Posts Tagged squash

Exercise/Sport Report

David Beckham shows off abs for Armani ad—2009

David Beckham shows off abs for Armani ad—2009

I am now addicted. Maybe it’s endorphins that are kicking in. I read that they can be as powerful as morphine. I have become a sportaholic or exercisaholic. I am astonishingly fit, hardly tire, barely sweat (it is 40-50 degrees outside the indoor tennis courts I play on these days).

In just 25 November days, I have done the following:

Tennis—played 15 times, some sessions for three hours of singles and doubles

Squash—played, mostly practiced 6 times, three in a clinic, each session one hour.

Hunting—3 times, average of three hours each time


Crunches—9 times, some slow, some sloppy but 500-700 most times

Lat pulldowns—6 times

I am now an exercise junky. Read the rest of this entry »

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Playing My Best Tennis After Weeks Of Terrible Tennis

In spite of my injured right arm and shoulder, I have continued to play tennis and practice squash. In the last two months, my game steadily deteriorated to terrible, and then recently it became (for me) sensational. I am ecstatic today, after playing the best tennis of my life. How did this happen? Here is a little account of my journey from awful to fantastic.

I was doing real well in July, until I injured myself I believe in the gym. That month I played and practiced tennis 14 times and squash once.

August was busy and sore, although I played/practiced tennis 10 times and hit squash balls (no games yet) with a friend twice. September has seen me on the tennis court 12 times and the squash court three.

My tennis game had suffered enormously, and I was very discouraged. I guess the injury had some influence, but I didn’t feel any aching while playing (just after for a bit) and wasn’t aware that it was affecting my performance. But I constantly hit the tennis balls long or into the net. My serve was weak, and I had a negative attitude. My team lost more sets than I could accept easily. As relaxed as I am about losing, I was really fed up.

Then a number of things changed, so that in the last week, I have played the best tennis ever. My team has won six out of seven sets: 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. I must confess that I have had three different partners in those three matches. But my playing has been superior…for me, and compared to my previous results.

My net game is vastly improved and the backhand volleys are often powerful instead of dinky. Many of my volleys are gentle, finessed at side angles that are impossible to return. My forehand strokes are harder and IN THE COURT. I was always hitting the ball too long, over and over. And my backhands are better, although there is still plenty of room to add power.

So what happened? Read the rest of this entry »

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Tennis and Squash Report: Victory At Last! And Then I Was Smashed.

In spite of sore muscles near my right elbow, I have been playing some racket sports. Now that I am back to my old serve, I am improving my game.

August 3rd—an hour of hitting with a beginner.

August 6—4 hours of tennis. Slaughtered my regular opponents in doubles and singles. Then lost two doubles sets with the age-50’s group, but made a good showing.

August 8—1¼ hours of squash practice and games. Getting back into it. Won 3 out of 4 with a former opponent who used to always beat me…although she hadn’t played in a year.

August 9—1¼ hours of squash practice. Really starting to whack the ball well and place it too.

August 11—Tennis victory: beat the old guys (93 and 86) both sets, 6-4. 6-3. A real achievement. So my team has now won three sets out of 12. Those guys can place and lob so beautifully. Decades of practice. Though they can’t run fast or far, they can still reach the ball and return it perfectly over and over. My own game was definitely better, with fewer long balls and some amazing “gets.” My partner played really well too…so we beat ‘em both sets at last. What an effort!

One benefit of an arm that hurts is that I am guessing this ache is the result of not hitting the tennis ball properly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Exercise Report—Two New Records: 300 Normal Crunches; 10+6 Chin Ups+Pull Ups

Practiced squash today at the prep school courts of the club I just joined. Such an exhausting sport. I love it. What a workout. Too tired to look at local fireworks.

Last night at the gym late—done at 9pm. Two new personal bests: 300 crunches (3 sets of 100 each) with the exercise ball (not the bicycle-type crunches, which are much harder) and 10 chin ups followed by 6 pull ups (increased from 10 + 4 1/2). On June 16 I was at 135 crunches with the exercise ball. That’s progress to me. I am loving the chinning bar. I want to move along it like a ninja.

