Thursday, October 05, 2023

Table Tennis - My new competitive sport

How I started Playing Ping Pong Seriously
 Like so many of you, I played ping pong as a kid on the table in the basement. I wasn't particularly good.  At one of my jobs, there was a table and I played a little more intensely. And as a parent, I installed a table on the patio and played with my kids.  My son and I played a lot.

On a family vacation about 12 years ago, my son and I entered the resort's ping pong tournament and to my delight. I finished 5th out of 50.  But the guys in front of me were not just a little better than me, they were much better. So I asked them why.  Ze answered:

"You are as good as you are going to get if you don't train". 
        "Train? What is this train of which you speak?" (Did I mention that we were speaking in French?)
"Yes, train, You've never trained. Obviously, you've never take a lesson."
        "What do you mean it's obvious? And what sort of lesson? Like a tennis lesson?"

So when I got home, I googled Ft Lauderdale table tennis lessons, made a phone call, and booked a private lesson.  It turns out in Fr Lauderdale, there is an amazing table tennis center. It's near the corner of University Blvd and Sterling Drive (more info). 

And for about half the cost of a tennis lesson, I took my first private table tennis lesson. Teresa, the lady in pink below, was (and is) my teacher and coach. Since 2012, I might have taken 20 lessons from her. I tend to do them in batches. Like I just took three lessons in three week.

The first lesson was the best. Or maybe the worst. Honestly, they're all great.  In the first lesson, it turned out that the way I held the paddle needed correcting. My approach to the backhand wasn't right if I wanted to play better. Neither was my forehand. And I wasn't standing properly.  Like many sports, to get better, I was told that I first need to start over and be a lot worse.  But for me, it's basic training and practice which is my home field and it's fun!

My Table Tennis Status today -  While the building that I live in has a table to play on, there's not many people to play with here.  A big breakthrough for me was when I found that there was a community center about 5 minutes from my home where they put out five tables three times a week for a few hours. And it's full of really good players.

There's a rotating crowd of regulars of which about 20 show up on any given day. My ping pong has gotten really good but in this crowd, , they are mostly better than me, some are much better than me. Interestingly enough, they are almost all older than me. Some are much older (BTW, I'm 65).  A lot to look forward to. 

The other big breakthrough was when I retired this year (3/2023) and rather than playing occasionally, I can play several times per week.

Only in Florida? Nope, when we travel, I look up centers and try to go play. So far, I've played in two places in DC and a ping pad center in NYC. The DC Table Tennis center is in NW and is owned by Khaleel Asgarali.  The other DC center that I visited and played at was out in Gaitherburg MD, the Maryland Table Tennis Center.   Next time I'm in Paris or London, I intend to find a place to play. (Done, had a training session with Nicolas Brocard in Paris and Eli Baraty in London. March 2024)

So ping pong is now a major activity by me. It checks all the boxes. Lots of room to improve. Lots of people to compete with. Great exercise. I can play inside in the air conditioning. The injury rate is low.  If I get good (and I have a very long way to go), there's tons of increased levels of competition to strive for. It's social enough.  And now that I'm beginning to understand the game, I can also watch it.  BTW, Youtube, Instagram etc are full of table tennis feeds. Some funny. Some beautiful. Some just amazing.  

Here's me playing. It turns out that while I think of myself as a good TT player, in the world of people who play in table tennis tournaments, I'm not so good.  
 I think I lost game 1 11-9. Here's Game 2. I think I lost it 12-10
 Game 3. Not so close.


 I have a lot of work to do if I am going to compete. 1. Increase the time and intensity of my practice. 2. Increase the intensity of how I play. 3. Build my skills. Think about:

Notes to self: Teresa's Coaching:


-    Watch the ball with both eyes

- Racquet grip:  finger up, some space between grip and handle, nestle palm into palm

- hit ball at peak of flight. Slightly later for top spin, slightly earlier for cut shots

- always be ready for next ball. don't admire the last shot.

- move feet, get low, get lower, move your feet, get lower, move your feet more.

- stand on the backhand side of the court. On the serve, be off the court on the backhand side.


- start each stroke with racquet head down, finish up. Snap the wrist.

- have other hand mirror racquet hand. Stay loose but keep it's position correct

- stroke ball with lots of contact, don’t punch it or tap it

- forehand: stroke up and out. Finish forehand like a salute. Bend elbow on shot/ no straight arm. Hit going forward, not up.

- backhand, start stroke with racquet  at body so you can go out and forward


  1. have feet in exact same place every time. Left side, left leg back standing sideways. On spins, put whole body into it.

  2. For spin, use more wrist.

  3. There's a number of different serves and tons of different places to put it. When playing defensively, serve very short and look for the popup.

Friday, August 25, 2023

9 Rounds: my new main gym

 My concept of fit at this point focuses on agility, flexibility, some cardio, and some strength.  Most important, it's gotta be fun and keep me healthy.   And no injuries.  

