October 2010 -- Cardio Tennis celebrated its five-year anniversary as of the 2010 U.S. Open. The growth has been tremendous, with more than 1,700 official U.S. sites and an international presence in at least 30 countries.
The Cardio Tennis product has evolved and matured in these five years and I would like to address some common perceptions among tennis professionals that may or may not be true.
This quote from a well-respected tennis professional summarizes the great misunderstandings about the Cardio Tennis product: "I'm all for cardio workouts and getting people out on the tennis court, but I'm not real crazy about running people ragged while trying to teach them tennis technique. I run workouts and drills, and I do them at a reasonably fast pace, but it's not manic, and it doesn't involve all kinds of exercises that have nothing to do with tennis."
With that in mind, let's look at four of the most common "pro perceptions" of Cardio Tennis.
1. This session is about kicking butt and making them hurt - This is probably the greatest misconception; Cardio Tennis done properly and using the six components is a safe and healthy workout.
For review, the six components of a Cardio Tennis session include:
- The three training segments (warm-up, cardio, cool-down) with an emphasis on games
- The use of heart rate monitors, knowing how to use them and their purpose
- The right music (120-150 bpm)
- The use of transition balls
- The agility ladder
- The right professional
A case can be made that Cardio Tennis executed properly is or can be safer than traditional tennis classes. So what makes Cardio Tennis safe?
Educated Cardio Tennis pros utilize the three training segments.
They start with a proper warm-up, which includes dynamic movement/stretching, catching and tossing skills and light hitting. (Too often I see coaches begin a tennis lesson with a player on the baseline and letting them whack balls; this is not a safe way to start for the client.) In the cardio portion they use the proper drills and games where the emphasis is on hitting hundreds of balls, not just running circles around the court (not fun). The Cardio Tennis pro is also careful to not neglect the cool-down and will implement some light hitting activity to carefully bring the heart rate down as well as some static stretching.
The use of heart rate monitors is the ultimate safety tool for both you and the consumer.
This is the only way you will truly know if you are working someone out appropriately for their age, fitness and ability level. Over the years I have heard numerous stories from pros in the field about how some sort of heart health issue was discovered through the use of the heart rate monitor. Those coaches saw an abnormal heart rate reading and, after ruling out equipment issues, medications, etc., suggested the individuals see their doctor. The doctor then confirmed there was some issue at hand (arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, or high blood pressure). Better to catch something early before it becomes a problem like cardiac arrest on your tennis court.
The skill of the coach.
A trained Cardio Tennis coach is effective at working out each person to his or her optimum fitness and ability level. One cannot treat the whole group the same and it is the responsibility of the professional to educate the consumer.
In the context of safety I would like to address a drill that I see a lot of professionals doing in Cardio Tennis sessions. The drill is commonly referred to as the "weave" and essentially it is used for larger numbers with two courts and two pros. Players are divided up with one group on the baseline of court No. 1 and the second group on the opposite baseline of court No. 2. The pros are doing some form of two or three balls across and after hitting their sequence the players run around the court perimeter to the end of the line on the other court. Superficially this sounds like a good Cardio Tennis drill, but realistically it is not ideal. Here's why: After each sequence of ball-striking the player will run more than the length of one court plus the width of one court. This results in too much running and I guarantee you heart rates will be off the chart! The ratio of time spent on ball striking vs. any running/movement/sideline activity should always be very heavy on ball striking. If consumers are doing that much pure running they might as well get on a treadmill.
2. This class involves a lot of fitness-specific activities like push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, etc., with some ball hitting in between - This is another false impression; if the majority of the class involves these activities why wouldn't consumers just go to the gym? A consumer comes to Cardio Tennis because they want something different from the gym; they want to train using the vehicle of tennis. Most people do not find push-ups and sit-ups to be fun or enjoyable, least of all on a tennis court. Remember, this class is about hitting balls and playing games.
3. CT is all about fast paced drills - In a 60-minute session, the cardio portion should be 35 to 50 minutes. This segment should be about 30 percent drill and 70 percent game. The drill portion should be just enough so all the player's strokes are grooved and ready for games. All drill and no play makes for a very boring session.
4. Games or play-based exercise do not give a good cardio workout; drills are better - There is a lot of misunderstanding in regards to this statement. Most professionals think drills are better than games for a cardio workout. This line of thinking is most common where heart rate monitors are not being used. Throughout the history of CT we have found consumers' heart rates to be much higher during games for the following reasons:
- Heart rates get higher in games because of the excitement, competition and/ or the anxiety level
- Players put forth more effort because there's something at stake
- Unlike traditional tennis, serving (for the most part) is not incorporated in cardio games; serving tends to bring the heart rate down.
When people are playing games they are having so much fun they don't realize how hard they are working. However, if one is not running the proper games with the correct rotations for the number of people and using transition balls, then drill-based activities could offer a better workout.
To truly understand Cardio Tennis a professional must first recognize its purpose.
- To train in your heart rate zone - In Cardio Tennis players get into and stay in their heart rate zones with ease because of the fun factor
- To train for tennis
- To burn calories
When the session is led keeping the above goals in mind you will provide the best experience for the consumer and have many returning and loyal customers.
In summary, Cardio Tennis is not about kicking someone's butt to the point of pain nor is it about exercises that have nothing to do with tennis. It is about hitting hundreds of balls in a very safe environment where participants are pushed just outside their comfort zone. This helps players improve their fitness level, adaptability and overall game!