Billie Jean King Still Playing Tennis… On Two New Knees!

Billie Jean King Is Rad


We’d be impressed that she was still playing tennis at 67 years old (not to say that people can’t still do much at that age, just fewer), let alone after a DOUBLE knee replacement surgery!

Now she’s a completely different kind of role model than she was back in the 70’s — she’s become an inspiration for all ages to keep exercising and to stay fit!

King, who inspired a generation of women and men to pick up a racket in the 1970s, didn’t play tennis for nearly two years before getting new knees. She needed about a year of rehabilitation, working out for 2 1/2 hours, five days a week to regain the strength and range of motion to get back on the court.

When the pain was intense, she imagined “a bright, sunny day in my head. And I pictured hitting the first tennis ball again.”

So what’d she do? She had the surgeries. And then four months after, straight up hit a few shots on the court with her friend. FOUR MONTHS. Two new knees.

Her advice to the older generation as far as exercising goes — Lower intensity, increase frequency:

“My age group should do a half-hour, five days a week. What that means is I’m walking, doing the bike, lifting weights or playing tennis. I love it when Ilana and I go to Central Park and play tennis. It’s fantastic. I go to Equinox to do lower and upper body stuff. Do a lot for my back – I need to be doing a lot for my core. I do the leg presses, the leg curls, abductor and adductor. I have a bike at home, so worse comes to worst, that’s my backup. I’ll turn on the TV and pedal.

The most important thing is frequency. You don’t have to do as much as you think. Like walking 30 minutes, five times a week is good. I would never increase more than 10 percent at a time. People will do 20 minutes on the bike and the next day they’ll do 40. Nah-uh. If you’re out of shape, don’t do that. Figure out ways to keep your motivation. On days I’m not motivated, I will say, `OK, just get on the bike or walk for 5 minutes, and if you want to stop, fine.’ I give myself permission. I’ve only once in my whole lifetime stopped, when I realized I was sick. Every other time I end up doing at least 25-30 minutes. So then it’s done for the day, it’s great. I would go without exercising if I wasn’t careful.”

I try to cut down on carbs. I’m older, my metabolic rate probably is not as fast. I figure I’m burning three calories a minute on the bike. I’m not as intense as I used to be, so that makes a difference. It suppresses your appetite to go slowly on the bike or walk and go longer.”

Such great advice, Billie Jean!

And it’s wonderful to hear that you’re still able to do the things you love regardless of the surgeries you’ve had! Like you said: maybe you can’t do quite as much or as intensely, but you still do it!

That’s inspiration, guys!

[Image via WENN.]

Jun 29, 2011 10:30am PDT

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