So my mix of workouts includes some yoga, some gym, and some swimming. They are good but a little dull. Lots of ping pong which is great. I'll post on that soon too.  A tiny bit of tennis (not too much since it is too likely to produce injuries given the arthritic feet and funky back that I carry around) and some cross fit. 

But at this point, my main work out is the 9 Rounds: boxing-themed circuit training.  Fun and flexible. (If you're interested, give them a call. Tell JP I sent you)

9 Rounds is boxing themed circuit training which is mid point between working by yourself and with a trainer.  For those of us who want it, there's lots of flexibility to repeat stations, do extra stretching, and repeat exercises.
I think the speed bags are tons of fun. Almost like juggling (another way that I exercise).

I particularly like hitting pads although a full round at full intensity is fully exhausting.

Sometimes we pair off and do drills together. Here is Wonder Woman and Super Boy doing some kicking (they do these drills at some length and can pick up the intensity pretty high!).

Give JP a call.  (954) 626-0780

Location: It's on Federal Highway just where it joins with Sunrise Blvd (as I drive south) on the right hand side. Give JP a call.  (954) 626-0780. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Pull-ups: The Decay and Build Rate at My Age

Building Pull-ups - I worked regularly over an extended period of time (a really long time!) to get to be able to do five pull-ups. BTW, most people any where near my age can’t do any pull-ups. Once I get to 5, I got ambitious and aimed at seven. And I made it there! 

 The first of July 1, 2023, I did seven pull-ups. Not perfect (there's lots of jerking) but also, they are not cheap partial extension ones either.  I was proud: Check it out.

But then I took a trip.  Spent five weeks in Europe. Ate more than a few croissants, pain au chocolate, and foie gras. On the trip, I visited a gym two times (great fun to go to a boxing gym in Paris, check it out also) but didn't do anything like a lat pulldown or pull up.  On July 8th, I thought I would test and see how much I'd lost.

Result: I could only do three. I've tested two more times over the last week. Three it is. :-< That's my new max. uhg!

So lets do the numbers, I went from 7 to 3 over 5 weeks.  That's a decay rate of roughly one pull-up a week. That seems to me to be a pretty fast rate of deterioration.  Historically, I've found that fitness hangs in there for months and years. I remember once, not having run in a year, running a 7 minute mile. Also, I won a dare for doing pushups at one point without any recent history. But, that was then. This is now. I'm now 65 and I'm learning how the body behaves at 65. And I’m not thrilled by what I’m learning. 

Maybe I should be figuring it out in percentages.  That's about 15% loss per week or 57% loss over four weeks. Jeeeez. I'd better keep working out.  So here’s the rule:

I'll update this as I measure myself to see how long it takes to earn it back. My guess is, with 3 pullup workouts per week, it'll take 8 weeks to get back to 7. They'll come back one every two weeks. So in eight weeks, say mid September, I should be back to seven But we'll see.

August 14th - Rested yesterday so I tried it this morning.  I definitely did 4. I almost did the 5th. I'm now optimistic that I'll be back at 5 by next week or the week after. I'm now wondering if it'll be fast, a week each, to get #4 and #5 back! That's great, why expect six or seven to take longer? Why indeed?!?

August 21st - I did five this morning. Except for last one, they were good ones. I’m pleased. My goal for next week is 5nice ones with maybe a 6th sloppy. And a week later, 6 nice ones! We’ll see, I gotta keep putting the work in.

August 29th and 31st. Six! Pretty sloppy on the 29th but I found someone to watch me on the 31st and with the adrenaline from an audience, a pretty clean 6. I’m encouraged.

So drama: will I get to seven by mid September. That gives me two weeks to add one. 

here I am on Thursday, September 7th. Looks like a messy seven.  Note that the extension is full and I go all the way up. But, I do kick and jerk. I'm working on it.

And if I can add one every half month, does that mean ten by Halloween? 

And how much would it help if instead of weighing 202, I weighed 197? Or what if I took my shoes off…

Friday, August 04, 2023

A Boxing Gym in Paris! Fav part of trip for me

 My wife likes to travel and wants to do it as a couple. I like to work out. Can we get organized to make both of us happy? I had a little success with this on our time in Paris but frankly, if I'd been more organized, I could have figured this out my first day there and worked out all week instead of just the last two days.

I found the Boxium. It was a 90 second walk from the apartment we were renting. It was as intense and chic a personal training facility and I've ever seen. And, considering what it was, reasonably priced.

Check out this three tone leather heavy big. I'm used to a beat-up no frills set of bags, this was not like that at all.  The bags were real leather and embossed. The bike and treadmill were gorgeous wood designs, custom made in German (I wish I had more pictures).

