Tennis with a twist. That's what Cardio Tennis, or exer-tennis, is all about.
This newest group fitness class hit the courts in September across the nation. The program is a new effort by the Tennis Industry Association and the United States Tennis Association to show that there can be more to tennis than matches.
The tennis industry admits that tennis has "lost out to many fitness activities in the past decade" and has a "very traditional image." They're marketing this as a "third way to play tennis" and are certifying tennis pros to teach Cardio Tennis.
The relationship between Cardio Tennis and actual tennis is what cardio kickboxing is to real kickboxing, or indoor group cycling is to road cycling. While you may develop skills that can help your game, that's not the goal of the class.
"Tennis is just the platform," said Ruben Millado, head tennis pro at Col. Barber Park in Orange County, Calif. "The goal is to get people moving."
Toward that end, Millado plans to use energizing music in the background.
What to expect in a class
The hour-long group classes are designed for people of all abilities, including people who can barely hit a ball but are willing to have fun and get a workout. The instructor tailors the difficulty of a serve to your individual ability, which he or she gauges from how you return a serve at the start of a class.
The classes are small, from eight to 10 people. You do need to bring your own racquet and wear tennis-specific shoes.
Millado leads the class through fast drills, and you're supposed to jog or shuffle in place while waiting your turn to hit the ball.
One of the warm-up drills works on hand-eye coordination and lateral movement. Participants are divided into two lines facing each other, several feet apart. They toss balls across to each other while moving sideways down the court. If you drop the ball, Millado quickly tosses you another one so you can keep going.
In a fast-paced drill, the class forms a line on one end of the court, while Millado is on the other side. He serves you a ball, you volley back as best you can, then run to the back of the line as the next person steps up and hits the next ball.
It's not about whether you hit the ball across the net. It's OK to miss, and you don't have to be embarrassed about it. You're not going to get pointers on the correct way to swing your racquet. The object is to move your body and make an effort to volley back.
Other Cardio Tennis classes incorporate drills with a competitive spirit. The class can be divided into two teams volleying the balls across to each other. But again, the point is not to win as much as it is to play and have fun.
It remains to be seen whether Cardio Tennis will be a hit, just like cardio kickboxing and group indoor cycling, but it's a decent attempt at another fitness format, if not a clever marketing concept.
For the nearest location of a Cardio Tennis class, go to www.cardiotennis.com.
Lisa Liddane is an American Council on Exercise-certified group fitness instructor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 714-796-7854.