A whole new racket in fitness


IT HAD TO HAPPEN. SOMEBODY HAD TO turn the genteel game of tennis into a rockin', sockin' fitness workout.

People who give up the sport often do so because they don't feel they get enough of a workout, according to a survey by the United States Tennis Association. The tennis industry has taken note, and a new high-energy fitness program called Cardio Tennis was introduced at the last U.S. Open. By this summer the USTA hopes to have 1,000 Cardio Tennis facilities up and running across the country, including several in the Baltimore area.

If you're a tennis player whose Saturday morning doubles game isn't enough of a workout, or if you used to play but now just want to have fun and get your heart rate going, Cardio Tennis could be the answer. Its relationship to the game of tennis is often compared with that of bicycling and spinning classes.

"For one hour, your body is not allowed to rest," says Paul Groncki, a 47-year-old who takes a 6 a.m. Cardio Tennis class Tuesdays at the Columbia Athletic Club. "Everyone knows you don't play tennis to exercise. You have to exercise to play tennis."

Mike Lissner, the tennis pro who's in charge, says he usually has five or six people and occasionally as many as 10 racing around the court and getting an early morning workout.

In Cardio Tennis, no instruction is given. As long as you can hold a racquet and hit a ball with it, you can join the fun. Participants do drills to improve speed and agility, and the tennis pro feeds balls that have to be struck on the run. Heart monitors and jock-rock CDs are often part of the equipment.

"The music definitely puts us in the mood," says Dmitriy Shvadskiy, 33. (Lissner holds his class at 6 a.m. so as not to disturb other players with the heart-pounding music.) "It's good exercise, plus it's some practice. You're running and hitting the ball, but it doesn't really matter if it goes in."

The nonprofit Baltimore Tennis Patrons is "really on the bandwagon," says program director Lynn Morrell. "The purpose isn't to improve strokes, but to get a fitness workout, but you do lots of strokes. You are learning indirectly."

Tennis Patrons is sponsoring classes throughout the area, mostly at public courts in Baltimore and Howard counties. Four are being offered this spring and eight this summer. The organization lends participants Polar heart monitors.

"People are getting a little fed up with being in the gym," says Morrell. With Cardio Tennis, she says, you get the fun of tennis while you're getting the benefits of a great cardiovascular workout.



For more general information on Cardio Tennis and area locations other than the ones listed below, visit cardiotennis.com.

Fees for classes vary.

You can reach Baltimore Tennis Patrons at 410-296-2100.


Joppa View Elementary School, 8727 Honeygo Boulevard, Perry Hall

Pikesville Middle School, 7701 Seven Mile Lane, Baltimore

Riderwood Elementary School, 1711 Landrake Road, Towson,

Ridgely Middle School, 121 Ridgely Road, Lutherville


County Home Park, 10401 Greenside Drive, Cockeysville

Hereford High School, 17301 York Road, Parkton

New Town High School, 4931 New Town Blvd., Owings Mills

Pinewood Elementary School, 200 Rickswood Road, Lutherville

Padonia Swim Club (members only), 12006 Jenifer Road, Cockeysville

Ridgely Middle School, 121 Ridgely Road, Lutherville

Cedar Lane Park East, 10725 Rt. 108, Columbia

River Hill High School, 12101 Rt. 108, Clarksville

You can call tennis pro Mike Lissner at the Columbia Athletic Club, 410-730-6744.

Several other private tennis clubs in the area may offer Cardio Tennis this summer. Check with them directly.

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