And while hitting pads is always great, it's even more fun in a ring where I need to work situational awareness to stay out of the corners. I particularly liked the additional intellectual challenge of doing the workout in French (where I can hold my own).
There are a lot of good trainers out there who are motivational but this guy, Arthur, is another level up. He's a competitive boxer and MMA fighter and a spectacular trainer.  
The Boxium club belongs to Souleymane Cissokho, who according to Wikipedia, is is a Senegal-born French professional boxer. As an amateur he won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. He is a light middle weight and professionally: 16-0!

OK. For you true exercise nerds (like me): the warmup and training routines were both different and similar to what I'm use to. Basically, just a variation but it was interesting. I made some notes, here's what I remember.

  • On back, knees to one side, fetal position. Open arm up quickly to other side watching moving hand. Return it quickly. 10x 
  • On back, feet flat on floor, raise hips 10x. Hold one leg straight in air, raise hips 10x. Switch legs. Finish holding up for 10 count 
  • Push-up. Up dog to down dog. Fast, like push-up speed. 10x 
  • Push up position: Touch opposite shoulder with alternating hands 10x. Body still. 
  • Push up position:  Touch opposite knee with alternating hands 10x. 
  • Push up position: Touch opposite foot with alternating hands 10x. 
  • 10 push-ups. Hold in plank for10 seconds. 
  • Massage gun gun gun gun to relax shoulders

  • Sit on low stool (or squat), come up with a cross into pads. Switching sides. 10x -. Repeat with uppercuts
  • Sparing by round
    • I’m on offense, only hit shoulders.
    • I defend, he's only attacking shoulders
    • I'm on offense, I only hit stomach & shoulders
    • I defend, he can only hit stomach & shoulders 
    • Same drill on offense but he can counter, only directly from a strike. No combos
    • Same drill but I'm on defense and able to counter 
    • One round, full speed but light for a round, shoulders and body
 Want to reach my trainer?  He's a heavy-weight.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Firing on All Cylinders

 Dear Readers, 

The news is good. I'm now 65 years of age. 

That means I'm starting my 66th trip about the sun.  Very excited about it. My birthday (I'm Pisces) comes near the end of winter. Of course, since I live in Florida and don't think astrologically, that previous sentence was a little random.  But despite being 65, I'm still sort of "with it". Evidence: the use of the "a little random" expression.

I'm taking a gap year. This means that John Edelson, as of March 1st, no longer has a job. He resigned his employment and is not applying for, and will not accept, any employment. At least for a year. I had a great job. I was thrilled and interested by it, I found it meaningful. But I was starting my 20th year running that place and for reasons of personal growth and exploration, and given that there is a limited lifespan on this earth, I decided that they could get along fine without me. But, how I do feel about having no fixed schedule or responsibilities or role? It's hard for me. It's going to take some getting use e to. Near the end of 2023, I'll take a fresh look at my plan but for now, I intend to be relaxed, social, and dabble in all sorts of things.  

My health is good. I'm exercising every day. I  play ping pong intensely and try to do that several times a week. I play tennis once a week. I yoga a few times. I go to the gym. I've joined a circuit training gym with a boxing theme: 9 Rounds (which I highly recommend! Two great trainers: JP and Olga)! It's fun to have gloves on again. And they have a speed bag. I LOVE the speed bag.  I also swim, go to the gym, and go to Jeff's BootCamps on Saturdays at 10:30 and Thursdays at 5:30.

Summer Camp. Starting around May 1st, I decided to make exercising and physical activity what I do. I try to do two, sometimes three of these activities daily. Yesterday for instance, I went to 9 Rounds (which has a speed bag!), played 90 minutes of pong at the center, and went to Jeff's BootCamp. Ok, that was a bit much. This will get interrupted when we take our July trip but in August, I'll make a new plan.

Here's my status...

My weight was a little out of control this winter getting up near 210. I'm working it back down and am hanging out around 202. Ideally (and realistically), I'd like to be between 195 and 200.  

Pushups. I'm able again to do 25 pushups without stopping. I'd like to get to be able to do four sets of 25 with just short breaks in the middle. 

Pull Ups. I'm back to doing five of them. My target over the last year was to get back to 5. A few times I've done 6 and I've just finally made it to 7 (but about to take a month off...).  My goal is to get back to 10.

Jump rope. I'm back to doing sets of 50.  I can also do a set of 100 but it leaves me excellent.

Running.  Haven't tried in awhile. No aspirations here.

Swimming. I'm back to doing sets of 20 or 30 but not without stopping. Today, for instance, I did 24 as 6 sets of 4 with a half minute in between.

Yoga.  I'd like to be a competent yogi who understands alignment and is limber enough to hit most of the postures. I'm getting there.

John Edelson

I July, I'm taking a month long vacation in which I'll not only not exercise, I'll also eat like I don't know better. Then I'll reverse course...