collection to go with the film’s release. FILA will also be kitting out their players for the Australian Open in pieces from their new Heritage range which takes inspiration from the original 1970’s FILA tennis fashion.

I am still piecing together my retro tennis wardrobe. As you can see in the photo at the top of this post, I have so far picked up an Ellesse tennis skirt (which I got from a fitness blogger on Depop – more on this app later), and I think it looks great with my navy blue Fred Perry polo shirt and Ray-Ban sunglasses. And here is how I would complete the look:

what-to-wear-to-ausopen

  1. Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen. Before getting dressed, I would make sure I was well covered in SPF 50 sunscreen to protect my skin from the hot Australian sun, and what better brand for a tennis lover than SuperGoop! which is co-owned by Maria Sharapova.
  2. Ellesse Gadina Tennis Skirt – as modelled by me in the top photo!
  3. Idawen Bouza Navy Premium Bag  – any excuse for me to treat myself to another tennis bag!
  4. Stan Smith shoes
  5. Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses
  6. Fred Perry G12 shirt (a bit different to the model I have, but I like the stripes on the collar and sleeves of this new model).

If you want to be really authentic then do take a look on the Depop mobile, social shopping app as there are many people selling original vintage tennis skirts, dresses and shoes from brands such as Ellesse, FILA, Lacoste and Fred Perry. Just do a search for retro tennis or vintage tennis and you will find people in US, UK and Italy selling some very cool tennis kit at reasonable prices.

Let me know what you think of my retro “tennis spectator” look in the comments below!

 

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My Dry January Progress | Week 1

One of my goals for 2017 is to drink less alcohol. For the past few months my partner and I have been enjoying a bottle of Prosecco or white wine between us almost every night and it has become a habit we are both keen to break. So I have decided to attempt Dry January, and possibly even February, March, April…but we’ll see about that once I get through January! I really hope that by sharing this experience on my blog it will help me stick to my goal.

The first day was very easy, given that I exaggerated on New Year’s Eve and my body felt so weak the next day. Whenever I have a few glasses too many my sleep is very disturbed, and in the morning my legs are tired and throb slightly and I have all the usual dehydration symptoms (despite always trying to drink lots of water with my wine). So on New Year’s Day my partner and I had some simple Portuguese comfort food (bacalhau mashed together with boiled potatoes and a side dish of broccoli) and lots and lots of water.

On the 2nd January we travelled to Porto in Portugal to visit my partner’s family, and this meant that already on the second day I found myself having to turn down the local wine his parents were keen for me to try. This was difficult as I didn’t want to offend them, and I almost gave in out of politeness, but I still did not feel like having any wine and so, with the support of my partner who made the sacrifice to drink for both of us (!), I managed to stick to sparkling water.

On day 4 my partner’s mum was again very keen for me to try the local Port wine. I was still not interested in drinking alcohol, as I was enjoying sleeping well and waking up feeling refreshed (even though I was waking up a bit earlier than usual needing to go to loo with all the water I was drinking!). But again, I felt awkward refusing to try the wine, and in the end I took a few sips to be courteous (and because I thought it might help with a sore throat that I was developing). Although this was strictly a failure of my Dry January, it didn’t feel like one, as I hadn’t actually given in to a craving to drink and I didn’t really enjoy it. In some ways it strengthened my desire to not drink alcohol and to not have to apologise or feel uncomfortable for not drinking.

On day 5 I started to develop a headache which I was not expecting as I typically only get them after drinking alcohol. Perhaps it was due to my body detoxing, or it could just have been my brain complaining after spending many days trying to understand Portuguese! That evening we went to a dinner party at a friend’s house. Again, I was tempted to drink so as not to have to explain why I was not drinking, but not because I actually felt like it. I realised that on many past social occasions I was probably drinking more out of habit than real desire. I was so pleased to end the evening with a clear head and a stronger mind.

This is only the first week, and I am sure it will get more difficult as I get further into January, but at the moment I feel I am developing more strength, mindfulness, and awareness. In order to better connect my body and mind during this month, I have also spent every day this week practising Yoga With Adriene (I am following her latest Revolution program – 31 days of Yoga), and I even started meditating thanks to the guidance given in one of Cat Meffan’s Yoganuary YouTube videos. I’m hoping that all of this will also have a positive impact on my tennis this year.

I’m on my way back home now, and back to work, so next week will test my ability to eliminate drinking from my everyday routine. Also, after a week in Portugal (the home of pastry!), I am looking forward to cleaning up my diet and so I will be following the 7-day plan I saw in one of Carly Rowena’s YouTube videos.

Please do come back next week to find out how I get on during my second week without alcohol (but instead with lots of yoga, meditation and a healthier diet). And if anyone reading this is also attempting Dry January, let me know how you are getting on in the comments below.

Run Alone, Work Out Together

I have come to realise that for the sake of maintaining peace in my relationship, I need to run by myself. My partner has been so supportive since I have started getting fit, and at the beginning I would ask him to come running with me. However, I could never quite cope with his words of encouragement, with the suggestion that I was perhaps slowing down a little and should pick up the pace, when in fact I felt that I was already giving everything I had. I thought I was pushing myself more than enough when running, but it turned out that according to his standards I really wasn’t! On more than one occasion we would finish the last couple of kilometres in a moody silence, each vowing never to go running with the other again.

But I am happy to say that we feel the complete opposite about working out together. We do lots of training sessions to stay fit for tennis, to improve our core, arm and leg muscles, as well as our explosiveness and footwork on the tennis court. I find it reassuring that he is there by my side, going through the same pain and difficulties (though admittedly to a much lesser extent than me!). We concentrate too much on the task at hand to talk, and I like the companionable silence (interrupted only by the odd grunt or shout of suffering on both sides).

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• 2017 Fitness Goals • After overindulging 🍕🍧🍷🍾🍪🍝 in the whole lead up to Christmas, and all the travel to see family in UK and last-minute work trips, my partner and I hadn't worked out together for some time. So we decided to get back to it on Boxing Day. This is the first time I have videoed our workouts and I'm a bit disappointed by my tiny jump 😊 it felt so much harder than it looks! Now, this was taken during the third round of a set of 6 exercises, but I still know I can do better and I want to improve that jump, so that's one of my fitness goals for 2017. What are your fitness goals for 2017? #fitness #tennisfitness #tennistraining #tennisgirl #tennisplayer #fitnessmotivation #trx #medicineball #jumpsquats #2017fitnessgoals #fitnessgoals #fitnessgoals2017 #circuittraining #hiit #workouttogether #workout #traintogether

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• Jumping into 2017 🐸 • Here is another clip from our Boxing Day training. Again, this was the very end of the third set of exercises, but I'm not trying to make excuses, and of course I wouldn't blame the fact my partner knocked down one of the little hurdles as the reason for me slowing down, of course not!.. And I would never complain that his legs are longer than mine, so it is easier for him to jump laterally to the hurdle – wouldn't even cross my mind! 😊 #fitness #tennisfitness #tennistraining #tennisgirl #tennisplayer #fitnessmotivation #jump #2017fitnessgoals #fitnessgoals2017 #littlehurdles #jumping #tennisaddict #hiit #workout #traintogether #circuittraining #personaltrainer

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I’m happy to run by myself, as I have finally started to take it easy and enjoy it much more, and it gives me time to think about life, work, blogging, tennis..and I have even managed to write a blog post in my head whilst pounding the pavement. And as we move into 2017 we will continue to work out and train tennis, which will allows us to spend quality time together whilst we encourage each other on our journey to getting fitter and playing better tennis. Hoorah!