Photo by: Staff

The Inadvertent Athlete: A Mom Takes Up Tennis At Age 43

by Christina Simon
Photo by: Staff

Could 2011 be the year you take the first steps toward starting a new sport? For me, it all started casually enough three years ago. I was bored with my boot camp workout classes and my husband suggested I join him in taking tennis lessons.

Have you ever thought of doing something totally new? Something you’ve never done before? Well, I did. I took my first tennis lesson at age 43.

During both my pregnancies I gained a lot of weight (50 pounds each time, to be exact). To lose the weight, I worked out at a rigorous boot camp class. After a few years of boot camp, I was ready for something new. But what could I do?

Pilates? Tried it. I prefer eating pretzels to twisting myself into one. I can barely touch my toes.

Yoga? I spent time in an ashram as a kid – I’m not going to relive those memories.

Running? Not unless there’s a bear chasing me down.

Krav Maga? Tai chi? Jujitsu? Tae Kwan Do? Help! Too many choices!

And then there was one more. All the moms were doing it. All the husbands were encouraging them. It was beyond the rage. Pole dancing! Despite peer pressure from several of the moms at my kids’ school, I’ve resisted taking a pole dancing class. Several of them are so enthralled with this form of workout, they have installed poles in their bedrooms. One of them has perfected a move called the “flying body spiral.”I just can’t imagine myself wrapped around a pole, wearing 5″ stripper shoes, gyrating to loud music, trying to get in touch with my inner goddess.

So, I found myself holding a tennis racket for the first time in my life. Would this be what I wanted? Something I would look forward to and be motivated to do everyday. Something that I could do with pride?

My first lesson was about how to hold the racket. It was so intimidating. Hitting a tennis ball isn’t nearly as easy as it looks!

The first few months, I took several lessons a week. It was humbling because I’m fairly competitive. I’d swing for the ball and miss, my racket ending up several feet from the ball. Just when I thought I had hit a decent shot, it would fly over the fence. My instructor was patient and kept encouraging me. Fortunately, there was no surcharge for lost balls. I kept taking lessons. Progress was slow. Some days I felt like quitting. I shared a lesson with a girlfriend for the first year. It was a lot of fun.

I didn’t quit. Nonetheless, getting it right hasn’t been easy. Improvement is gradual, very gradual. I’ve been playing for three years now and it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love tennis. It’s the most fun, exhausting, frustrating, exhilarating sport I’ve ever tried. I play with my girlfriends, my husband and my young kids. I’ve played in a Ladies Day tournament and I’m going to sign up for another tournament soon. I play pretty much any chance I get.

If someone had asked me if I’d be willing to learn a new sport in my forties, I would have said no. But, you never know until you try something new.

Tennis has been a lifeline for me. I consider it a form of self-improvement. I use it to offset the stresses of being a mom. It has given me the confidence to try new things and not give up. I look forward to playing every time I step onto the court. I’m impatient to get to the next level. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I have a great lesson or game. I’m completely devoted to this sport.

There is only one problem. Somehow, my husband, who only started playing six months before me, is a LOT better player. He aces me with his serves. He hits shots he knows I can’t possibly get. Sometimes, when we play, I want to smack him with the ball. I don’t because I have him to thank for introducing me to this sport and I’ve made it my mission to beat him.

Reluctantly, I even started wearing tennis clothes, including those very short tennis skirts, after about a year of playing. Again, something I never thought I’d do. But, you just don’t see serious players on the court in baggy sweat pants. Now I see a lot of cute tennis outfits. Even designer Stella McCartney makes tennis wear for Adidas.

If you’re thinking about starting a new sport, give it a try! As moms, anything we can do to relieve stress and stay healthy is a good thing. I’ve thrown myself into tennis, body and soul. The thing that makes my happiest is that my kids take tennis lesson and now that they are 7 and 10 years old, we hit together as a family. On vacation, we stay at hotels that have tennis facilities. The good thing about tennis is that it is widely accessible. Public tennis courts are readily available with very reasonable court costs.

I’m happy to say, tennis has brought our family closer together. It’s 2011 and I look forward to many years ahead, playing with family and friends. Now, if I could just get to level 4.0, I’ll be really thrilled. Oh, and maybe I can get my husband to take up pole dancing.

Christina Simon, 46, is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles”. She also writes the blog, Beyond the Brochure about applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles and life as a private school mom. Christina is a former vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, a global public relations firm. She has a 7 year old son and a 10 year old daughter. Christina lives in Hancock Park, Los Angeles with her husband and children. She has a BA from UC Berkeley and an MA from UCLA.

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