Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Tennis Fitness and You

Eugenie Bouchard and Filip Peliwo training at the National
Tennis Centre in Montreal.

By Melissa Boyd, Tennis Canada

The beauty of tennis is that it is a sport for a lifetime for everyone, not just the high performance athlete. We sat down with Kieran Foy, fitness coach at the National Tennis Centre in Montreal, to find out how fitness and nutrition can improve your game regardless of whether you play competitively, or just for fun.

Tennis Canada. Compared to athletes in other sports, in your opinion, how fit are the best tennis players in the world?

Kieran Foy. The tennis player really is the complete athlete. They have great cardio, they have great speed and agility, they’re extremely strong and big. They are physically imposing and now they’re adding strength and flexibility, two elements that weren’t there before. There’s not a lot of sports where you see those two unique aspects, especially when movements are being performed at a very high acceleration. A tennis player is right up there with the best conditioned athletes in sports.

TC. Can you give some fitness tips for the average tennis player and how they can optimize their performance on the court?

KF. Being fitter allows you to enjoy your tennis more. You can hit the ball bit harder, move quicker, and your racquet will feel lighter. The best thing you can do is a little bit of something every day. So, a little bit of jogging, a little bit of strength, a little bit of flexibility. You don’t need to go crazy. You don’t need to be sprinting around and risk pulling or tearing something.

TC. How does fitness for a kid getting started in tennis differ from a high performance player like Eugenie Bouchard or Filip Peliwo?

KF. I think you can start to introduce notions of what it is to train and what is fitness as a concept. At that age, they don’t need to be in a very structured program per se. They’re not at the age where they need to understand what a full warm up is, or the full physical and psychological development of an athlete, or what a cool down is. The key is to play a lot of games, outdoors especially. I think they should use running as a model, but within the context of playing other sports. In particular, sports where there is a ball that’s parabolic like basketball, tennis, and soccer where the ball bounces around at different angles and trajectories.

TC. How crucial are warm up and cool down exercises before and after matches? What are some examples of effective ones?

KF. For the average player, the best thing they can do is warm up and have a little stretch before they play because they are more likely to tweak something. So, 5-10 minutes of jogging continuously in different directions – backwards, side skipping, arms rolling forward, arms rolling backwards. Just get the joints moving a little bit. Once you finish that, you should stretch. 10 minutes to get everything loose and not have it cold when you go on court.

TC. Can you give some nutrition and hydration tips for the average tennis player? What should they be consuming before, during, and after playing?

KF. Before a match it’s important to hydrate to make sure that you take in adequate fluid. This can help you stay cooler in your match. Somewhere along the lines of ¾ of a litre to one litre of water before you play. While you’re playing, a good guideline is to have 200 ml of liquid every 15-20 minutes. In terms of eating before a match, you want to have a light snack maybe two hours before because you don’t want to carry anything in your stomach as you’re playing. Between games, you can take fruits that are easily digestible or sports drinks if you’re playing for more than an hour. But still, water is your best friend. I like to eat within 30 minutes of playing just to replace my energy. That can be fruit, pasta, or some white protein like chicken or fish.