A few years ago, the health effects of 15 years of self employment started to take it’s toll on me.  I’d recently experienced a health crisis, including several ER visits (for a new symptom I’ve never had: tension headaches) a hospitalization, testing and even- heaven forbid- a heart catheterization.  Not fun for a woman in her early 50’s.

The good news is that my cardiologist reported “you have the heart of a teenager” but that’s not the whole story either.  I still have some health issues I must attend to, before they become bigger and harder to address.  So I’ve taken these events as wake up calls to shift and take better care of my physical self, which too often has taken a back seat to ‘higher’ concerns.  This is one of the things they never tell you when they say ‘put your nose to the grindstone’ or ‘build a business you love’.  I needed to sit up (well, maybe stand up) and take notice!

And a big part of this shift is finding fitness activities I will engage in regularly.  And, luckily for me, I’ve found an activity I absolutely love.  That activity is pickleball.  What the heck is that, you say?  I remember years ago staying at a hotel in The Villages, Florida with my dad.  We were shopping for a home in the Central Florida area.  While coming and going, I used to hear this strange noise in the area.  A pinging noise.  One day I asked someone “what is that noise?”  He laughed and answered: “that’s pickleball”.

Well at the time I didn’t think to give pickleball a look.  I was too busy and still young, energetic and, well, busy, focused on building that business “I loved”.  It took almost another 10 years for the ‘sweet game with a sour name’ to find me!

This time the idea of pickleball took hold in my life and, I’m so glad it did.  I needed to find something in the exercise and sports space that fit me.  I’d played racquetball in college and loved it.  But racquetball wasn’t popular in my area and I didn’t even know where to go to play.  Yes, there was always softball.  But the last time I played – with seniors – I got pretty beat up, for such a low cardio activity!

Then there is golf, but that just wasn’t active, fun or social enough for my liking.  There was the gym…yeah right, I am just not too fond of going to gyms.  That sort of activity is well, to me, boring.  I just don’t stick to it.  I’ve discovered exercise videos galore on YouTube yes, but even that, in the comfort of my living room, is not that attractive to me.  I must force myself.

And tennis, nah, that never clicked for me either.  Table tennis – fun but, where’s the physical fitness?  Over the last several years, I was so busy working it was all I could do to find time in the evenings to take a brisk mile long walk up to my community pool (and back) for a dip.  Then, about three years ago, knowing I needed to get more active, out of desperation I joined the women’s pickleball league in my community after observing others playing and seeming to be enjoying themselves.  What a great decision!

After playing about 18 months in Florida I returned to Baltimore to be closer to family and better employment opportunities.  Thankfully I’ve found that pickleball has become popular here too.  For the past year I’ve been playing in this really great pickleball league, started by a young straight couple who lives near Patterson Park.

Why do I like pickleball so much? There are several reasons.  Most importantly, it’s great exercise.  I burn at least 250-300 calories an hour playing doubles. And here’s the ticket: it doesn’t feel like exercise!  And the time flies.

If you like competition, you will love pickleball!  The other night, for example, I played almost two hours with guys a half or more my age!  And because I am naturally athletic, I give all of the guys in my league, even the best ones, a run for their money!  Yes, I guess I am a sporty lesbian, at least to a degree.

This brings up another reason I love pickleball.  It’s hard to get hurt playing this sport.  I am long past the days when I want to run into others or be hit with a hard ball or whatever.  In fact, I was never one to enjoy playing against those uber-competitive women that seem to relish playing dangerously.  Now, there is still a risk of injury when playing pickleball, but I haven’t experienced it myself nor have I seen much of it in others playing this game.

A fourth reason I love this sport is that pickleball is easy to learn and it’s almost as easy improving, with practice.

Lastly, a fifth fantastic reason to play this game is the social aspect.  In our league, we have a wide range of ages and body types, all playing together.  We have guys and gals in their 60’s and 70’s playing right alongside young dudes in their 20’s.  And, plenty of women love pickleball.  In fact, I would say most of the women in my current league are LGBT! Yes!

By the time you read this, our winter league and final tournament will be over, but we’ll be looking forward to getting outside for our spring league, which begins in early May.

Want to learn more about pickleball?  Here’s three great resources to check out:

USAPA – United States of America Pickleball Association http://www.usapa.org

Pickleball Magazine – free sample online issue here http://www.joomag.com/magazine/pickleball-magazine-1-1/0710190001452711201?short

Play Pickleball – Baltimore pickleball league – http://www.playpickleball.org

The name Barb Elgin is synonymous with lesbian health, happiness and love. For over 15 years,Barb traveled all over the US, Mexico and all over the world virtually, meeting and connecting lesbians. Want to join Barb in planning healthy recreational and social activities for LGBT’s 50 and up in the Baltimore area? Be sure to learn more about Barb and what she’s up to, including how to connect with her here: barbelgin.com.