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Some Practice Makes Me Better

You have to laugh at how hard it is to perform when competing as well as in practice. My record at squash on my friend’s court was much better—I have never earned more than 4 points. But last Saturday I won 7 points in two games, was ahead 5-0 in another game and scored 5 points in 2 or more other games.

Great! But I still can’t return the backhand serve off the left sidewall with any consistency…must have lost 2 to 4 points each game that way. Once I really improve that shot, I should be able to give my friend a real contest. And I was exhausted after an hour of play. I actually had to nap for two hours in the afternoon. I never ever ever do that. But I was tired.


Gotta Keep Your Eye On The Ball

In both tennis and squash, I have trouble keeping my eye on the ball until its impact with the racket. And I can see that that one detail alone is what the pro’s seem to do all the time. It’s not easy. And I can’t imagine why it is so hard. But it makes the entire difference… Read the rest of this entry »

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Using Tennis Advice So That Ira Can Finally Drop His Turkey

I shot a turkey yesterday morning, only the second time with a bow in eight years (that’s 16 seasons).

first bird with a bow in five years—5/27/09

first bird with a bow in five years—5/27/09

Before I describe the whole hunt in another post (which may not interest you), I want to tell you how tennis prowess and peak performance was used in my turkey hunting. And I think it can be applied to other sports as well. This had all been explained the day before by my friend and tennis coach, Frank, when I asked him what allowed the very top players to dominate the game.

One squash coach told me (see April 21st post) that it’s easy to swing the racquet perfectly, but adding a ball that you’re supposed to hit on the swing changes the dynamic enormously. Similarly, aiming at and hitting a stationary, life size, 3-D turkey target is one challenge. But shooting a moving, walking turkey that might see you raise your bow and fly or turn away from you at any second is totally different.

Turkey stories aside, and in accordance with Frank Adam’s advice, I was able somehow to enter a kind of numbness or zone. I was on automatic, totally instinctual. I never calculated distance to the bird, the angle down, what the horizontal length was (see the May 2nd post about Bow and Arrow Lessons). It all just sorta, kinda happened. I wish I could explain it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can You Serve a Tennis Ball While on Your Knees? Or Win Points by Walking or Not Moving?

Went to a pro squash match in Wilton CT. These players rank from 56 to 120 or so, and the quality of their game was way above college level. They can really whack the ball and retrieve seemingly impossible shots. Lots of long rallys. However I have to say the general play was not as strong as the other pro match I saw, when some players were as high as 24 or 36.

I’d invited a former college roommate to meet me there. Michael had never before seen a squash match. His droll comment was that “You had to be in pretty good shape to play this game.” It definitely takes endurance and flexibility. He did say he had heard over the years of heavyset guys who could place the ball so well that they won points and games in spite of their inability to move very fast or for long.

He also told me about a grossly overweight tennis coach in high school he would watch who could just stand in the middle of the court, barely move his feet, switch the racket from one hand to the other, and then win many points against his students. It was because he could place the ball so perfectly. Hard to imagine, even though I face excellent placement from many of the older guys I play doubles with. This coach would also SERVE from the baseline ON HIS KNEES, again to emphasize that you don’t need a powerful serve to win points. Just place the ball with great dexterity.

I’ve played against a guy who shifts the racket back and forth between hands. Weird. So I can vouch for that skill. But what do you think? Can anyone be even a decent competitor without a strong service game? Read the rest of this entry »

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What It’s Like To Hit With A Squash Champion

Avoided the gym Monday, so that I would not be tired for the big squash day yesterday: hitting with Gustav, one of the top (#4) college squash players in America. It was a real thrill. I invited my friend who has own squash court to join us, and he and I alternated hitting and playing with the expert…for 2 ½ hours. Learned a lot, couldn’t master the new techniques, of course, but definitely improved and know what else to practice.

I worked on return of backhand serve and hitting the ball after it bounces off the back wall…a special stroke with a low open-faced racquet. I love that I can return a really hard-whacked ball. I love that I could get two points in one of the games. And that I wasn’t too winded this time. Something is definitely working!

