Ben Johns on Tournament Prep & Recovery

Ben Johns Pickleball Pro

As the #1 pickleball player in the world, pro Ben Johns obviously spends many consecutive hours and days training and competing in tournaments. Even for younger athletes, all of those hours on the court can take a toll on the body; staying in top shape for peak performance match after match requires taking care of your body before, during and after competition. Ben recently talked with us about how he prepares for tournaments and what recovery looks like for him.

What do you do to prepare yourself before competition?

 I prepare beginning the week of competition; what I eat and drink that entire week matters to me. I stay away from sugary or fried foods, as well as sugary drinks. My meal the night before competition is particularly important – it’s usually a protein fish or meat like chicken or salmon, with rice and a vegetable or similar. The morning of competition I typically have eggs, yogurt, and fruit. Throughout the day of competition I like to eat fruit, nuts, and protein bars.

For hydration, I drink Jigsaw Health’s Pickleball Cocktail the night before and morning of competition. Throughout the week I make sure to drink a lot of water. During the day of competition I drink Jigsaw Electrolyte Supreme.

Pickleball Jigsaw Cocktail: Keep your body filled with all the nutrients you need to avoid injury.

I stretch most evenings, but the week of competition stretching is especially important to me. I focus on loosening the hips, quads, and back in particular.

It’s also important to me to have all of my equipment prepared and ready to go – paddles weighted, over-gripped, etc. Clothes for the day, massage gun, and foam roller should be in my bag, with everything else I need for game day ready by the night before.

My warm-up routine consists of mostly ROM movements, like arm circles, Frankenstein walks, and generally dynamically moving to loosen up. Then I do a solid thirty minutes of hitting.

Do you have any “superstitions” or rituals?

I don’t have superstitions so much as preparations. I need to have everything ready to go before the day of competition – all of my equipment, food, drinks, etc. I’m quite particular about the socks I wear, both bottom and top (I’m a double sock guy), so that’s as close as I get to superstitious.

What injury prevention products do you use or wear?

I will wear compression leggings when I’m playing in cold weather. The arm sleeves I wear are not compression but for the sun.

What do you do after matches or training to recover?

After playing, for injury prevention and for performing the next day, I make sure to static stretch, foam roll, and use Therabody’s Theragun Pro and Wave Air Compression Boots.

Ben Johns with the Wave Air Compression Recovery Boots

The Therabody Compression Recovery Boots are an easy-to-use, effective way to improve circulation, soothe achy legs, and may also help reduce fluid retention. Their internal chambers inflate sequentially from the foot towards the heart, which helps maximize circulation. The quiet technology allows you to relax peacefully while enjoying the components of the convenient touchpad control, including a timer and four pre-programmed modes for specific pulses and settings.

Save $200 now at Pickleball Central

Theragun Pro Percussive Therapy Device helps you to release tension and enhance recovery

Theragun Pro Percussive Therapy Device: This professional-grade massager delivers up to 60 lbs. of force to your muscles, helping you to release tension and enhance recovery on your own schedule.

After playing I’ll continue to hydrate, take magnesium supplements, and try to eat a similar dinner with lots of protein and some good carbs.

Lastly I make sure to get to bed on time, as quality sleep is very important to me!

Get The Skinny On Slender Singles

If you’ve been playing pickleball for a while you’re probably already familiar with Skinny Singles. But have you heard of Slender Singles?

We’re not talking about a new dating site, cheese or type of currency! We’re sticking to pickleball 100% here with some creative ideas for different ways to play the game we all love, get a great workout and improve your pickleball skills.

Slender Singles

Skinny Singles?

In Skinny Singles, you only use half the court: either using diagonal courts and changing the diagonal side with each serve, or using half the court directly across from your opponent. There tends to be more dinking and doubles-like strategy in Skinny Singles, but with only one player on each side of the net. It’s a great way to help your doubles game and work on your skills since you really have to focus on ball placement.

What about “regular” singles? For many pickleball players, especially those coming from tennis, a singles match is a super fun way to enjoy competing against another player while getting an excellent workout, pounding out groundstrokes and making passing shots.

Singles is great for working on shot depth and control, aiming for the sidelines to keep your opponent moving. But for many people (especially those of us getting on in years who might have a few injuries or not be at our peak fitness levels), covering a full 20-foot wide court without a partner is a big ask. Sure, it’s much smaller than a tennis court, but it’s still a lot of ground to cover!

