Many people would rather shovel snow than go to the gym but the gym can be about much more than just walking machines and weights. Why not try a few court sports? Most indoor sports facilities have rooms for racquetball and squash, and more and more cities have indoor tennis facilities where you can not only play year round but take lessons from their on-site pros. Court sports also have the advantage of playing in pairs; this way, if you make a date for squash, it wouldn’t be right to disappoint your partner and not show up. It’s all about accountability. There are also real advantages to exercising in a community atmosphere; there’s a sense that everyone else is striving for the same goals you are. You really begin to feel like part of the movement, which serves as inspiration when feelings of “ugh, I don’t want to exercise today” come around. Most court sports are inexpensive to get into, simply requiring the right kind of footwear and possibly a racquet. If you take a few lessons and are really keen to get on, you can buy your own racquet, carrying case, designer towels…well, you get my drift. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few court sports, what they entail, what you need to play them, and the basic gist of the game. So read on to find out how you can have fun, burn calories, and get a great workout indoors!
Joe Sobek is credited with inventing the modern sport of racquetball in 1950, although the outdoor, one-wall game goes back to at least 1910 in New York City. Sobek altered the game of paddleball by adding a stringed racquet to the game in order to increase velocity and control and hence, the modern version of racquetball was born.
Racquetball is played with a racquet and a hollow rubber ball in an indoor or outdoor court measuring 40 feet long by 20 feet wide and 20 feet high with red lines painted on the floor which define the service and service reception area (much like on a tennis court). Unlike tennis or badminton however, there is no net to hit the ball over in racquetball. Instead, the court’s walls, floor and ceiling are all legal playing surfaces on which you can hit the ball in order to return it to your opponent for them to hit back. Unlike the game of squash, there are no out-of-bounds areas on the walls. If your return is skilled enough, your opponent cannot return your shot and you win the point.
The object of the game is much like tennis; make shots and serves your opponent cannot return. As in tennis, play begins with the serve. The serving player must first bounce the ball on the floor once and hit it directly to the front wall. The server gets two chances to serve correctly. After a successful serve, the players alternate hitting the ball against the front wall. The player returning the hit may allow the ball to bounce once on the floor or hit the ball on the fly. A ball in play (after the serve and return) may touch as many walls, including the ceiling, as necessary so long as it reaches the front wall without striking the floor. During play, you cannot hinder your opponent from hitting the ball by getting in his way or a penalty to you will result.This game is played very quickly in a very small space so you have to be “on the ball” at all times, thinking and moving swiftly in order to play effectively.
Equipment for Racquetball
Most competitive players wear a glove on their racquet hand for the purpose of getting a better grip on the racquet (similar to a driving glove) but gloves are optional.
Racquetball court shoes are designed especially for enabling quick lateral, as well as forward and backward movements.
Balls are manufactured for specific purposes (indoor or outdoor play) but the difference between them isn’t likely to matter to the recreational player. The balls do break occasionally and will lose their bounce over time.
A racquetball racquet is much different than a tennis racquet. While the head of a tennis racquet is oval, a racquetball racquet is more of a teardrop shape and has a much smaller shank/handle. You will need to purchase a racquet specifically made for racquetball.
Squash is also a high speed racquet sport, played by either singles or doubles, on the same type of four-walled court as racquetball. The lines on the court are different, indicating the different “in-play” and “out-of-play” the ball can hit.
The game was formerly called squash racquets, referring to the soft “squashable” ball used in the game. Squash actually developed from at least five other sports involving racquets, gloves and balls, with the game we know and love today originating at Harrow School in England. The first squash court appeared in North America in 1884.
Squash balls actually come in six different colors, the color indicating the bounce and speed capability of the ball. The range from super slow, super low bound and speed to fast speed and very high bounce.
Lightweight clothing is preferred as the game is very vigorous (sweat bands should even be considered). Protective eyewear is recommended over and above normal eyewear. Squash racquets are similar in head shape to racquetball racquets but have longer handles.
Handball goes by at least ten different names, mostly depending on where it is being played (e.g., Field, Beach, Czech, Australian, Team, American, etc.). American handball (played in North America) is a sport in which players use their hands to hit the small rubber ball as opposed to hitting it with a racquet. As well as the absence of a racquet, you can play on either a four-wall, three-wall or one-wall court. The game can be played by either two players (singles), three players (cut-throat), or four players (doubles).
“Street” handball uses a softer “big blue” ball. A true handball is referred to as an ace or black ball. These small balls are harder and bounce higher than the racquet ball “big blue” type. Four-wall games use the smaller ball; three and one wall games can use both. An indoor four-wall handball court is the same size as a racquetball court. Again, which walls and where the ball can hit are defined by lines on the court and are different from racquetball or squash.
Equipment needs include protective gloves, sneakers, shorts and short-sleeved top and protective eyewear (over and above normal eyewear) for tournament play.
