In my second year of university I joined the badminton club. Membership was cheap and Thursday evening training fit into my schedule. It also required little equipment.
1. Running in a confined space is an effective exercise.
Running around the badminton court improved my aerobic endurance.
The weekly practice sessions were four hours long. My instinct was to play as much as possible; I only rested when there were no courts available.
The continuous training matches replicated the demands of long slow distance runs. Whilst the short, sharp repeated movements in rallies supported slight progress in my anaerobic threshold.
Singles is harder than doubles as you have to rely solely on your own running to cover the court.
2. Running is a useful but limited skill in sporting success.
Running as an attribute can win you points. By running quicker and further I would sometimes keep the shuttlecock in play, and therefore force my opponent to make an extra shot (and an accompanying error).
But running only served to cover up a lack of sport-specific skills, such as shot selection and tactical execution.
After a year I realised that without more dedication and knowledge I was unlikely to develop.
3. Running in all directions challenges your legs in new ways.
Movement around a badminton court is quicker than in tennis. The need to run sideways, backwards and forwards in fast sequences exercises different muscles in the legs.
For example, you jump more often for smashes and the repetitive strain on your dominant arm requires careful management. Although sore when I first played, I quickly adapted to the physical stresses.
4. Running can give you a mental edge.
During university I played many matches with friends, club members and even students from other universities. I lost more matches than I won but I learnt a valuable lesson about how my running affects my enjoyment and the score.
Despite my relative inexperience my ability to chase every point meant most sets were decided by a small margin. I also felt better if I never stopped running, as it meant I was burning more calories and working my muscles harder.
I am proud that I represented my university in the Men’s Third Team in British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) league matches. My opponents often praised me for my doggedness, an essential characteristic for all runners.