Try Out Slender Singles

Here’s where the new game of Slender Singles comes in! Using an 18-foot net (instead of the 22-foot regulation size pickleball net), players who would like to play full court singles but could use a break from all that extra running have a perfect solution.

By taking four feet off the court width and making it 16 feet instead of 20 feet wide (with the typical 1 foot of net extending beyond each court sideline), players can enjoy a regular singles match and last much longer since they have 20% less court to cover. Slender singles opens up the fun of singles to a much larger population of players who might otherwise feel that singles is just too darn hard.

Slender Singles Dimensions

The MultiNet System

It’s easy to see how the many benefits of playing singles stack up. You have to hit each ball and cover more area, so the cardio benefits result in a great workout. In addition, your consistency and accuracy will improve, which will in turn help your doubles game as well. The MultiNet 18’ Practice Net System is the perfect solution for Slender Singles.

Originally designed as a “Red Ball” tennis net for junior tennis, this net allows pickleball players with limited space to set up a slightly narrower court for singles or doubles drilling and match play. The net height can be adjusted from 30” all the way up to 68” tall, providing a versatile multi-sport solution that works for badminton, beach volleyball and other games, and an interesting training aid for working on pickleball lobs.

Slender Singles Match

If playing Slender Singles sizzles your senses, you might also want to consider an oversize or elongated paddle to help you reach those passing shots your opponent will surely be serving up. You’ll find over 20 of the most popular oversize paddles listed on our website here.

5 Ways to Protect Your Body and Recover Faster After Playing Pickleball

Pickleball is a fairly gentle sport, especially compared to higher impact games like tennis that necessitate covering a larger court. But injuries and accidents can happen during any activity, and no one wants to get waylaid by an injury right when their health is on the rise.

To ensure your body has adequate opportunity to heal and stay primed for your next game, here are some ideas to improve your recovery time:

Foam roller

Foam Rolling

Foam rollers are used for self myofascial release (SMR), which means they help eliminate trigger points or “knots” in the fascia (connective tissue). This allows for effective self massage that can relieve tension in a matter of minutes. With consistent use you can be on the way to working out tight areas that have been bothering you for years, and even if you don’t have chronic pain, it’s recommended that all active individuals use a foam roller to recover faster and keep muscles relaxed.

If you can tolerate tenderness and feel confident controlling the level of pressure, it’s best to purchase a harder roller with nubs to work the tissue on a deeper level. Rolling can feel very intense, but the impressive relief it provides is worth the temporary discomfort.



Rebounding is similar to jumping on a trampoline but is typically done on a smaller-sized apparatus. The exercise consists of either low bounces where your feet don’t leave the ground or full jumps. While it’s a simple motion, it can result in big benefits such as better lymphatic drainage, improved bone mass, better endurance and balance.

Rebounding was popularly studied in the 1980s when NASA was attempting to find a better way for astronauts to recover bone and muscle mass after being in space, so it’s been thoroughly vetted as an effective way to stay in top condition.

Resistance band

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands can be used for workouts on their own, but they’re also a useful tool for recovery since they don’t put as much pressure on the joints as heavy weights. In addition to improving stability and strength, they can also allow you to reach deeper stretches than wouldn’t be achievable solo.

Look up routines on Youtube to see how you can alter basic stretches with bands to better engage your muscles and sink deeper into each position.

Percussion massager

Percussion Massage

In the same category as foam rollers for SMR, percussion massagers take a slightly different approach to releasing adhesions by rapidly pulsing against them. This can be uncomfortable, but with proper use it shouldn’t be outright painful. When you come to an area that feels tight, you simply move the massager around the muscle to release tension.

Percussion massagers help your body ease away soreness from repeated movements (or inactivity) and reduce the risk of injury during play since you’ll feel more relaxed and flexible.


Take Supplements

Your body can do a lot on its own, but sometimes a little support can make the difference between having a peaceful evening and dealing with fatigue, cramps, muscle soreness and other stressful problems. Depending on your needs, a supplement can help alleviate these issues so you can continue playing without negative side effects.

A common problem for pickleball players and athletes in general is cramping, especially in the legs. We recommend taking a look at Jigsaw Health’s MagSoothe if you deal with this issue. Their magnesium uses a highly bioavailable form of magnesium and formulates their supplement in such a way that it’s more easily transported throughout the body.

