Am I out of shape or what?

A week ago I did a fitness and conditioning class for tennis players.  Now that I’ve rested up from that, I ‘m ready to get going on a more structured exercise plan.  My first step was order some books from Amazon, which conveniently delivered them to my door in two days (no exertion required).  I thought that since I like to play tennis, I should make tennis conditioning the goal of my fitness program, the thing that would motivate me and keep me going after the first couple of workouts when I knew I would feel sore and completely out of shape.

So these books sounded perfect.  My favorite is Complete Conditioning for Tennis, which is published in association with the USTA and has a lovely photo of James Blake on the cover.

It also includes a DVD, so you can not only be a couch potato and read the book (as I have done), but you can watch fit people doing the exercises and imagine that you would do them with just as good form.  Unfortunately, James does not appear inside the book or on the DVD — it appears he lent his image and endorsement for the cover to help the USTA sell more copies.

Another good one is The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Tennis, which can help you figure out what to do in the gym besides chat with other people who, like yourself, are there to socialize or waste time while pretending to work out.  I’ll warn you, however, that this one is more intense, as it includes quite a few grids with small print concerning reps and sets.  For me, it’s a bit much.

So at least I’ve been THINKING about what I’m going to do to get into shape, and I suppose that’s a start.  But really, rather than work out hard, it’s so much easier just to check my email for the umpteenth time, write a blog post about exercising, and maybe cap that off by walking the dog around the block.

I realize that over the years my kids and I have collected a lot of the basic equipment I can use to get in shape at home: a jump rope, cones, assorted dumbbells and ankle weights, stretchy bands, you name it.  It’s simply time to put it all to use.

Maybe writing these confessions online will help me get past them.  Maybe my friends will hold me accountable.

In the meantime, let me know if you’re free for coffee or lunch — but maybe not for a hike, and definitely not for a run.

Happiness is . . . working out with the ball machine

I worked out with the ball machine yesterday.  It was great!  I just love how you can set it to keep on feeding you forehands, or backhands, or volleys, with whatever kind of speed or delay or spin or anything you choose.  And then you always know what’s coming.  That’s a really nice feature, don’t you think?  I mean, when I knew exactly where the ball was going to be, I could watch it all the way to the strings.  I could hit it to the same target five times in a row.  I could slam a volley down the line.

There were some much better tennis players on a nearby court, and that was great, too.  Just being near them and feeling the vibe of their higher-level game gave me a boost of confidence.  A couple of them even waved hi to me!  I mean, I know I’ll never play tennis as well as any of them, but it’s nice to think of myself as a member of the club, as someone who works out at the same time as better people are playing “real” tennis matches.

I also love the fact that, when you play against the ball machine, you always win.  Now one of my favorite pros pointed out to me that, considered differently, you always lose to the machine, but I disagree!  When you play against the machine, YOU are the one keeping score, and you are the one who is winning — unless, of course, you are super-tough on yourself.  It’s silly to tally how many balls make it over the net versus how many are left on your side when you’re cleaning up, as everyone knows that numerous balls are wasted in fine-tuning the machine’s placement of balls before you can move over there and hit any of them.  Not to mention the ones that are dead and don’t bounce correctly in the first place. . . . Plus, didn’t you set up the machine to practice that tricky new shot that you’ve been afraid to try in matches?  Any time you can execute it successfully, you’re one step closer to using it against an opponent when it will count.

So go ahead: spend a few dollars on a ball machine workout.  Not only will you get to focus on the shots that have been giving you trouble, or shots that are “weapons” you want to perfect, but it’s a quick way to perk up your self-confidence, on and off the court.  Between you and the machine, you’ll definitely be the winner!

Wimbledon fashion largely disappoints

Grand Slam matches provide a worldwide stage for tennis stars and their sponsors to flaunt their newest gear and clothing lines, with lots of free advertising.  Unfortunately, however, there is little to celebrate by way of fashion at Wimbledon this year.  Rafa and Roger are stunning as always, but both are unusually subdued, even classical in their attire.  After causing a stir last year when pulling a “15” gold-trimmed jacket out of his bag for the awards presentation that marked his record-breaking 15th Grand Slam victory, Federer is setting an understated tone so far.  Not sure about the mesh bag, though.

Things are a bit more interesting on the women’s side, but not much.  Mercifully, the all-white Wimbledon regulations prevent Venus from pulling another “French Open” fashion faux pas, where the bright yellow dress and flesh-colored panties caused many to wonder if she was truly “going commando” or just trying to play the part of provocateur.  However, her self-designed outfit must be one of the worst on Centre Court: a low cut top and frilly skirt that looks more like Miss Muffet, or perhaps one of those exfoliating body puffs, than actual tennis attire.

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