A Rekindled Love Affair with Tennis

After a yearlong season of inactivity and extra stress, I needed to return to a regular exercise routine. Weight gain and sluggishness tied me down and frustration only added to my slump. The dreaded “should of” and “could of” piled up as each busy week passed without any consistency on the workout front. Even at the turn of the new year, I floundered with the big return to fitness I envisioned.

Apparently, I’m not alone. Most people struggle with fitting in regular exercise and sticking to it. That’s why gym memberships spike at those times of the year when we have a revived sense of setting up our best intentions. As an ex-gym rat myself, I get it. The only reason I don’t hold a membership now is the expensive equipment decorating my basement today. That officially gives me no excuses. All I have to do is go downstairs, and hop on that treadmill, Peloton, or yoga mat. Yes, I am guilt ridden at the monetary investment and opportunity right at my fingertips.

I finally succumbed to the tried and true method of investing in physical fitness with intention and most importantly, commitment. I reviewed my options and decided to try tennis again. I say again, because tennis was my first love as a teenager. The love affair began long before I held a racquet. In fact, my imagination held to the idea that I could be like Chris Everett or Martina Navratilova (yes – I’m dating myself). Despite having no opportunity to learn until my sophomore year of high school, I was driven to excel.

Just as I envisioned, tennis was my jam. I had to work hard at it and played for hours, joining my high school team and then on to college.

As life happened, bringing children, advanced education, and career advancements, tennis drifted far, far away.

In February, decades later, I stepped on a court again to practice with several strangers on a women’s tennis league. My anxiety eased over the first few encounters as the newbie. Encouragement and the old joy of playing again spurred me on. The schedule to practice with my team held me accountable to showing up and trying hard to improve every week. We practiced twice each week for two hours at a time and I added an early morning cardo tennis class that seriously challenged my endurance.

Taking it a step further, I set a goal to go to the state tournament. Somewhere along the way, the practices and cardio felt easier, the new tennis skirts fit better, and my muscles showed up again after a long hiatus. What I hadn’t expected, but should have, was the zest for new friendships and the banter of all things tennis. I’d forgotten how my spirit could soar at the comradery of sharing a sport with people who loved it like I do.

The message embedded in this experience is clear now. I had to sign up. I had to take that first step and be brave. That applies to most sports. It works the same if you join a walking or running club. Try pickle ball, racquetball, table tennis, basketball, volleyball, or golf. Multiple research studies conclude that taking part in an activity that includes a social connection increases longevity. In fact, tennis is the top sport for the strongest correlation to a long life. That is largely the case due to the social, analytical, and physical aspects involved. Our brain, muscles, and social connections grow stronger and with frequent use, stay sharp for longer.

With your physician’s clearance, step out into the wide world of sports. Find your own path to that zest I’m talking about. It could be buried deep in your youth like mine. Resurrect your sporty self and be brave. All it takes is showing up and the good nature of others will carry you through until you rekindle that feeling I can’t describe. For me it’s the pop of the racquet as your swing lands the ball just right and the rally ends with a sharp angle that ends the point.

My only regret is waiting so long to join a team. I would have never experienced the improvement in my mood and physical strength without the fantastic group who accepted me and challenged me week after week.

The sport I developed a love for long ago still brings people together. I encourage you to begin your own journey that will surely take you on a path of personal growth like no other.

As for me, I’m only getting started!


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