Do you use any particular tools, tricks or wisdom to get better rest and prepare for your next game? Let us know in the comments.

Health & Wellness Studies on Pickleball Support Positive Effects

Anyone who has played pickleball knows its benefits firsthand, from the physical perks of engaging in cardio exercise to the mental buzz of socializing with a positive community.

Sometimes it’s nice to see these effects confirmed via more formal methods, however, especially if you’re trying to convince someone to give the game a shot or sway a council to support local courts. When you need more than anecdotal evidence to support your enthusiasm, the following studies prove that pickleball really is all that!

The Acute and Chronic Physiological Responses to Pickleball in Middle-Aged and Older Adults
International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology (2018)

A study followed fifteen women and men who played pickleball 3 times a week for 1 hour. After the course of 6 weeks, the participants had better blood pressure and fitness levels. The researchers state that pickleball is a “feasible alternative to traditional exercise… that improves cardiorespiratory fitness… and positively modifies key cardiovascular disease risk factors.”

Serious leisure and depression in older adults: a study of pickleball players
Leisure Studies (2018)

Over 150 pickleball tournament participants were assessed, and it was found that “serious leisure” and depression were inversely related, meaning individuals who are focused on competitive leisure activities (such as pickleball) have lower levels of depression as older adults. This is partly believed to be because of the social connections made through games. The Minto US Open Pickleball Championships helped these researchers collect their data.

Pickleball high five

(Credit: Darryl Kenyon)

The Effects of a Novel Sport-Based Intervention on Lower Body Muscle Function in Older Adults
All Graduate Plan B and other Reports (2019)

A Utah State University researcher examined the effects of 6 weeks of pickleball (playing twice a week) on participants’ lower body muscle power and performance. The players experienced a 18.7% increase in knee extensor power and 7.5% increase in vertical jump height in this relatively short period of time. Another benefit noted was that people have a greater likelihood to adhere to a schedule for physical activity when it uses a sport-based model instead of basic exercises.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Experiential Date Nights: A Qualitative Study
Marriage & Family Review (2016)

This fun study wasn’t solely focused on pickleball, but it was included as part of a set of activities that were used to determine how “experiential” dates impacted couples. The findings showed that the participants’ main reason for attending these sessions was mostly to have fun, but in addition to that the couples “experienced a positive impact on their relationships after the event, such as improved communication, increase in affection and gratitude, or spending more time together.” Couples that pickle together, stick together!

Psychological Connection to Pickleball: Assessing Motives and Participation in Older Adults
Journal of Aging and Physical Activity (2017)

This study wasn’t done to show pickleball’s benefits per se, but it was used to determine the common reasons players took up pickleball and which were most “connected” to the game. It was shown that fitness and socialization were the most popular motives people had for playing pickleball, although those who were most involved also highly rated competition and skill mastery, showing the sport offers plenty of depth and opportunities to challenge oneself.


We’re sure pickleball will continue being a focal point for studies as it gains positive press and more people are exposed to its strengths. Let us know if you’ve seen any other studies showing all the great rewards it can bring!

How Julie Nidiffer Found Happiness and Health Through Pickleball

Welcome to 2019, everyone! We hope this year will be a great one full of positive changes and pickleball.

To start off the year right, we’re sharing a wonderful story from The Tennessean about a woman who used pickleball to regain her health and battle depression.

Julie Nidiffer of Nashville has dropped over 90 pounds and greater peace of mind since she started playing pickleball 12 months ago. Having grown up a healthy child, Julie eventually started gaining weight when she had kids with her husband while juggling school full time. McDonalds was an easy solution for fast and affordable meals but not a good one for her well being.

Julie Nidiffer

Julie Nidiffer (Credit: The Tennessean)

Around 6 years ago Julie was over 200 pounds, and this combined with the fact her mother had died 10 years earlier due to her own weight complications sent her into a depression. The weight also caused pain by worsening a disc degeneration in Julie’s back.

Last year Julie received an email from the Gordon Jewish Community Center’s gym and became curious about pickleball, touted as a sport “good for beginners of all fitness levels.” She asked her husband to come along and gave the game a shot.

Despite feeling anxious at first, Julie found a group of players that welcomed her, congratulated her on good shots and welcomed her with open arms. This successful first experience inspired her to go back again and again, until 4 months in, she realized she’d lost 10 pounds and made significant improvements in her game.

