It's never too late to try tennis – and taking up a tennis racket could wield some terrific results for you.
With Wimbledon fever just around the corner, former GB tennis player and coach to Andy Murray, Mark Petchey shares five reasons why trying tennis this summer is a great way to boost your physical fitness and your social confidence.
1. It improves your flexibility
Almost half of the niggles we experience as we get older are down to not using certain parts of our body. Playing regular tennis can slow this process down.
Doing a mean serve keeps your shoulder strong and flexible. And the more flexible your shoulder joint, the quicker you can serve.
To improve your flexibility ever more, use a Thera-band and put it in your racquet bag so it is always there to help you stretch yourself out after playing, which you should always do to avoid injuring yourself.
2. You can endure more
By regularly playing a game of tennis you'll substantially and just naturally improve your endurance, meaning you can keep going, burning off those calories right to the end of the game.
To train up your endurance on your very own centre court this summer, start with 30 minutes of continuous ball hitting. Just hit cross court to your practice partner and then every four shots move to the other corner and hit cross court the other way. Not only will this be good for weight loss but also your mental concentration, as you focus to keep the ball in play – great for relieving stress and practicing mindfulness.
3. Speed up those reactions
Your ability to react quickly to a tennis ball coming at you will dictate how good a shot you will hit back. And having good reactions is great for keeping your mind super-sharp.
Tennis is measured in split seconds. You need to be able to move at a full sprint and then slow down within a couple of steps to balance correctly to hit the ball.
An easy way to train for this is to get a coach or practice partner to stand a couple of metres in front of you and hold out both their arms wide, with a tennis ball in each hand.
Your partner then drops either the right or left ball and you have to sprint and catch the ball after one bounce. Your partner can keep moving back until you eventually have to run flat out to grab the ball after the bounce. This exercise will really test your reaction times while proving a mighty good work-out!
4. Boost your confidence
It can be daunting taking on a new challenge but there's nothing better than learning a new skill to make you feel great. When you finally, and you will, run and connect with a shot to win a brilliant point, there really is no greater feeling.
All the things you had to learn and practice to make that happen makes you realize what a great achievement it was. Achieving something that once seemed impossible is a feeling that will create confidence in other areas of your life. And that's all on top of the improved hand-to-eye coordination, fitness benefits and thrill of the competition that'll make you feel more confident.
5. It's great for your social life
Arguably the best thing about taking part in a sport like tennis is that you can take it with you wherever you travel in the world. The sense of competition and the shared interest really bring people together and you may find a whole new group of friends at the tennis club.