Part 1: Getting Healthy is Half the Fun. The Other Half is Surprising Yourself and
Getting Better All the Time.
“A few months back”, I said to a friend, “We’ve taken up ping pong for exercise.” He laughed, “Well, I guess swinging your arms around and hitting that little orange ball back and forth counts for something.” I smirked a bit and tried again. “You don’t get it,” I insisted. “We’ve really come upon a way to exercise and have fun. Gamericise instead of exercise.”
Read any article about staying healthy as you get older and they all say the same thing. Move, think and enjoy. But move sounds like effort. Think sounds like work. And enjoy sounds like a dream when your muscles ache. So, trade exercise for gamercise. A half-hour of ping pong raises your heart beat, improves reflexes, strengthens your quads and boosts confidence. Cardio circulation, fast reactions and footwork balancing are all natural to playing ping pong.
Ping pong encourages mind-body coordination regardless of your level of play and it’s crazy fun. You move your arms. You move your feet. You move your head and turn your neck. You leap unexpectedly. You start flipping a paddle around in your hand. You take chances, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. You laugh a lot, make funny noises and applaud your partner when they make a great shot. And you bend over dozens of times to pick up balls.
If that’s not enough, there’s more. What’s good for your heart is good for your brain. Neurons snap and memory brings back images of yourself from years gone by. A first step to keeping your mind sharp is a challenge that’s fun to take on and keeps your brain striving to get just a little bit better.
Getting better at a sport, rather than getting worse, is a welcome surprise as you age. You may start out just being glad to get the ball back and feel a little pissed that you have to pick up so many missed balls. Then you notice you’re not missing the table as often. You even make a couple shots on the spot intended. Field a few zen returns without much thought. A rally gets longer and points get won on demand. You slam a few perfect shots, send a couple spinners over the net and sneak a winner when your partner least expects it.
Pretty soon you’re ready for the family youngin’s who’re going to show up with their out-of-practice hubris and you’ll really start having fun.
So, I’m just sayin’, “Try it.” Get the table out from under its cover in the back yard or in the garage, hit a few balls with friends and you too will start saying — ‘live long with ping pong’. It’s a sure fire fun way to aim a ball at longevity, creativity, levity and elasticity.
Part II: Ping Pong Soundtrack from Ping Pong with Jane and Jerry
(Punctuate with the catchy Beatles refrain “Getting better all the time” or read with a 1-2-3 staccato rhythm or just try them out in your next game.)
Ooops, Whoops, Whoosh;
Devil Shot, Smasher-oo, Thumber;
Knuckler, Edger, Fooey (a favorite);
Sorry, Ratz, Whatzat?;
Old Hole in the Paddle, Shoot, Haha-haha-haha;
Hate That Netter, Hate That Dribbler;
Good Shot Jane, Good Shot Jerry;
Ooooooooo, Wow, Awesome;
The Shovel Shot; Ugh Ugh Ugh, Sorry-Sorry-Sorry;
The Ball’s a Little Rascal, Last Rally!”
In full disclosure, Jerry and I have invented a gamercise style of ping pong where our object is not to win games but to keep a rally going, surprise ourselves with excellent shots and punctuate the air with a colorful naming of shots. We admit to trying to avoid too much bending over, squatting and retrieving balls from the bushes, backyard and pool by hitting balls that would, given that we were playing a legitimate game, be counted out — off the table. When we play, we keep up a running commentary on our good and not so good shots.
Here’s a glossary of terms to decipher our soundtrack:
OOoooppps…that’s the shot I was sure I had and instead – ooops – the ball popped up and went flying into the bushes, the backyard or the pool.
Whoops…a power shot oops.
Whoosh…that’s the shot Jerry was sure he had and the ball misses the table by an inch.
The Devil Shot…that’s the lucky shot we wish we’d made on purpose that barely hits the white line on the edge of the table and veers off, impossible to return
The Smasher…that’s the irresistible shot that is fun to hit but hardly ever hits the table
The Thumber…thumb instead of paddle returns the ball, usually into the bushes
The Knuckler…hurts fingers and distracts more than sending ball off kilter
The Edger…the ball catches the edge of the table, angles off for an impossible ball return, totally lucky
Fooey…that’s the shot I meant to hit to a particular edge of the table and it misses by a simple inch
Sorry…that’s the shot I hit wild and Jerry has to bend down and pick it up
Ratz…that’s the shot I was sure was going to hit the table as a winner but no no no…
Whatzat?…those are the shots we whiff with our paddle while the ball flies by
Old-Hole-In-The-Paddle…those are the shots that we never see whiff by as we swing and are left looking for the hole in the paddle
Shoot…that’s the one that barely misses the table, blame it on the wind
Hahahahaha…I hit corner to corner back and forth, Jerry hits them all back.
Hate That Netter – nicks the net and floops over for a winner from spin.
Hate That Dribbler…hits the net and climbs over, impossible to reach and hit back.
Good Shot Jane!…that’s the one I slide low over the net after a long rally into the front corner and Jerry has no chance.
Good Shot Jerry!… that a slam that hits the table and I, of course, just watch it fly by
Oooooooooooo…that’s the one that so totally should’ve missed and catches the line on the edge the table. Raises awe of ping pong prowess. (Andre Agassi says the lines were made for him to hit J)
Wow, awesome…that’s the shot that should never have been returned and was.
The Shovel Shot…dig it up from below the table’s edge and make it land perfectly on the other side.
Ugh, ugh, ugh…that’s the ball I’m picking up for the third time in a row.
Sorry, So Sorry…that’s the ball I’m making Jerry pick up for the third time in a row.
Little Rascal…that’s the ball with a mind of its own, eluding us and on the loose like a pin ball bouncing off everything and making us stoop over numerous times
Last Rally – We end the game with a rally that meets our standards for a challenging exchange and winner wins ‘fair and square’…game over.
Let this list be yet another inspiration to get out the ping pong table, do some good for your heart and your brain. To our amazement, ping pong is an invigorating forty-five minute workout that whizzes by before breakfast! We’re not sure how our neighbors feel about the commentary that accompanies the clip-clop but, so far, no complaints and we’re having a very good time.