Julie decided to take her results and run with them, joining Weight Watchers so that she had a an established weight loss program to follow. Her husband explains that, “She became a much lighter person, physically and spiritually. She was having fun, and she realized she could have fun.”

Jerry, Julie’s husband, has benefited from pickleball himself and lost an impressive 70 pounds.

Julie now plays pickleball three times a week and regularly takes long walks on the track. Her current goal is to lose 13 more pounds and then run a 5K race in April.

Julie says: “Today, I’m amazed at how much change I’ve gone through in a year. I am happy, and that doesn’t mean things don’t go wrong, but I’m able to handle it, I can deal with it. I can put negative things in perspective. I enjoy being around people.”

Julie’s progress is a huge inspiration to us and we hope it will help others follow their dreams in the New Year.

Do you have any plans for 2019? Share your goals with us in the comments!

The Pickleball Magazine Provides the Latest and Greatest in Pickleball Trends

Pickleball Magazine continues to offer excellent articles about pickleball trends, best places to play and tournament features. In the latest issue, Wayne Dollard, publisher of Pickleball Magazine, shares his personal experience in “Building Your Dream Court.” Wayne shares the main reasons he considered building a home court, which include having a place for parties and social gatherings.

He also shares the list of things to consider before building a court, like space and cost. Excellent photos are included showing the stages of building the court, as well as a check list with a price breakdown. This article is definitely one of the best for explaining everything that goes into building a home court. The USAPA has also published a book, “Pickleball Courts: A Construction & Maintenance Manual,” that is helpful on this topic.

The Oct/Nov 2017 issue also contains two USAPA announcements: A Major Region Restructure for 2018 and the new USAPA Sanctioned League Play. It also has a great Q & A page “The Rules Guru” that answers some complex questions about the interpretation of the IFP Official Tournament Rulebook.

We enjoy hearing feedback from Pickleball Magazine subscribers. Here are some of our most recent customer reviews:

“This is a terrific magazine, and I’ve been passing it around the club for others to read. There is a good variety of articles, and the photos and physical pages are high quality! Personally, I would love to see more intermediate skills advancement articles, as well as product reviews.”

“I’m picking up useful tips from this magazine that are improving my game.
I highly recommend a subscription.”

A fellow pickleballer gave me a copy and it’s so informative to me (as a beginner trying to ‘catch on to how the game is played).
Articles with information are so appreciated”

Every Pickleball Magazine issue contains training tips from some of the best trainers in the country. Who doesn’t want to learn how to “Run Down a Lob Safely” with Sarah Ansboury or “Hit Down the Middle” thanks to Coach Mo? Subscribe today, and if you are already a subscriber, make sure your subscription does not expire.  You cannot afford to miss an issue!



Meet The Pros: Manish Rao

Meet the Pros: Manish Rao – #change is inevitable #Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change

playing pickleball in Bangkok, Thailand.

#proliterebel #reverethegear #bangkokopen #bronze with My partner Sachin Mandrekar All well that ends well — playing pickleball in Bangkok, Thailand.

We are always on the lookout for good news stories about the game of pickleball.  Manish Rao is very happy about pickleball coming into his life.  He posted on Facebook recently:

This (Facebook) post is not about ego-boosting or self-marketing, it’s just a post to show gratitude to people who have made a big difference in my life. In 2011 I was reduced to minimal activity due to my back issue, sciatica. It kept me away from all sports and thus resulted in a huge weight increase, and signs of prosperity by means of hair loss. I was living in the world of fooling myself and kept saying I can’t change as it’s destiny. But its not destiny which has to change but the mind has to. Will power is important, but more important is to find the right people in the walk of life who can make this change happen through their positive thoughts.

In March, 2014 one lazy Sunday evening I met Sunil Valavalkar, who, along with his team, gave me a demonstration of an unknown game called pickleball. At that time I didn’t know that my life would change so drastically because of that Sunday. My great friend Ravi Shetty and I took the demonstration of this sport to our building and since then this sport has become my life. Its been 2-3 years that I have been playing this sport and this sport is responsible for me being happy and healthy, along with that it has given me friends all across the world. I am totally indebted to sir Sunil Valavalkar and pickleball. Not only the mental agility has increased but my physical ability is at an all time high. Sports can elevate self-confidence to a level which cannot be imagined. I am thankful to all these people in my life who were there for me at the right time and hence my life changed for the better. If not for all those people who have been a part of my wonderful journey, I would have been a Mr. Nobody sulking in life and just existing in life and not living life. I am not saying that I am the happiest person in life and no worries or stress at all. All I am saying is that my life is much better than what I had expected. Today I have a great family, a lovely sports career and a bunch of great friends. #bepositive #nevergiveup

There is always more to the story, so we asked him the following Meet The Pros questions. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major tournament wins?

