WHAT IS IT?
Cardio tennis includes a short warm-up, a cardio workout and a cool-down phase. The full-body cardio workout, similar to interval training, usually consists of fast-paced drills where the instructor feeds balls to the players and they hit forehands, backhands, volleys and other strokes, but also finds the players running, moving sideways, using an agility ladder and stretching.
Dr. Peter Brown has been playing tennis for more than 40 years, but a relatively new workout regime has helped him kill two birds with one stone.
Cardio tennis, a high-energy fitness activity that combines the features of a tennis drill with full-body cardiovascular exercise and music, allows him to vary his workouts and improve his game.
"[It] is the single best exercise hour for a tennis player that you can get," says Brown, 62, a Signal Mountain resident who participates in a class twice a week at Manker Patten Tennis Club.
In a cardio tennis workout, which involve classes of six to eight people, most women burn 300 to 500 calories per hour and men burn between 500 to 1,000, according to cardiotennis.com.
Ned Caswell, the head tennis professional at Manker Patten, says the workout is "not brand new" but became more popular in the last few years after the United States Tennis Association began pushing it.
Tennis, he says, has long been known as a "quiet, buttoned-up sport," but a new generation is coming into tennis for exercise first. And most exercise fanatics "are people who don't get a chance to compete," he says.
Caswell says he was skeptical at first, believing playing music and playing tennis did not go together.
"But when you're playing music," he says, "it's gets you going and makes it more fun. It ticks up the energy level."
What also separates the workout from tennis, Caswell says, is that players of different abilities can participate together.
While that's not the norm in game play, he says, "the beauty of cardio tennis is you can have a pro player doing drills with pretty much a beginning- or moderate-level player."
Workout leaders put their spins on the classes, with ladders, props, jump ropes and such, Caswell says, and some leaders are more difficult than others.
But "they're all a big workout compared to a normal tennis clinic," he says.
Brown says the workouts have helped him with his footwork and with maintaining his technique in longer tennis rallies when more running is involved.
For many years, "I used to play tennis to exercise," he says. "Now I find I have to exercise to play tennis."
Unlike Brown, Tonja Perkins, 40, of Chattanooga didn't get into tennis until about eight years ago and started seriously improving her game a few years ago. A self-confessed "workout junkie," she has replaced several traditional cardio workouts with cardio tennis.
"The time goes by a lot faster," she says. "It's a distraction, and there's the fun factor. It's a good cardio workout, and it's never exactly the same. Every instruction has their own exercises or format."
Perkins, who normally takes two classes a week, says the drills allow participants to hit a lot of balls, a practice essential for improvement, and practice their swing and technique.
"It's all of that rolled into one," she says.
Manker Patten offers eight to 10 hour-long, coed classes weekly, according to Caswell. Classes are $15 each, racquets are available if needed, participants don't have to be club members and no commitment term is required.
Players of any ability can participate, he says, and the classes are generally geared toward the fitness level of the majority of participants.
Cardio tennis, in fact, has become a good introduction to the sport for some people, Caswell says.
"It's not a stressful environment but a fun exercise environment," he says. "It's causing tennis to grow. It's an [entry point] that is less intimidating and more about fun."
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.