First in a mini-series about overlooked and underappreciated ways to exercise:
Badminton is an awesome game.
One summer when we were kids, my brother and I for some reason got captivated by Wimbledon. I can’t remember who was playing or who won (mid-‘70s), but it inspired in us a desire to play tennis. The problem was that we didn’t have tennis rackets or a tennis court within walking or biking distance.
What we did have, though, was a badminton set.
It was a bad badminton set. The net was all twisted and tangled, with those spider-webby dust bunnies that breed in garages weaved throughout. The rackets were all bent and limp — and the tape wrapping on the handles had decayed into sticky goo that rubbed off on your fingers.
But we set it up in the backyard and spent hours bashing birdies back and forth. Of course, we were insanely competitive with one another, so we started playing games, keeping score, keeping track of how many games we each had won. We were pretty evenly matched.
Then we went totally nuts and created a tournament called Wimp-ledon (knowing nothing of the sport’s history but figuring badminton was a wimpy second cousin to tennis). We enlisted friends and neighbors, drew up brackets and spent a whole Saturday playing in what turned into a party atmosphere. I won the first tournament. My brother won the next one. And it became regular part of our summers. Now, when our families get together, we still play tournaments.
Most people think of badminton as a game you play half-heartedly at picnics. Go out and plink the birdie around, beer in hand, missing more than hitting, having a few laughs. That’s fine. But it can also be good exercise if you ratchet up the intensity and take it a little more seriously.
It is, after all, an Olympic sport! (Though last year it kind of embarrassed itself with the women’s teams trying to lose to get better bracket draws).
My younger son and I love to play on summer evenings. If there’s not too much wind (the mortal enemy of badminton) we string a net across the driveway and volley or play games – sweating up a storm.
You should try it! It’s way more fun than plodding along on a treadmill.
We would love to join a badminton league near York, but haven’t been able to find one. If you know of a league – or even just a group of people who get together informally and would welcome newcomers – let me know. Also, if you’re interested in forming a league, contact me. I’d like to help.
If you do decide to give badminton for exercise a try, here are a few suggestions:
-Don’t buy a cheapo department-store set. It will just disappoint and frustrate you. Actually the net in such sets would probably be fine. It’s the rackets that are the problem. They’re usually crap. The webbing is so cheap and loose that the shuttlecock will get stuck in the strings when you give it a good whack. Invest in a couple of more upmarket rackets with nice, tight webbing.
– “Real” badminton players use actual feather shuttlecocks. They’re fun – but a lot different than the plastic birdies you’re probably used to. They’re very light and don’t do well in the wind. These are worth getting, but make sure to have some of the heavier plastic birdies on hand for breezy days.
-Learn the rules – and make sure your competitors know them, too. Not knowing the rules and scoring – inventing them as you go along as my brother and I did as kids – can be frustrating and lead to arguments.
-This is usually considered a yard game (if you have dogs be sure to clean up!), but we like to play on hard surfaces because you can compete much more intensely. If you’re ambitious, you could set up a real court with proper dimensions.
That’s it for now. Keep your eye on the birdie!
Below is a video of me playing in the driveway with Ben.
Next in the series: Disc golf.