February 16, 2009 / 4:06 PM / 10 years ago

Martina Navratilova aces the retirement game

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Tennis legend Martina Navratilova will share everything from advice on building core strength to her recipe for tofu rollups.

Martina Navratilova of the U.S. returns the ball against Kimiko Date of Japan at their friendly match during Dream Match 2008 in Tokyo March 15, 2008. Former tennis champions Navratilova, Steffi Graf of Germany and Date participated in the friendly tennis match. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

But don’t ask the nine-time Wimbledon singles champion and ambassador for AARP, the U.S. advocacy group for seniors, for her daily exercise routine. She doesn’t have one.

“I like to mix it up,” Navratilova said from her home in Aspen, Colorado. “I don’t have a regular routine because for me life’s not a routine and exercise is not a routine, either.”

Instead of a dutiful grind, the 52-year-old, who retired from tournament tennis in September 2006, stays in shape via a dazzling array of activities that includes ice hockey, mountain biking, scuba diving, skiing, snowboarding, basketball, golf, horse back, riding and doing “anything involving a ball.”

“I do everything,” she said. “I may do yoga with a friend. I may do Pilates on the road.”

These days Navratilova is often on the road on behalf of AARP. the American Association of Retired Persons, crisscrossing the country to spread her message of health and fitness to the advocacy group’s 40 million members.

“AARP came to me trying to prevent problems of aging,” the tennis ace explained. “I embody health and fitness pretty well, so it seemed like a natural symbiotic relationship.”

Her user-friendly videos, dubbed “Martina’s Tips,” have graced AARP’s website for the past year. They feature a toned Navratilova chatting while demonstrating a variety of simple exercises and offering commonsense advice on healthy eating.

While her physical condition might daunt your average middle-aged couch potato, Navratilova says she has been “amazed and refreshed” by the positive energy of the AARP community.

“I see people at 60 or 70 start from scratch, embrace new ideas, learn new things and change their lifestyle’” she said.

The Czechoslovakian-born holder of 56 grand slam championships said she knows something about reinvention because she had to change her own game back in the 1980’s.

“After I won eight Wimbledon titles I realized that my footwork wasn’t working anymore and I needed to revamp. I learned that at 32, which for an athlete is the equivalent of a normal person learning something at like 65 or 70,” she said.

“I always say you can teach an old dog new tricks. I started over with my footwork.”

The queen of the all-court game is still not ready to hug the baseline. Although she looks forward to playing some senior matches at Wimbledon, Navratilova is happy to be finished with competitive tennis.

“I love tennis when I do it but I don’t miss it when I don’t,” she said. “It was either tennis and nothing else or everything else and no tennis. I’m ready to do other things.”

Navratilova expects her relationship with AARP to last “as long as it’s good for all of us. I’m happy to keep imparting what works for me.”

She has been described as by tennis historian Bud Collins as “arguably, the greatest player of all time.” No man or woman has won more singles and doubles titles than Navratilova’s combined total of 344.

So after countless laurels and victories, what becomes a retired sports legend most?

“I always have fun. I have intense fun, but I do pretty much everything with intensity,” she said.

“Otherwise, what’s the point? “

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