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by the end of the summer, his tennis game was greatly improved.” And, judging by Spezza’s on- ice performance this season, tennis will likely be included in his pre-season training regimen again this year. In addition to Spezza, ORC has hosted a

few hockey stars who come in for a casual hit or some off-season training. But NHL hockey play- ers are certainly not the only athletes who appre- ciate the game. Another familiar face on ORC’s tennis courts (and a fairly recent convert to the game) is celebrated wheelchair athlete and Mis- sissauga’s 2011 athlete of the year, Billy Bridges. Bridges (25) suffers from spina bifida, but he

has not let this stop him. A successful ice sledge hockey player with World Championship Golds from 2000 and 2008, and Paralympic gold from 2006, where he was picked for the All-Star Team, Bridges also has a career as a wheelchair basketball player (he has won seven Canadian titles with Team Ontario, has competed at the Junior World Championships, and in 2005, was selected as the team's MVP). But playing at the top level in two sports was clearly not enough for Bridges, who took up tennis about two years ago. Ask him about tennis, and his eyes light up: “I’m just addicted to it” he beams, “it’s such a great sport.” Billy even admits to skipping hockey to play tennis!

Putting it to the Test If tennis can work as an interesting (and fun)

fitness tool for professional athletes, what about someone like me? I’m a beginner player with lim- ited skills. To test the merits of using tennis as a fitness tool, I proffered myself as guinea pig for a fitness-targeted tennis lesson. A grueling 1½ hours later, I stumbled off the court, red-faced, sweat-soaked and convinced that tennis was defi- nitely worth ‘fitting’ into a routine.

What to expect • In an active, fitness-targeted lesson, you will easily cover a couple of miles. This was cer- tainly much more than I expected, consid- ering how small a tennis court is, and how much I hate running.

• With a good coach, you will see improve- ment in your tennis skills very fast. And the better your tennis skills, the more effective your on-court workout as breaks in play are mitigated. Longer rallies (and less time spent picking up the ball) mean your heart rate gets up and stays up!

• You will feel the effects of this workout. My legs (and lungs) were burning during our on- court session, but it was nothing compared to the exercise-induced soreness I endured for the next couple of days. But don’t take my word for it—give it a try.

Tennis appeals to athletes and celebrities for

good reason. It is mentally as well as physically challenging. It provides the opportunity to push

Tennis helps increase aerobic capacity, lowers rest- ing heart rate and blood pressure, improves meta- bolic function, increases bone density, lowers body fat, improves muscle tone, strength and flexibility, refines hand eye coordination, and hones reaction times for improved performance.

yourself, and to be competitive. With some hard work and maybe a few lessons, you will see im- provement quickly as you develop the practical and tactical skills the sport requires. Although your heart rate might not stay up consistently for extended periods during a hit and giggle doubles match, there are many benefits to participation. Tennis also helps with speed, overall fitness, discipline, social skills and sportsmanship. Men can burn up to 600 calories an hour and women over 400 calories an hour during a normal social game. And, as a bonus, tennis is a great sport to do with friends or family.

So whether you are looking to get competi-

tive, learn some new skills, improve your fitness, or mix your social life with your fitness regimen, there are lots of reasons to grab your racquet and get out on the court. You never know whom you might be hitting alongside.

Wife of ORC’s Tennis Director (former top ten ATP Tour Doubles and top fifty Singles player and a Tour Coach), Gary Muller, and herself a former LTA (British Tennis) Marketing Manager, Kristin Muller has no excuse for not spending more time on the tennis court. Perhaps this will be the year she finally learns to play.

Although a ‘hit and giggle’ doubles match may not be a significant calorie burner, an intense singles match can give your workout a much-needed lift. And you can have fun with friends doing it—the social side of the sport makes it well-worth getting involved.

Not quite ready to rally successfully with a partner? Don’t be put off; a skills session with a qualified Pro can give you an incredible work-out while helping your game.

Never picked up a racquet? Don’t worry. Most tennis clubs offer introductory group programs (like ORC’s INSTANT TENNIS) to help get you started in the sport.

For more experienced players looking to maxi- mize the fitness benefits of the game while honing your tennis skills, there are programs like CARDIO TENNIS (now offered at ORC, as is a combined Cardio Tennis and Serve & Return program).

Try using a ball machine—it is a great way to keep your heart rate elevated on the court! Many clubs have ball machines available for their members; ORC’s programmable ball machine can be booked through the front desk.

Want to get the social and fitness benefits AND save your wallet? Tennis is a great group

activity—so get some friends together for a group lesson or a regular weekly booking and see you on court soon

If tennis is not quite your thing, what about Squash? Declared by Forbes Magazine as the “world’s healthiest sport”, Squash is played in over 175 coun- tries by over 20 million people and is very easy to learn. Why not give it a try?


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