A few years after I had my twins, I decided to lose the weight I had gained and get in better shape, so I joined the YMCA. I started working out on the elliptical machines and treadmills and worked up a good weight training routine. But after several months, my workouts got boring. That’s when I decided to change things up by hitting the basketball court.
Honestly, I was horrible at basketball. I had a worse free throw percentage than Ben Wallace, and I didn’t have the pressure of an arena full of opposing fans. But once I overcame the embarrassment of being a novice at the line, I knew I was really onto something. Sometimes the worse you are at a new sport, the better your workout turns out to be.
Here are five ways shooting free throws turned out to be a great workout for me:
Chasing runaway basketballs
I had no idea how much running would be involved in shooting free throws. When you miss the basket, your ball takes off with a mind of its own. If you don’t want the jocks on the next court to shake their heads as they kick the ball back in your direction, you have to move pretty fast. All my running turned out to be great cardio, as my heart rate stayed elevated and I definitely broke a sweat.
Picking up the ball
When you catch up with the errant ball, you have to pick it up. There are about three ways I found to get the ball off the ground. You can bend over and get it, you can squat and get it, or you can do sort of a lunge. If you repeat all of these motions over and over a couple dozen times apiece, you will have done a pretty good lower body workout.
Toning my arms
Basketballs only feel light the first 50 times you raise them into the air, aim and shoot. Imagine doing about 100 arm raises, coupled with chin level bicep curls. That’s what shooting free throws for about half an hour is like. My arms became more toned by shooting baskets than by any Nautilus machine or free weights I had tried.
Learning to breathe
One of the biggest mistakes people make in the gym is not breathing properly. In order to sink baskets, you have to slow down, focus and breathe. Of course, when your basketball ricochets off the rim, you are off and running again.
Concentrating on your core
Similarly, you have to concentrate on your core if you are going to increase your free throw percentage. Utilizing your abdominal and back muscles to give yourself stability before you release the ball is key to making consistent shots.
By the time I had been shooting free throws for a couple of months, I was definitely feeling positive changes in my body and enjoying my workouts more than ever. My free throw percentage improved, too. You don’t have to join a gym to try this sport. Summer is a great time to hit a playground court, and all you need are sneakers and a ball to get started.
Give it a try sometime soon.
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(Tavia worked as a naturalist and recreation specialist at an Oklahoma lake during her college years. She enjoys using what she learned as an outdoor educator in her work with children today.)