Gold : Men’s Doubles  : Atlantic Regional ( Portland Maine) June 2016 : Partner Ravi Shetty ( New York ) 3.5 level
Gold : Men’s Doubles : 2016 : Nationals  winner : Venue : Jaipur : Partner Bhushan Potnis

 Silver : Doubles : 2015 : Nationals : @ Haryana , Panipat : partner Sachin Mandrekar
Gold :  Mumbai Open : 2017 : Jan : Partner Bhushan Potnis
Gold :  State Open : 2016 : Partner Bhushan Potnis
Gold :  Mumbai District : 2015 : Partner Sachin Mandrekar
Silver: Mumbai District : 2016 : Partner : Bhushan Potnis

Rebel PowerSpin

Rebel PowerSpin

What paddle do you play with and why?

Early on I used to play with the Paddletek Bantam EX-L. In 2016, I shifted to  thePro-Lite Rebel. I’m loving it for the balance and spin control. I totally feel like a Rebel with this paddle and can’t imagine playing pickleball with with anything but this piece of art. #proliteproud: #Rebel  I really am thankful to Pro-Lite for providing me with these amazing paddles.

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

In my childhood I used to play a modified sport kind of like pickleball in our building premises. We played the game with a tennis ball and handmade paddles on the badminton court. So when we participated in the demo of this sport in 2014, we were totally hooked on the game immediately. It’s been almost 3 years now since I started this game and I’m a total addict; on days I don’t play pickleball I get withdrawal symptoms. We’ve made a dedicated court on our building premises, so every day is pickleball day!

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I love playing outdoors!

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I am a doubles player and love the doubles game as its a game of strategy and planning unlike in single. I love the patience involved in the doubles game and the bonding with the partner makes it special, hence I always prefer the doubles game.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

Manish withbuddies

Pickleball buddies Sachin Mandrekar, Saumitra Korgaonkar, Bhushan Potnis, Sunil Joshi, Abhijit Madbhavi and Ashutosh Madbhavi.

My favorite place to play pickleball is my Home Court @ Mumbai, Mangal Kripa. This has been my residence since childhood and to have a dedicated court for this amazing sport makes it special. I love playing on this court as we are a group of highly passionate pickleball players under one roof.

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

The secret is nothing but just love of this sport and having a passion for the game. Once the passion is there it’s just a matter of time to master the game. The main thing about this game is to have patience. This game is like chess, its more mind work than power. The less the errors, the more wins.

What’s your day job?

I am the CEO of my own Business of Security Automation systems, Electromech Automation Pvt Ltd. I have been involved with this firm for the last 25 years.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I play approximately 7 to 9 hours in a week. We play in the evening every day after work on week days from 9:00 pm to 10:30 pm, and on weekends we try to play twice a day.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I don’t believe in luck much; however, the harder I work , the luckier I get! The only ritual before the tournament is to FOCUS and not get distracted!

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

Personally, the only goal I have for pickleball is to see this game grow in India exponentially. I want to play in the USOPEN in 2018 and every year after that! That’s a goal I want to fulfill. Personally this game has given me immense pleasure in life and changed my complete outlook for life! 

Anything else you’d like to share about your pickleball experience?

Oh, this is very tricky question; I can go on and on about my experience of pickleball. I will try to give a few.

I always was a sports man, but in 2010 an injury to my back got me into lazy mode resulting in putting on lots of weight. It has changed only by the addition of pickleball into my life. I got back to sports as this sport is non-invasive and easy on the body initially. The addiction of this sport gave me the will power to over come my back injury and made my goal to lose weight fast. Totally I have lost 14 kilograms in one year, all due to pickleball!

