- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007


It looks like just another tennis workout as balls sail by — and sometimes directly at — pro instructor Tony Palafox. But the plastic cones and the rope ladder along either side of the court suggest otherwise.

This is “Cardio Tennis,” a group class that combines traditional tennis practice with other endurance-building exercises.

On a recent brisk morning at a YMCA tennis court in Atlanta’s trendy Buckhead neighborhood, three tennis players had a workout with Mr. Palafox, a former pro tennis player from Mexico City. Mr. Palafox has trained other professionals, including U.S. tennis champion John McEnroe.

“Did John McEnroe do this?” asks 42-year-old Caroline McCrary during pre-workout arm stretches and sideways movements in a circle with the group.

“Pros should do it — it is good fitness,” says Mr. Palafox, 70. Today’s pros, he said, have access to personal trainers to build their stamina.

For everyone else, Cardio Tennis provides similar benefits, Mr. Palafox said, because it uses aspects of a regular tennis workout — hitting balls — with footwork exercises designed to build endurance.

Unlike a regular game of tennis, Cardio Tennis is focused more on fitness and less on hitting great forehands and backhands. The program has 1,500 workout sites in 48 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and 25 foreign countries. It was started in September 2005 by the Tennis Industry Association as a way to get more people involved in the sport. Classes run from $8 to $20 per session, depending on the club. Mr. Palafox’s YMCA charges $10 for members.

“When lower-skilled players go out and play with one another, they are not hitting many balls — they are chasing many balls. That doesn’t get your heart rate up,” said Michele Krause, national Cardio Tennis director for the Tennis Industry Association. “In Cardio Tennis, a pro is controlling the activity, you’re hitting tons of balls … and you have a great ability to stay in your heart-rate range for the recommended period of time.”

Organizers say the workout offers cardiovascular benefits because all the activity in each workout allows participants to hit their aerobic training zone, which is between 65 percent and 85 percent of their maximum heart rate. The workout also improves a player’s tennis game because players get lots of tennis practice and tips on how to improve.

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