Tennis and badminton are played on courts (either indoor or outdoor) with no walls and one central net. Players (either singles or doubles) use a tennis racquet or badminton racquet, which are specifically shaped for their corresponding sport. Tennis racquets are sturdier and heavier than badminton racquets, which are of a lighter weight construction. Tennis uses tennis balls whereas badminton uses shuttlecocks or “birdies”.
Tennis racquet & ball
Badminton racquet & birdie
Lines on the court determine where you serve from and whether a ball/bird is still in-play or out-of-play. There are one set of lines for singles and one set for doubles. You get two chances to serve. If a serve cannot be returned on the first serve, it’s called an ace. Just like volleyball, only the server can score. You have to beat the server (by sending him a shot he can’t return) and obtain the serve before you can begin to rack up points. Clothing is lightweight, eye protection is generally not necessary.
Volleyball is played by two teams of six players each, separated by a net on a marked court. Players rotate through the players on the floor, taking turns as the server. The object of the game is to volley the ball over the net in such a way that the opposing team cannot return it. Once the ball has been served over the net to the opposing team, they can only touch it three times in order to create a return. If the balls lands out-of-bounds or they touch it more than three times, the serving team wins the point. Only the serving team can score a point. If you are the receiving team and you return the serve in such a way that the serving team cannot return it back to you, the serving team loses the serve and you may begin to serve and rack up points.There are many types of legal “touches” that constitute a good return (set, spike, block, dig, etc.). Volleyball can be played indoors or outdoors on either a hard surface or sand.
Tennis and badminton are played on marked courts. The lines on the court indicate whether the birdie/ball is in play or not and where you need to stand to complete a legal serve. Both tennis and badminton can be played as a singles match (one player on each side) or a doubles match (two players on each side).
NO MATTER WHICH GAME YOU’RE PLAYING…
If you’re overweight or haven’t exercised regularly, it’s a good idea to see your doctor for a check-up before taking up racquet sports. If indoor racquet sports are new to you or if you haven’t played in a while, you should prepare your body by exercising at least 1 to 3 weeks before you start playing. Begin with walking and/or biking and stretching for 15 to 20 minutes. You may also use light weights. Gradually build your workout up to 60 minutes, the average length of a racquetball or squash game.
Warm up your muscles and prepare them for the game by doing some gentle stretching beforehand. Pay special attention to the muscles in your thighs, calves and arms. Make sure your neck isn’t tense and warm up your entire body with some light jogging in place to give your heart the heads-up that exercise is coming.
If, during your warm-up, you are aware that you’re not feeling well or something begins to hurt, plan not to exercise and reschedule for another day. Always listen to your body. “Pushing through” or “sucking it up” is not the way to exercise. If you’re not sure how to properly warm up your body, ask one of the staff at the facility to show you a pre-workout warm up routine so that you know you’re doing what needs to be done to avoid an injury.
During the game, don’t ignore cramps, pain or fatigue. Most injuries result when a player keeps playing when your body is trying to tell you to stop.
Your body will lose water as you play. To avoid dehydration, drink 1-2 500ml bottles of water up to 2 hours before a game. Be sure to have bottled water handy while you’re playing. Special sports drinks aren’t necessary because you’ll be refueling your body within an hour after your workout anyway.
Post-workout Recovery Period
Any time you engage in strenuous exercise, your body goes through a post-workout recovery period. Recovery after exercise is essential to muscle and tissue repair. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild and working it again too soon simply leads to tissue breakdown instead of building.
Before you stop completely, you need a “cooling down” period. This means you don’t stop abruptly but continue moving at a very low intensity. For example, continuing walking gently after your game, maybe just around the court or around the running oval at your sports facility for 5 to 10 minutes. This helps remove lactic acid from your muscles and may reduce muscle stiffness. Maybe consider doing some gentle stretching and continue to consume water while you are cooling down. After you’ve cooled down, you might consider treating yourself to a massage.
Refueling your body is important after exercise to help your body recover, repair tissues and get stronger. Try to eat a healthy snack, including some high-quality protein & a complex carb (deli turkey on a whole wheat bun), within 60 minutes of your game.
It’s not the best idea to cool down from one intense exercise just to move into another, even if you’re working a different muscle group. Your body needs rest after a hard workout to repair and recover. Slow, gentle movement helps improve circulation which helps promote nutrient, oxygen and waste product transport throughout the body.
Cotton clothing is best because cotton breathes and wicks away sweat. Long pants and/or jogging suits won’t give your skin the access to air it needs while you’re playing and you’ll overheat much quicker. Try and stick with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. A light jacket for afterwards is best so you don’t get a chill while your body is cooling down. Best rule of thumb is not to go outside until your body has completely cooled from the exercise. Repeat the stretching exercises while you’re cooling down so that you won’t be as sore after your workout. And remember to drink water while cooling down.
Prevent eye injuries by wearing adequate eye protection. Choose eye guards that have been certified by either the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or the American Standard of Testing and Materials (ASTM). You should not depend on your regular prescription glasses because they are not designed to give enough protection. Also, open eye guards don’t protect your eyes well enough.
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10 Ways To Recover Quickly After Exercise
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
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