I have a funny reaction to hitting with superior athletes for the sheer joy of it. Especially when they are not coaches giving their time and lessons in exchange for monetary payment. Maybe it is just an ego trip…but I am falling for it and liking it. I remember that George Plimpton wrote books about playing with professional teams—football, baseball, hockey, etc. But I gather that these were partly sociological explorations to convey the sport from a player’s point of view. He was never attempting to equal the pro’s skill level.

Similarly I am playing a competitor I can’t possibly defeat. He is giving me the honor of his time and the fun of experiencing his incredible returns and placements. Mostly he gives me do-able shots to keep a rally going and make me feel good. And I know that that is what is happening. He is not really toying with me. But he is also barely trying to win the point. More often than not, I will make an error that gives him the point.

It is like when I play ping pong with my grand son—for me it is effortless and lacks any challenge. I do it to help the child learn and to enjoy the interaction. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Week of Casual Conditioning—Frisbee, Tennis, Squash, Beach Running, Hiking After Turkeys

It’s been a busy week. I went to NY City last Wednesday (the 6th) to pick up my son from the end of his junior college year. I thought I could take it easy when we arrived home. However within five minutes of returning from my seven-hour round trip and unloading the car, I was “invited” to play Frisbee. Turns out my son wants to try out for the NYU Ultimate Frisbee team next fall and needs to practice. It was too good a chance to bond with my boy, so I re-learned how to throw and catch. I still have some bruises almost a week later.

After an hour of running after the spinning disc—no leaps, jumps and falls—I gave up and admitted I was tired. I had really been pushing hard and hoping he would want to stop first. In fact he played for another hour with his friend who happened to drop by shortly after I called it quits.

The next morning I was playing tennis doubles for 90 minutes, then an hour plus of practicing my spin serve with one person. My tennis game is really improving. Yet I am impressed that players who are not as good as I am overall are very comfortable correcting my game. And you know what—they often make good points, even if I think that I should be the one giving advice.

Then I fit in an hour of squash practice—mostly return of backhand serve. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Need to Keep on Exploring Even If You Keep Receiving Different Advice From Different “Experts”

Well it’s been a month, and I am still exercising and playing sports. Blogging—even just to myself, because I haven’t yet designed my web site—is forcing me to stay on track. And also knowing that I am going to go public puts some good pressure on me. I know that I am improving.

Yesterday I fired some arrows, lost one in the grass, missed the target lots of times…until I finally started hitting it. Later in the afternoon, I even scouted the farm I was going to hunt this morning, when the turkey season started for three weeks.

I woke up at 4:15, but it was raining pretty hard, so I went back to sleep—no fun sitting in the rain when it is 40 degrees. At 6:40 three toms (males) were gobbling in my garden 25 feet from the bedroom window! Sounded like they were laughing at my laziness and worries about a little rain—did I think I was going to melt? Didn’t that happen to one of those wicked witches in the Wizard of Oz?

Yesterday I also took another squash lesson, this time from the head coach at another prep school only 30 minutes away. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Cat Toys With the Mouse, Which Happens to be Me

After confirming at midnight that we were on for hitting, the Trinity squash player called after nine in the morning to say that he was sick. Damn. I had been really looking forward to hitting with a top athlete. But within half an hour, he had found a replacement—Supreet, another varsity player. So my friend and I headed off for a major challenge: could we keep up and rally for long?

On court we were toyed with, like the cat with a drunken mouse. Within one game, I was breathing hard from being run all over the court. But I earned two points. My friend then took over and was also easily defeated…but he lasted two games. Then we continued to alternate two games at a time.

It was a grueling workout in temperatures of 80+ degrees. It was something of a clinic with pointers at game’s end on how to improve: hold your racquet this way for a certain shot, flick your wrist instead of pushing your arm, take a long step to save energy and return to the center—the “T”—rather than moving so close to the front wall. Stop “panicking” when you are not sure how to hit a ball off the side wall.

Of course Supreet was not playing as well as he can—he was merely doing his best to hit easy shots we could return. Except the easy shots went from back court smashes to front court dinks, from the left side to the right. I was whupped and drained. And I thought I was in good shape! Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Think He Lost 130 Pounds?

Whew! I am OK. Thought I strained myself with too much exercise, and especially that ab workout last Wednesday, when I jumped right to some advanced drills on the ball. Could never be satisfied sticking with beginner stuff. Was worried that I might have caused a hernia, so I decided to rest a few days. Felt a little strain.

