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Fitness Basics: Learning to Love Tennis

Yes, it can help you get fit. But the benefits of tennis go beyond the physical, experts say.

You Need More Than Love

If you're planning to take up tennis, you'll need a tennis racquet and a pair of court shoes (and a can of balls, of course). Don't try wearing your running shoes on the court, says Helmig. They don't work well with all the lateral movement, and you could end up with an injury.

Before you spring for a racquet, have a pro or someone at a tennis shop size your grip, says Smith. And make sure you feel comfortable with the weight of the racquet. There are many different weights for different-sized people.

You don't have to spend a lot. For less than $100, you should be able to get a decent beginner racquet, Helmig says.

If there's a pro shop at the club or gym where you're playing, see if they have any used racquets for sale. It's a great way to get into a better racquet for less money.

Advantage: Lessons

All the pros we spoke with said that lessons really are the best way to learn technique and form.

Finding a tennis pro isn't hard. Find a club, gym, or park and recreation facility with courts and go from there. Get recommendations from friends, says Helmig, and be sure to meet a few of the instructors before signing up, to see whom you feel comfortable with. If you're not sure where to start, go to USTA.com for help finding a pro in your city.

Though prices will vary depending on where you live, Smith and Helmig say you can expect to pay from $40 to $70 per hour for a private lesson. Splitting it with a friend cuts the cost in half.

Taking classes or clinics, with up to eight people, can be less expensive as well, says Sneed, who teaches an eight-week Play Tennis Quick (PTQ) class.

You can also get information from videos or books, though Smith does not recommend it.

"I really think you have to have the hands-on experiential learning on the court with balls," she says.

And learning is only half the battle. You'll need to practice to reap the benefits tennis can offer, says Sneed.

One lesson plus two additional hours of playing a week is ideal to create consistency, suggests Helmig.

"If you want to learn, you have to practice," says Sneed. "You've got to walk more than once a week to start reaping the benefits. It's the same with tennis."

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Reviewed on November 22, 2006

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