I am a short-tempered person, but I can safely say that due to this game and its very nature of requiring patience with the shots, especially dinks, it  has worked wonders with my temperament. I am much more relaxed and generally don’t lose my top over silly things! My confidence level is at the highest level nowadays and the interaction with the younger generation for coaching of pickleball gets me energized. I am also happy to be the First Indian Player to be officially in a sports gear contract for Pickleball in India, thanks to team PROLITE! This has been a real boost to me to make this game grow more and more. This game has been a game-changer for me and for my family. I am happy that my wife Ashwini and my daughter Tanya are a avid pickleballers too.

Thank you Manish for sharing your enthusiasm for this wonderful game of Pickleball.  See you at the USOPEN in 2018!


Tracy McKibben Rallies His Way to Health in 50-Lb Transformation

Can Pickleball Save Your Life?

You know those infomercials where you’re supposed to go “from flab to fab” in just 2 weeks using some mystical supplement from Peru and three payments of $99.99? I’ve gotta’ say, they’re a little dodgy.

But beyond that, why bother with magic pills when you can be like Tracy McKibben and lose an incredible 50 pounds in 18 months with the help of an app, long runs and pickleball?

Tracy McKibben Before and After

Is this the same person!? Tracy McKibben’s amazing before and after!

Tracy was recently featured on the American Heart Association‘s website for completely turning his lifestyle around. He went from 198 lbs to 145, has walked over 17 million steps and credits pickleball as part of his active lifestyle.

Already impressed, I knew we had to follow-up with Tracy when we heard the last bit, and he was kind enough to take the time to share more of his story with us.

From Bad News to Big Changes

Tracy was first shaken when a coworker suffered a stroke. Working in IT, Tracy had to sit at a desk for most of the day, which didn’t provide him with much opportunity to stay active. When he heard that his blood pressure was high at a health fair later in the week, he decided to visit his doctor who agreed there was a problem.

“Until my early 20s I had always been slim and fairly active. Shortly after I landed my first IT job, I started hearing jokes from my family about ‘getting a gut.’ That was in my mid-20s. From there I just kept eating, getting lazier and getting heavier. Roughly 20 years of bad habits led up to that fateful doctor’s visit that changed everything.”

Thankfully, Tracy didn’t throw up his hands and resign himself to a sad fate after getting the news. He created a game plan to get fit again.

Blood pressure cuff

Tracy didn’t give up when he found out his blood pressure was high (Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski)

“I am very methodical. The day I visited the doctor and received the warning about my blood pressure, I left there determined to fix the problem myself, without drugs. That was goal number 1, getting the blood pressure under control. I knew nothing about blood pressure at the time, what the numbers meant, what ‘normal’ was, or what my own ‘normal’ was.

“The first step was to start gathering data by closely tracking my blood pressure, every morning and every night. That showed me just how bad the problem was. I started reading everything I could find about high blood pressure, the causes, the treatments and the problems that can result. Ultimately, losing weight, cutting out bad foods, and becoming more active were the keys to solving the problem.

“I started tracking my food intake, literally every bit of food that I put in my mouth. I started weighing myself every morning at the same time of day, wearing the same pair of sweatpants. Lastly, I bought a Fitbit and started walking.”

Tracking the Results

Anyone can start doing research, buy equipment, psych themselves up for a change… and then fizzle out when the hard work actually starts. Tracy, however, showed incredible resolve and began managing every fitness-related aspect of his life, starting with his diet. He stayed strong by “turning [weight loss] into a game” and used an app called MyFitnessPal to track which foods he ate.

“That app gave me a target calorie count for losing 2 pounds per week. Every single day, I made sure I was under that target number. If I didn’t have enough calories left for ice cream, I didn’t eat ice cream. On the Fitbit side of things, my target every day was 10,000 steps. I made sure to hit that number, usually far exceeding it, every single day. I could earn extra calories in MyFitnessPal for Fitbit steps, so if I really wanted that ice cream, I’d go walk enough to earn the calories needed.


A Fitbit helped Tracy keep track of his long walks and results

“I’m also a competitive person. The Fitbit app allows you to challenge other Fitbit users to step count challenges. I love doing those. Because of my treadmill desk I rarely lose one of those challenges. I’ll sometimes spend hours using my laptop while walking. I’ve racked up 55,000 steps in a single day on that treadmill.”

Pickleball Power

Pickleball became another tried-and-true part of Tracy’s health routine. He first saw the game at a local 4th of July festival and thought it looked fun. From there, he found a group that played at a local park and decided to take a trip one evening to watch the players.