I did do 46 push ups on Friday morning, rested for 10 breaths, and dropped for another 14 My record in long ago days was 150 push ups total, with those 10 breath intervals. Also did 100 leg scissors to beef up my abs.

Thursday I left to watch my first professional squash match—very exciting and much higher level of play than the college games I have seen. As a friend said, those pros can really “whack” the ball. Reminds me of all the movie hitmen who whack their targets.

Came home Friday for the annual game dinner at a hunting and fishing club I joined a year ago. Love the talk about how many fish were caught, dogs flushing pheasants, deer missed by inches when they ducked the arrow heard whooshing towards them. Another world. Active and sometimes manly men…and a few women. They may have had quadruple bypasses two months ago—like one man in his 70’s or 80’s I met—but they are already walking their dog a mile or two each day to get in shape for walking the river with a fly rod.

Another member is now raising 25 chickens from chicks for the first time and buying organic lamb from a neighbor. All healthy and outdoors. And some of these gents are lawyers and hedge fund guys—along with serious and multi-generational farmers. An interesting mix.

One fit young man there I know is 35, weighs maybe 150, goes to the gym every work day, and has a private trainer work with him two of those days. “How are your abs?” I blurted out nosily. “I have too much skin to have abs,” he confessed. “I weighed 284 pounds in college.” Wow was I shocked. Turned out he didn’t eat properly. I didn’t pursue any deeper questions, like “How the hell did you lose 130 or 140 pounds?” Read the rest of this entry »

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I Do Supermans on a Beach Ball While One Hulk Drinks His Six-Packs

Made it to the gym yesterday for 1¼ hours. Pretty tired after two days of tennis and squash. Couldn’t do as many reps as usual on some machines. So I did extra ab exercises.

I am so silly–I keep looking at my stomach to see how puffed out the muscles become. Hardly anything showing, but I can see little mounds growing…if I move around so the light is just right and creates longer shadows Must be what young girls entering puberty go through, checking their chests all the time. Anxiously looking for those promised signs of womanhood. Oh well, I am watching for signs of real manhood.

Wiped out later on and a bit sore…I had strained a little on a lower back exercise. Hope this doesn’t keep me from exercising at all–I am determined to make it to the gym eight times this month. Have been there just five times so far, so three more to go in nine days.

I heard that you are supposed to go three or four times a week for maximum muscle growth and also work on different muscle groups each time. I do the same upper body routine each time, three sets of six to eight reps per machine. I was told to use enough weight to cause you to strain by rep six, and I add weight every few weeks if I can—five to 15 pounds minimum, depending on the machine. This should build bulk faster than less weight and less strain and 12 to 15 reps.

It’s amazing how many different systems and points of view there are on body building. One would imagine that after a few thousand years a particular approach had proven itself clearly to be the best. But it just ain’t so…

Had an errand today near the gym, so I was back without a rest day. I decided to focus almost solely on my abs…and to also experiment on a 30 inch exercise ball. I chose a bright orange one and experimented with the various ab exercises I’d printed from a web site in England I’d found by browsing
that showed a photo of a guy with a great six-pack.


Maybe that could be me some day…sure. Yeah right. Why not? Read the rest of this entry »

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Swinging is Easier When There’s No Ball That Needs Hitting

Well the squash lesson two days ago helped a lot. I did play much better, earned 4 points two or three games and 2 and 3 points some of the others. We had some strong rallies, I made it to the ball more often, and I came back to the center instead of staying on the edge. I hit the forehand and backhands correctly and even powerfully at times. But I lost too many points being unable to return his serve off the wall from my backhand.

What is that about? I was returning that shot maybe 80% of the time in the lesson, and one day later against an opponent only hitting the ball 40 to 50%? My coach said it is easy to make a correct swing, but the perfect swing gets harder when you add a ball to the mix and have to hit it—even when you are just practicing by yourself. Is that true for all facets of one’s life? The rehearsal goes great, and the live performance is often flawed. But at least those practice sessions give you a better chance at improving the real thing.

