SPORTS

Jock Up Your Horizons: How to Serve an Ace, Bend it Like Beckham, and Run a Marathon

4/1/2006

Repeat after me, “This will not be the spring of 'coulda-shoulda -woulda' excuses.



Repeat after me, “This will not be the spring of 'coulda-shoulda -woulda' excuses. This will not be a spring of hammock lazing, potato chip grazing, navel lint plucking inertia.” Just because it's spring doesn't mean you should feel especially entitled to slack off in your free time. You're never too old, too chubby, too short, too weak, or too uncoordinated to get back in the game. Make those who ever doubted your athletic abilities suck on your vapour trails. This summer wow your friends, and most importantly, amaze yourself.



SERVE AN ACE

The end result may be the same on the score sheet as winning a hard fought rally, but the rush of unilaterally deciding the outcome of a game by serving up an untouchable ball is priceless. An ace in tennis has the same effect as a slam dunk does in basketball: it fires up the dealer's confidence and demoralizes the opponent. The key to hammering a big bomb down the 'T' (where the centre line meets the service line) or out wide, the opposite corner of the box, is power and placement.

“You can make different arguments for the importance of each. Power is needed but placement is more important. Whether it's 130 m.p.h. down the T or 110 m.p.h. down the T, it's still an ace,” explains Adam Seigel, a tennis pro at the Blackmore Tennis Club in Richmond Hill, Ontario. One way to improve your tennis marksmanship is to put targets on the court – Gatorade bottles will do the trick – and aim to knock them down. For a surefire way to amp up your serve, “take a lesson and then go out there with a bucket of balls and serve hundreds and thousands of them,” recommends Seigel.

Cost: Private lessons run the gamut from $40-$100 per hour. Group lessons tend to be considerably more affordable. Go to www.tennisontario.com and click on the member clubs link to get up to speed on the courts in your area.

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM



Soccer has plenty of cool moves. There's the gritty slide tackle, the “that's gotta hurt” mega-header, and the “whoop, there it is” scissor kick. But the move that would inspire the most applause is undoubtedly a physics-flouting banana-kick-bender. Bending a soccer ball is a kick that makes the ball swerve, then dip and change its trajectory in midair, much like a Barry Zito curveball. Beckham's trademark curl-crazy free kicks blast over defenders' heads and can strike mesh from 30 yards away.

“I can't explain it technically. It's a skill that you just learn. No one does it like Beckham does it,” explains Landon Donovan, the half-Canuck star forward on Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy. So I guess we still haven't told you the secret to bending one by the keeper. Let's just say some things you can't learn from reading Newsvine articles, some things you just gotta do.

Cost: The beauty of soccer is that all you really need is a ball and some buddies to kick it around with. Adult soccer balls start for as little as $15


LEARN TO RUN

Bruce Springsteen said we were born to do this, and sure, the ability to burn rubber in a pinch is part of our autonomic nervous system, but there's a big difference between huffing it to the concession stand and back before the movie starts and running a marathon. Joining a running club is the best way to get your pre-programmed Roadrunner synapses up to snuff and your feet up to fleet. “The major benefit of running in a group is maintaining motivation,” explains Jeremy Kris, a Learn to Run instructor at the Running Room in Whitby.



“The clinic is designed to take somebody from being a couch potato to competing in their first five kilometre race.” The 10-week training program starts off nice and breezy with two minutes of walking for every one minute of running. “You don't want to increase your mileage or run time by more than 10% in any given week,” advises Kris. Learn to run clubs are offered at every Running Room location in Canada. To test-drive the running club lifestyle, drop in to any Running Room Wednesday at 6 p.m. or Sunday at 8:30 a.m. for a free trial.



Cost: The 10-week Learn to Run program is priced at $69.99 CDN. To find the store nearest to you, scoot over to www.runningroom.com.

Inspirational Ink: “The miracle isn't that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – credo of John “The Penguin” Bingham, a columnist for Runner's World and a run club icon. Bingham started running marathons at age 43.

An expanded version of this article first ran in Chill Magazine. I will be posting part 2 in a few days

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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