PUMPING IRONY: No Excuses

There’s no better way to recharge your fitness routine than a little friendly competition.

Sunday is typically a recovery day for me, and I needed it today, after playing a set of tennis yesterday for the first time in several weeks. My old buddy, The Baseline Machine, invited me to hit the ball around at the indoor courts at Martin Luther King Park over on Nicollet and 40th, and she delivered a pretty convincing smackdown — a 6-4 verdict in barely 45 minutes.

Tennis uses some muscles in different ways than I tend to use them in my normal routine:

Lots of bending, twisting and stretching along with short bursts of running, pivoting, backpedaling and swearing. This is all good. Everyone tells me that I should be mixing up my workouts and challenging different muscle groups so I don’t find myself languishing on the dreaded fitness plateau. And it’s easier to mix it up, in my view, if you enjoy a little friendly competition.

The last few times I’ve hit it around with TBM, I came away with at least a draw or a narrow win, but I could tell early on yesterday that she’d been practicing. She took a quick 2-0 lead before I could earn a game and then stretched that lead to 5-2 before dousing my frantic rally with a conclusive 10th game win. I learned at some point that she’d joined a league and had been playing twice a week for the past month or so. Meanwhile, I hadn’t picked up my racket since sometime in early July — something I pointed out to her early in our set. Not as an excuse, you know. Just offering a little context.

But TBM is not the sort to make it easy on a guy — even one who, at 61, is nearly a decade older than she is — so I just had to suck it up and take my beating. I didn’t even mention that my hamstrings were a little tight and I forgot to pack my water bottle and my shoes kept coming untied at untimely moments. She really did outplay me for most of the match, except for maybe that one pivotal game where it appeared that we weren’t completely sure of the score.

Like I say, a little friendly competition can really help your fitness regimen. And I’ll probably be completely recovered — physically and emotionally — by the time we hit the court again in a couple of weeks. It can take a while when you get to be my age.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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