To console myself after dinner, I worked on my abs while watching television. This was rare–to actually remember to exercise and to also have the follow through to actually DO the drills. So painful and so much effort. But it feels so good when I stop. And there is that satisfyingly relaxed tiredness that comes from pushing yourself physically.

I love the feeling of leaving the gym after a workout, and am even a little jealous of the people exiting when I am first arriving. But at least I am persevering more than ever before. Where are those abs that have been dormant my whole life? Wake up you guys, hibernation time is over!!

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How to Misunderstand a Squash Swing and Learn Another Life Lesson

After two hours of tennis, I raced over to my second squash lesson. I wanted to learn how to return serves off the wall with my backhand. The Coach wanted to check up first on my forehand and backhand strokes. It turned out my backhand was incorrect. I had misunderstood his earlier instructions. Then we went to the service returns. It turned out that what I had been doing at my friend’s court was completely wrong! So I had to learn where to stand, the angle of my racquet, how to swing the racquet, where to end up.

Then I was shown where to stand near the “T.” Where to aim the ball on the serve. When to hit off the back wall instead of intercepting the ball before it landed. It was unbelievable. I was informed I should never come so close to the wall that I crash into it when chasing the ball. Etc Etc. So much that I had been doing wrong!

The main lesson in squash, any sport and in life, is that people with more experience can teach you things you don’t know and that you can’t seem to figure out on your own. Certainly not always right on the spot. Last week I must have plain missed 70% of the squash serves off the wall that came to my backhand. Yesterday I hit more than 70% of them. Yet the other day I kept doing what I was doing exactly the same dumb way. I couldn’t automatically adjust. Partly because I was doing what I thought was the correct swing and preparation. But it wasn’t. Totally wrong.

Maybe after more court time, I would be confident enough to change what I was doing right away if it wasn’t working. But this early in my playing career—20-30 times total—I wasn’t able to do that. Not sure why it is so difficult to adjust. But it was, especially in the middle of a game as the extreme novice player.

When it comes to good health, athletics and fitness, there are so many contradictory viewpoints. Eat this, don’t eat that. Six reps, no 12 reps. Stand this way, no that way. We have to listen, make a choice, practice or implement accordingly, and wait or hope for results. Very demanding, complicated, frustrating. But it is clear that if we can be patient and stick to one program of choices at a time, then something might work out as we watch things evolve. Read the rest of this entry »

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A New Kind Of Tennis and A New Game Called Squash

Tuesday the 14th was energetic. I hit tennis balls for 2 ½ hours with a couple of guys, one a former coach of 50+ years who has taught me a whole different way to play the game that he invented about 20 years ago. His insights and method worked so well for me that I became a believer and practitioner right away–completely abandoned all I had been taught during my first year of instruction. Frank Adams has written a book that is still unpublished. I give him some feedback to the manuscript, and he gives me some demonstration and guidance on how to apply his techniques and philosophy about the game. I am improving considerably, and feeling restless to play with younger opponents. That means men in their 50’s!

A friend with his own squash court had invited me to play with him in the afternoon–so I did, for about an hour and a quarter. They say playing squash—and I hadn’t played a game for about two years—will ruin your tennis swing. But I have only been on a squash court maybe 20 times in my life.

I love watching the game, ever since I first saw my daughter play and eventually make the varsity team. I then began following the squash team at Trinity College in Hartford which has won the national championship 11 years in a row and is undefeated after 202 matches. Who knows why we like certain activities, foods, people? We just do and are blessed if we can satisfy these inclinations and leanings. We are moths heading for the flame sometimes…but we generally can’t stop ourselves. And why even try if we are just watching a ball game?

So I played squash and did poorly and will take my second lesson on Sunday to learn how to hit the ball off the wall. But this is as much physical activity as I have done since the army, and I am feeling deliciously tired. It’s that good ache that satisfies and feels like I have accomplished something.

I am inching closer to a goal that I have set for myself. I am proud of this achievement, brag to friends about it, put up with their teasing back at me when I tell them that I want abs–after all, that is the kind of goal that a teenager or bodybuilder would be expressing, not a 60-something like me. At my age, I should be striving for doing more good for the world and others, not going after a “six-pack.” Pretty selfish and very self-centered. Nevertheless, I am determined…

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Working On Abs While Watching Spiders Eat Chickens

By noon yesterday I had played tennis doubles for 90 minutes and practiced squash alone for 60 minutes. Later in the evening while watching a nature show on TV about spiders big enough to kill and eat chickens after dragging them away, I worked on my abs for about 10 interrupted minutes. So that is good. I can feel some muscles under there, but nothing yet significant.

