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Badminton for adults: a fun alternative to the gym?

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Before I returned to court last year, I hadn’t played since I was fifteen so I discovered that badminton for adults feels quite different than when we’re teenagers. 

On the positive side, we now have more money so we can afford better gear and adult badminton is a terrific way to stay fit or even lose weight while having fun. I hear many players say they enjoy it more than the gym.

On the other hand, it requires us to be more aware of injuries and is a humbling experience in the sense that it’s easy to run into a setback if we aren’t strict on warming up and stretching. I constantly see other players at the local club run into different issues, and I’ve already had a few myself.

The best and worst part of the game is that it’s a social sport, meaning you need other players to be able to play. The social aspect gives an extra push when you’re tired but it can be frustrating if you’d like to practice but struggle to find players during odd hours after work.

This article is about badminton training for adults and specifically for those of us who played when we were younger and want to play again for fitness and for fun. 

I’ll discuss which areas are best for traditional in-person coaching compared to virtually or even self-learning but first, there are a few things you should know about returning to the court as an adult. Things I wish someone had told me.

Challenges of returning to the court playing badminton for adults

The biggest problem when returning to the sport is how easy it is to get injuries due to the fun intensity and how easy it is to overextend your body when it isn’t used to it. Particularly, around the elbow, knees, and ankles. This gets better over time but you are especially susceptible at first.

I wish someone had told me not to get a badminton racket that’s too heavy (in the 3U weight class) as it can easily put extra strain on your elbow (a popular choice is the Yonex Arcsaber 11 Play). You might not realize it immediately but can easily develop over time.

Speaking of rackets, I discovered how flawed the process of buying a new racket is as it’s almost impossible to play-test or properly try a racket before buying it. Imagine if you were buying a guitar or a car without trying it first.

Sure, we can go to an offline store and swing the racket around but that doesn’t tell us much unless we are highly experienced at comparing rackets. We can check out racket reviews online but that doesn’t matter if we don’t have a reference point from existing rackets or they compare it to rackets we haven’t played with. 

You’ll make your life easier by first getting a racket from a brand with lots of reviews online or that many people own, so you’ll have a reference point for your future rackets. The top brands tend to have a decent selection of affordable rackets that you can use until you settle into your rhythm and playing style.

On the other hand, getting the best shoes you can afford is priceless as you’ll have a higher chance of avoiding issues with your feet, ankle, and knees. I have been through several different pairs and there was one model in particular that gave me blisters and knee pain after just two sessions of playing with them.

When I upgraded, it went away again after just a few sessions on court. Shoes are the most important gear you can buy, even more important than your racket when it comes to longevity.

Finally, you already know this: take warming up and cooling down seriously, even if you’re the only one who does it (which you likely will be). If you feel embarrassed, do it at home to build the habit. It’ll be annoying at first but it gets easier over time and you’ll feel less sore after playing.

What’s worth working on in adult badminton?

Badminton classes for adults aren’t any different than those for anyone else. The easiest place to start is to find a coach near you and let them create a program for you and help you execute. 

That can be expensive, so a good alternative is joining a local club or informal social sessions if anyone arranges them to see how much you enjoy playing at first. To find those, I know of apps like RacketPal, Reclub, and meetup.com besides local Facebook groups. 

When you know that you’d like to continue playing badminton and even train to get better, it’s time to make yourself a plan. I’ve found that starting with just focusing on one aspect that you’d like to improve works best because you’ll reach it faster and feel motivated by what you achieved.

For example, if you struggle to reach the shuttle in the far corners, you’ll probably see improvements by working on your lunges or split steps.

If you always get in trouble on the serve or the following shots, you might want to practice the serve or return of serve.

Or if you lose games because you get too tired, you might need to work on your stamina.

It can be tricky figuring out where you’re struggling in the first place. The easiest way to figure that out is to record yourself playing or ask more skilled players for advice.

The best badminton training for adults: Private coach, solo drills, or home training?

