Tennis is a physically demanding sport, and no matter what level you play, you should be fit enough so that you play well, and don’t always injure yourself. To do this, all you need is 30 minutes a day, and only on days you don’t play tennis. That’s it!
Unfortunately, most recreational players don’t see it that way. They think that because they play so infrequently, that fitness doesn’t matter… But it does. People who save all their physical activity for big weekend bursts of playing tennis actually make them prone to injury.
Anyone who reads this blog knows my passion for fitness ranks right up there with my passion for tennis. For me (now), you just can’t have one without the other. Is it because I play at a more competitive level? Maybe, but I wish I had this mindset back when I very first picked up a racket. Is it because I’ve learned my lesson after suffering constant minor sports injuries during a time when I was not in tennis-playing shape? Definitely!
Yes, there was a time when I wasn’t as healthy or fit, when processed foods and take out made up most of my diet, when playing tennis once or twice a week made up my fitness routine, and I wasn’t concerned in the least because hey, “I’m not a tennis pro!”
I wasn’t overweight, but because I sat at a desk all day for work and didn’t exercise, I didn’t have the adequate muscle strength and flexibility to move really well on the court, or prevent the nagging injuries I kept getting when I played – tennis elbow, strained quads and right deltoid, pulled lumbar muscle in my lower back, torn meniscus, tendinitis in my right wrist, rolled ankles – the list goes on.
Aside from getting injuries that will keep you off the courts, these are just some of the other things that happen on the court if you’re not fit enough:
Going for winners too soon.
This happens a lot – even with the pros. When you’re tired, you want to the point to be over NOW, and you’ll be more likely to go for a winner, even if you’re off-balance or out of position. This usually results in errors like hitting the ball out, or into the net.
Slicing and chipping.
In the second set, you won’t have enough energy to swing big, so you’ll start slicing and chipping shots that in the first set, you were ripping for winners.
Letting more balls go.
If you’re tired then your brain will tell you not to run for everything, which is bad because you’d probably be able to get to most balls if you had enough energy. Not only that, you won’t be able to get to the balls that you actually will chase down because you don’t have the energy to move your legs faster.
Getting picked on.
Your opponent will see you struggling to catch your breath after each rally, and she’ll start targeting the corners with her groundies to further wear you out. She’ll also keep the time between service points to a minimum to ensure you stay out of breath. And if you’re playing doubles, she’ll start lobbing from corner to corner and make you run a half marathon in a single set.
You’ll be tired late in the match when it really counts. This happens with pros as well. We’ll cheer them on as they kick butt in the first set, but then watch as their game starts to decline in the second, which they end up losing, along with the third set.
I’m not saying you should be like the pros and workout every day. The pro’s keep a very intense training schedule that consists of tennis, lifting weights, running, pilates, yoga, and more. That kind of training takes a lot of time, a whole lot of money, and total commitment and dedication, which are all things most of us DON’T have. So, we need to best utilize the time and amenities that we DO have.
If you can carve out 30 minutes a day (on non-tennis days) for some “me time”, that’s all you need to strengthen your muscles for tennis and any other physical activities you enjoy. For a little fit-spiration, be sure and check out our growing tennis-specific fitness section. We’ve got some great full length workout videos and some short ones to either combine together or add on to your existing routine. Some of the exercises require things like hand weights, or medicine balls, but most just use your own body weight.
Remember – the better shape you are in, the better both you AND your game will be!