Today I went to my daughter’s neighborhood gym with my 9-year-old grandson, and for the first time ever, we connected for more than 10 minutes. We played our version of racquetball. It lasted an hour and a half. It was my first time ever at the game. He has usually stopped (I learned later) after about 10 minutes with his younger sister.

Other grand dads go fishing with their children’s kids. I play racquetball. I’ll take it. It was very unusual—for example there was a 20-minute period when I hit the ball at the front wall, and he faced the rear, glass wall with his racquet behind his back (toward the front wall) as he looked in the reflection in front of him and dodged the ball if it came close.

No time to work on abs. As soon as the starving wife/daughter/granddaughter returned to the gym, we had to leave for dinner…

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A Fairly Rigorous Exercise/Athletic Program

Yesterday was my birthday–I ate homemade berry pie (instead of birthday cake and ice cream), lunched with friends and family and talked on the phone to well wishers. No exercise. But today I was real physical. I played 90 minutes of doubles tennis, rested 30 minutes, practiced squash for an hour, rested 30 minutes, then spent two hours practicing tennis with a partner and playing 12 games. This is certainly going to help me stay fit…and I played the best doubles net games of my life–very confident. Also pleased that I was not tired after such a long vacation from regular sports activity. I even spent about three minutes on my abs around 11:30 pm. As you gather, I can be compulsive at times–I want to get back in shape…although I don’t see that tennis or squash develop any stomach muscles. They appear to be merely cardio with fun and friends.

My brother trains for mini-triathlons, and he says I don’t eat enough protein to build muscle. So I ate a whitefish sandwich for lunch and mussels and shrimp for dinner–I almost never eat red meat, pork and veal.

Eating enough food is a new challenge as I am a modest eater and don’t seem to crave meals as often as most other people…when I do eat, the quantities are pretty minimal. As one girl friend’s frustrated mom said about 25 years ago, “He eats like a bird.” I am also increasing my intake of water. I have never followed that eight glasses of water a day routine, but I am aiming for that much daily agua now…

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My Gym and Athletic History

Back to the gym–it’s 40 minutes away, so the round trip visit for a one-hour workout is a 2 ½ to 3-hour commitment. I was told that going once a week just keeps me somewhat toned. Going twice a week starts to build muscle. I have made it to the gym eight times in one month only twice since I joined. Four to six times a month is my normal pattern. I wear tank tops and admire the cuts when I puff out. I have been told that I am “ripped.” But you can see that I find it hard to get there. And I almost never lift weights or do anything at home. Maybe that will change now that I am blogging…I hope so.

My life has not been the usual active, sports-filled one my friends can look back upon. There were two physical years in my 20’s in the army that included jumping out of planes five times after three weeks of heavy conditioning. But then I worked long long hours in offices for most of three decades. So I never felt I had time to exercise. I occasionally did push-ups. I skied downhill now and then. There were three years in my early 40’s (maybe 1983 to 1985) when I played with martial arts almost once a week after work—first aikido and then capoeira from Brazil. The aikido philosophy made me successful in business—if you like, I’ll tell you about it later. The capoeira demanded cartwheels and squats—I was really fit then. However I stopped, fell apart and did nothing much that was physical. That’s the history.

Things changed a little after 1991, because I moved full-time to a rural farm, discovered I liked the outdoors and began walking in the woods. I also went cross-country skiing five to ten times each winter. Then I took up tennis two years ago—playing once a week, sometimes twice. It’s usually doubles, and the other guys are over 70—one is 93. They don’t run very much—many have had hip transplants or other surgeries—but they can really place the ball perfectly after 60 years of practice. I love that I have to run around, and also the challenge of hitting a sweet shot. And within the last two months, I started playing squash. So I am now becoming physical in my late 60’s the way most males are in their teens and 20’s. Oh well, later beats never…

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