Pickleball Cross Training With Mike Wardian

April 3, 2023

While Pickleball may be a new concept to some, once you learn about it, you are bound to see it everywhere! Pickleball is a court sport that is often seen as a cross between tennis and ping pong and those who have experience in those sports will have a great advantage in gameplay.

Games take place on a court (often a repurposed tennis court) and players hit a pickleball with a paddle over a net to the opposing team. Many athletes get quickly hooked on pickleball as it is very easy to learn and players can quickly excel. Team Injinji’s Mike Wardian has been using pickleball as a form of cross training since the Spring of 2021 and he shared his experience with us, from getting into the game to how it has greatly enriched his active lifestyle. 

Mike Wardian diving for the ball during a game of pickleball. Mike Wardian diving for the ball during a game of pickleball.
Mike Wardian standing on the edge of an outdoor pickleball court balancing a ball on his paddle.Mike Wardian standing on the edge of an outdoor pickleball court balancing a ball on his paddle.

Q&A With Mike Wardian

Injinji: How and when did you get into playing pickleball?  

Mike Wardian: I got into pickleball in May of 2021. I was introduced by my friend Rick Poppleton in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware at King’s Creek Country Club. 

Injinji: Were you immediately hooked? 

Mike Wardian: I was immediately hooked on pickleball, it really intrigued me. I loved how simple it was but the more you played, the more options and strategies you needed to score points, and how people of all ages could enjoy it. Pickleball was something that anyone could excel at, which is similar to running, and the more you put into it the better you get. 

Injinji: What is your favorite style of toesock to wear when playing pickleball?  

Mike Wardian: I really love Injinji toesocks and my preferred style for pickleball is the Ultra Run Mini-Crew, as it is cushy and protective without being hot. 

Injinji: Any other gear you can’t go without? 

Mike Wardian: I really love my Joola paddles, I have used a lot of pickleball paddles since I started and Joola has been far superior. 

Injinji: As an elite runner, why does pickleball appeal to you?  

Mike Wardian: As an elite runner, I love pickleball due to the constant improvement you can see and that like running, the more you dedicate to the sport the better you get. I all love that pickleball seems so easy to learn, and it is, but hard to master. The deeper you get into pickleball or running the more you can do and the further you can go. 

Injinji: What role does pickleball play within your cross training regimen? 

Mike Wardian: I use pickleball as an addition to my running, lifting, and endurance modalities. Pickleball helps me with eye-hand coordination, communication, problem solving, and moving in unusual and challenging ways, with powerful bursts and angles that I don't usually get during running. 

Injinji: Do you have dreams to compete in pickleball at an elite level? 

Mike Wardian: I do have dreams to complete as a pro pickleball athlete. I definitely am chasing that dream. 

Injinji: What has it been like getting involved in the pickleball community? We’d love to hear about the pickleball club you’re a part of. 

Mike Wardian: I have learned so much from the pickleball communities that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. I learned pickleball in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware but I live in Arlington, Virginia and I have been so lucky to have been able to join the “Arlington Iron Paddles” a group of about 70 hard-core pickleball players in Northern Virginia. The group is dedicated to training, competing, and pushing its athletes to the next level. We hold tournaments, drill together and play recreational games across the area and the world. It has been amazing how playing with other dedicated athletes can elevate your game and skill level. I hope that we can continue to help each other as we chase our dreams of playing professional pickleball. 

Injinji: What’s the importance of incorporating fun/play into your training regimen as a runner?  

Mike Wardian: I think that having fun and playing as part of training is the only way that you can truly maintain the drive to continue to compete. If you are not enjoying what you are doing or doing it for the end result, you just are going to lose motivation to keep showing up. In pickleball, running, and life, the biggest chance of success in my opinion is to keep showing up. 

Injinji: Is this a strategy you use to prevent burnout? 

Mike Wardian: I one hundred percent use fun and play to make sure that I have a reason to do the hard things in my training and in life. 

Injinji: Why do you think pickleball has gotten so popular?  

Mike Wardian: I think pickleball has been getting more popular because it is fun, it is legit really fun, even if you are a beginner there is something fun about smashing a ball as hard as you can over a net. It is also a social game with lots of back-and-forth conversation as each team calls out the score, makes line calls, and talks among partners.   

Injinji: What would you say to someone who is interested in getting involved?  

Mike Wardian: If someone is interested in pickleball, I would say, grab a paddle and head out to the courts. The community is so nice and everyone will help you learn the game and show you a great time. If you wanted to make sure that people are playing in your area, I'd recommend checking out some social media. There is a website called Playtime Scheduler where you can see who is playing near you, as well. 

Gear For Cross Training 

When participating in cross training activities like Pickleball, be sure you are keeping your feet comfortable and protected from blisters with Injinji toesocks.

For cross training in the gym, check out the Trainer Mini-Crew, designed with a secure fit to stay put during dynamic movements. If you prefer a crew sock, check out the Sport Original Weight Crew, which hits mid-calf and keeps your feet cool and dry with moisture-wicking fibers.