“A woman there who would eventually become my mixed doubles partner and one of my best friends dragged me in to play. Her husband coached us and helped us become a competitive team, and after three years of trying, we finally won a medal this summer. I’ve never stopped playing since that first night, I simply love the game.”

I asked Tracy about his favorite part of pickleball, and he said it was hard to identify only one thing!

Tracy playing pickleball

Tracy playing pickleball

“I like the social aspect of the game; pickleball players seem to be a friendly bunch by nature. I love the pace, whether it’s a slow short game or fast-paced slamfest. As for goals, probably the same as everyone else who plays the game—to get better!”

Nowadays Tracy plays pickleball 3-5 nights a week, plus mornings on weekends. He also runs 2-3 days a week, usually 10-12 miles each time, and weight trains every day for about 30 minutes.

“And lots of walking. Lots and lots of walking. I average about 17,000 steps per day.”

Hard Work’s Reward

Clearly, although pickleball plays its role in Tracy’s schedule, he’s put in a ton of effort to develop a permanently healthy lifestyle. Tracy’s story is so inspiring and shows that if you put your mind to it, you can make the changes you want to see in your life.

“There’s no comparison between how I feel now and how I felt before. I have so much more energy now. I can’t stand to sit still for very long. If I’m inside and it’s nice out, I’m looking out the window trying to decide between going to play pickleball or going for a run. It took about 18 months to hit my goal weight of 145 pounds. I’ve gone as low as 140, but due to the weight training gained some of it back. I decided 145 is where I want to be, and I’ve stayed there.”

Lastly, I asked Tracy if he has any advice for people who want to get healthy like he has:

Tracy on the pickleball court

“Pay attention to what you’re eating. Don’t stop eating, just change what you’re eating. Find healthy alternatives to your favorite foods. GET MOVING. Get up and walk. Run. Play pickleball. Do something, just keep moving. Find a way to keep yourself accountable. Find a partner to help you. Post everything on Facebook for the world to see, that’s a pretty good motivator right there. Remember that you’re doing this for yourself and nobody else.”

Wise words from someone who’s gone the distance. Thank you Tracy for sharing with us, and congratulations on your incredible work and hard-won health!

What To Eat For Pickleball (And When!)

It’s hard to enjoy a great game of pickleball while your stomach is grumbling. On the flip side, feeling too full makes you lethargic and the last thing you’ll want to do is chase after a ball! Nutrition is key when it comes to athletic performance.

Think of your body as a car. Cars require gas to get you from point A to point B efficiently and without any problems. Without gas, your vehicle would sputter out!

Your body is the same way. If you don’t feed your body adequately before exercising, you’ll either run out of stamina or struggle to muster up energy, period.

Follow these guidelines to have a stellar pickleball game from the first call of “zero, zero, two” all the way through the final rally.
BeforeIdeally, eat a high-carbohydrate snack 30 minutes to 1 hour before picking up your paddle. In a nutshell, carbs are your energy-boosting best friends.

They provide you with a steady stream of energy to get you through all your pickleball playing. By giving yourself some time between eating and playing, your body can work on digesting your snack. This way, it doesn’t have to split its energy between providing your muscles with energy to play and digesting your food!

Some awesome options would be a rice cake topped with a smidge of peanut butter and banana slices, a bowl of cereal, a fruit smoothie, a small bowl of oatmeal, or a small low-fat muffin.

Delicious low-fat muffinsIf you’re in a time crunch and only have time to eat right before you play, eat something quick digesting. Your body needs energy pronto and doesn’t have the time to break down more complex carbohydrates. Eat something light made up of simple carbs to fire up your energy levels and get your through your game.

Think: a handful of dried fruit, a sports drink or a piece of white bread.
DuringThe most important, non-negotiable dietary requirement during exercise is water. Your body can actually sweat out over a quart of water during an hour or so of pickleball playing. Just about 2/3 of the muscle tissues in your body are actually water, so it’s vital that you drink up to keep your energy levels humming.

Here’s an awesome calculator from Camelback which determines how much water you need per day.

If your pickleball playing spans beyond an hour in duration, you may benefit from giving your body additional fuel from food. Don’t eat anything heavy that will sit in your stomach; again, keep it light and easy to digest. A banana is a great food that will give you an extra boost of energy as well as replenish your electrolyte levels.

