Cardio Tennis: More focus on the sweat, not the net
I am a very erratic tennis player.
I love the game, but keeping the ball in play can be a challenge sometimes. And when my game takes a swing upward (pardon the pun) and I manage to fire off some zingers, my opponent can't reach the ball to return it. So, when I play tennis, the game consists of sudden bursts of energy, followed by significant lag time -- a problem not uncommon even for proficient tennis players. And that's not a good prescription for a cardio workout.
Enter Cardio Tennis.
Cardio Tennis takes the basic strokes of tennis -- forehand, backhand, volley, lob and overhead smash -- but adds in more movement and less downtime, so you can get your heart rate up and keep it up.
Cardio Tennis is not a new fad -- it just celebrated its 10-year anniversary in August -- and about 1.7 million participants play the branded fitness activity in the United States, says Michele Krause, a co-founder and national manager of Cardio Tennis for the Tennis Industry Association. Krause was in Chicago last month to lead a special advanced training for Cardio Tennis teachers.
One element of Cardio Tennis that helps level the playing field between newbies and experienced players is the ball, Krause said. Originally a regular tennis ball was used, but now many classes use a less compressed ball. she said.
"It moves through the air slower, so it's a great equalizer. Everyone can play together," Krause said. "It improves stroke production, you have to accelerate more. It improves your footwork causes you can get to more balls and you have to move your feet more. For advanced players, it's very tough to hit a clean winner, so the ball is in play longer, so you're getting more tennis."
More play and more running around add up to more calories burned. Krause says a female player typically burns from 300-500 calories in an hour, while a male player burns 500-1,000 calories in an hour.
To get a true taste of Cardio Tennis, I headed over to the Midtown Athletic Club in Palatine to try a class. A typical Cardio Tennis class has 6-8 participants, Krause said. My fellow classmates were Karla Lammers of Rolling Meadows, Hannah Byun of Palatine, Bob Switzer of Western Springs, Jay Seshadri of Palatine and Tom Mitoraj of Rolling Meadows, and our teacher was Krisztina Anderko. After a warm-up of hitting some balls back and forth, we started some drills. In one, the players were on one side, in two lines, and the teacher on the other side of the net. She would hit a player a ball, they would hit it back, then run over to the side; jump across a lattice/ladder, then get back in line, ready to hit a ball again. It didn't take long for me to start sweating.
In another drill, Anderko was hitting to us; I would hit a ground shot near the baseline, run toward the net, hit a volley, go to the net and touch it with my racket and then back up to hit an overhead shot. Again, we were in two lines, which meant there were only 3 people in each line. It didn't take long for your turn to come around again.
"I would rather do this any day of the week rather than the treadmill," said Mitoraj, a passionate tennis player. "This combines something I love to do with something that is good for me."
"I love the class," Switzer added. "It's a combination of both drill and play and that combination make it most enjoyable."
As we went through the drills, it became obvious that some in our class were much better tennis players than others, but everyone was encouraging and I could see how the camaraderie of the class would be appealing.
"I enjoy the class because of the people and it's good practice and a stress reliever," said Byun, who plays tennis at Carmel High School in Mundelein.
Since there is no score or points, you don't have to worry about "winning" at Cardio Tennis. In one drill, we were in pairs and took turns trying to "win" two rounds over the opposing pair. If you succeeded, you had to run to the other side, take over the other pair's position and face off against the third pair. So, even when there was an element of winning a point, the drill kept you moving.
Krause said you don't need experience to take a Cardio Tennis class, but I think being familiar with basic tennis strokes would be helpful. Lammers said she had taken a Tennis in No Time class at Midtown first and then started Cardio Tennis.
But Krause said some people start Cardio Tennis never having played tennis before.
"They learn quickly even though it's not an instructions class because of the cardio balls and because of the movement and there is no serving. It's a great environment for someone who hasn't played," Krause said.
Krause said for recreational players, it's a good class because they get "many more touches on the ball than other types of tennis and if you're touching the ball, you're getting better. They are learning and improving. They're learning through doing."
She adds that it's a good class for advanced players too. "It's a fun way to train for tennis. Rather than the super competitive way tennis is usually done."
Krause said Cardio Tennis continues to evolve and may add TRX to some Cardio Tennis classes in the future. TRX uses straps for suspension training with your own body weight for resistance. Krause said they could anchor the TRX straps to the tennis court and alternate TRX training with tennis drills.
Midtown, which has clubs locally in Palatine, Willowbrook, Bannockburn and Chicago, is one of several suburban facilities that offer Cardio Tennis. To find a Cardio Tennis class near you, visit www.cardiotennis.com.
So, how did I feel at the end of class?
Sweaty and tired. But I was also laughing and joking with my classmates.
"It's a good workout in a fun way," Seshadri said, and I had to agree.
•Do you have a favorite class or workout style you think the Daily Herald should try? Email Melissa Hollander at email@example.com with your ideas.
Cardio Tennis classesMidtown Athletic Club, Palatine 1760 N. Hicks RoadTimes: 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m. Mondays; 9-10:30 a.m. and 7-8 p.m. Wednesdays; 9-10 a.m. and 10-11 a.m. Fridays; 9-10:30 a.m. and 2:30-4 p.m. Saturdays; and 10:30 a.m. to noon SundaysCost: Ranges from $19-$32 per class
For information: Call (847) 991-4646
Midtown Athletic Club, Willowbrook 215 W. 63rd St.Times: 7-8 p.m. Tuesdays; 10-11 a.m. Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to noon Sundays
Cost: $18 per class
For information: Call (630) 861-7731
To find other classes at other area facilities, visit cardiotennis.com