Most of us are in a situation where we aren’t paid to play badminton and we aren’t kids in school with lots of time, so it’s tricky to fit training in among our other obligations.

A powerful way to approach badminton training for adults is breaking it up in terms of what is the most convenient for you to practice to make it easier to follow through. 

Some areas like the badminton shots are hard to learn through online coaching and without a partner, coach or feeding machine.

The alternative is wall drills, playing against a wall which can be a good place to start and you might advance to using two shuttles at once when that gets boring or too easy. It’s an effective way to ruin a perfectly good-looking wall and to get used to the feel of how the shuttle flies again (so look for the HECS balls in this article on badminton gear if you’d like to avoid repainting your wall).

Even though shots are what most of us look at, there’s a lot more going on under the hood and other areas like footwork and stamina are more convenient to train on your own. The split step to get faster on court is an example of something that’s great to self-learn, although perfecting the timing requires a sparring partner.

It’ll be tempting to spend extra time working on stamina as it’s often convenient to jump on the training bicycle or do a morning run, but it’s not that helpful to win more points unless you find yourself losing games because you’re too tired.

Learning to read the game is great to do virtually. So is practicing mindset as there are other real-world situations you can use to simulate situations on court.

Think about staying calm when you’re frustrated, waiting in line at the supermarket because the nice old lady is taking forever to pay and you’re late for something. Or when you wait in line at a cafe while the person in front of you didn’t bother deciding what they wanted to order until they were asked by the cashier and now have to hear about every single option on the menu.

Self-learning has been all the rage the last few years but it comes with its own set of challenges.

The trap of self-learning badminton

Virtual learning or self-learning are in general awesome tools that we now have available if we approach them the right way.

Most people who try, fail because they have to hold themselves accountable rather than just get their ass away from everything else and down to court.

Self-learning can be done anywhere, which is intriguing for obvious reasons, but the challenge is that it can be hard to prioritize with family present and work tasks that often feel more urgent. It’s harder to prioritize going somewhere to get space to practice if you can just do it on the couch where Netflix is also competing for your attention. It might feel like you’re learning, but are you really giving it your full, undivided attention?

Prioritizing things that are important to you is a skill that can be learned and made easy over time. The real challenge, resisting negotiating ourselves out of the hard practice instead of watching Netflix, comes when we are about to do the practice. Planning everything in advance is the easy stuff.

We tend to forget that sport and fitness are one of the few challenges that we can’t just pay to solve. We also have to do the work and the harder we work, the more we get out of it.

If you can figure that out or are willing to learn it, then virtual learning is a powerful tool in badminton training for adults. The best way to go about that is to build habits that help you carry out your training and set goals around how well you’re building the habits rather than the external achievement.

I can’t understate how important this is. If you’d like to train more but struggle to get out the door, one example of setting a goal around building the habit could be to do footwork exercises for five minutes every day.

Five minutes might sound ridiculous but before you know it, you’ll be used to it and you can increase it to fifteen minutes without problems and feel confident you’ll get it done. Once you feel confident with that step, you can pack on more but setting an easy goal that you can repeat daily is the best way I’ve found to get started. The whole game is getting to the point where you stop negotiating with yourself whether you can skip it that day and just do it.

It might feel more exciting to play or do training sessions every day but if you’ll have to book a court and drive all the way there, there’s a higher chance you might bail when you’re having a busy day than if it’s something you can do at home.

Takeaways

  • Badminton for adults is similar for every other age group, except you’ll have to be mindful of injuries by picking a racket that isn’t too heavy and getting good shoes
  • Self-learning is a powerful way to train adult badminton but it’s easy to get distracted if you don’t build good habits. One of the best things about traditional training is that you physically go somewhere to practice, away from people who aren’t training and other distractions
  • Opting for goals based on how convenient they are for you to work on is a terrific place to start as you’ll get better and it’ll be easier to tackle more difficult goals later on. Using habits is among the most powerful ways to reach your goals
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