Gauge your playing though and determine if your body really needs more food. Most people don’t need to refeed during an average game of pickleball unless you’re playing several intense games in a row, or if you’re playing for several hours. However, you know your body best so listen to it and do what works for you.
AfterAll that pickleball paddle swingin’ really can take a toll on your arm and shoulder muscles, while your legs worked hard to chase down those lobs. It’s important to nourish your muscles to prevent soreness or injury!

You need to replenish the carbs that you burned off during exercise so your energy levels don’t plummet. Try a piece of fruit paired with a handful of nuts, or a serving of Greek yogurt topped with low-fat granola and fruit.

Granola mix with yogurtWhile you may be tired after playing, don’t reach for quick fixes that are made of simple carbs. These were great for a fast boost of energy before your games, but they’ll just spike your blood sugar and cause a crash later on. Bring a small 8 oz bottle of chocolate milk with you to drink after playing in case you may be tempted to reach for a candy bar instead. Low-fat chocolate milk is an awesome combination of carbs, protein and chocolate flavor!

Of course, always drink water after exercising.
AvoidYou don’t want an upset stomach to be distracting you from play. Avoid eating these foods to prevent any discomfort:

  • Spicy foods
  • High-fiber foods
  • High-fat foods
  • Alcohol
  • Too much food, period

The rule of thumb is to not eat anything new before an important event to avoid any unpleasant responses from your body. Don’t try out a new granola bar right before your tournament or you may be focused on an upset stomach rather than your important game.

Following these nutrition tips is a good way to feel great, look awesome and rock your pickleball game!

Baby Boomers Return to College for Pickleball! The Western Institute for Lifelong Learning

When you think of a “typical college kid”, what do you picture? An 18-year old walking around with an oversized backpack and a pile of books? Perhaps a young adult with a look of pure excitement on her face, walking across the stage on her graduation day?

Would you picture a 68-year old married woman, with two kids and 7 grandchildren, with a degree she received over 40 years ago?

This is just an example of a typical student you’d meet at the Western Institute for Lifelong Learning, or WILL. According to their website, “WILL offers a lifetime adventure for continued intellectual discovery in a supportive, expansive, and informal learning environment – for eager learners of any age”. The idea for this sort of program stemmed directly from the local townspeople, who had seen similar ideas in other communities.

Western Institute for Lifelong Learning



Offering 70 courses this fall, ranging from a one day hike to a semester long program, WILL is a unique opportunity for students who may not fall into the “traditional” age group. For only $75 per semester, students can take as many classes or activities as they want. Held at Western New Mexico University, inside the city limits of Silver City, the program is a convenient way to have both an active mind and an active body.

June Decker, the facilitator of the pickleball course, is thrilled that pickleball has caught on in her community. In 1979, Decker was teaching at a university in Vegas, where a coworker introduced her to pickleball. For years, they joked that they were the only two in New Mexico who knew how to play! After moving to Silver City from Vegas, Decker was determined to start pickleball as a part of the New Mexico Senior Olympics. Once they started playing at the state level, the cities wanted to join in on the fun as well. Decker had the skillset and the drive – all she needed was a facility. That’s when the WILL program came along. The Western New Mexico University already had good pickleball paddles and indoor pickleball balls, giving her a great opportunity to share pickleball.

WILL pickleball players

Once pickleball was introduced, the community caught the pickleball craze! Decker jokes that she “never would have believed I would create a community of addicts”.

Pickleball is one of the most popular classes at WILL. When pickleball was first offered as a course in the fall of 2013, registration for the 18-person class was full within minutes of opening. There were so many people on the waiting list that the decision was made to create a second class section. This year, in addition to the beginner’s class, there is also an ‘Intermediate’ class offered for those who took the class the previous year. Each class lasts for about an hour, and there are thirteen sessions per semester (once per week).

Thanks to the large number of pickleball fans, Western New Mexico State now offers community play two days per week. There’s always enough space, thanks to the 6 outdoor courts and the 4 indoor courts in the university gym. Decker said, “I am very glad we have a pickleball community here so I have people to play with, and I’m glad that people enjoy this great sport.”

WILL pickleballers

Decker keeps her advice for new players simple: “See the ball, hit the ball. If you think too much, you tend to over-teach, and then the [new student’s] heads are spinning!”

As the conversation ended, Decker started laughing while she joked, “We’re keeping senior citizens off the streets!”

Thanks for sharing your story with us, June!

Photos courtesy of

by Miranda