For the better part of three-plus decades, I have coached hundreds, if not thousands, of senior tennis players from all around the globe. Unfortunately for me, I also aged along with my students and have experienced innumerable injuries.
In order to beat the clock, senior tennis players have to embrace the new and improved sporting world: Fitness room, chiropractors, massage and nutritional therapists. And let’s not forget the huge impact of the yoga world.
If I had a dollar for every senior student who told me that all chiropractors were “quacks,” I would be a very rich man. Far too many adults simply resist new information and hold onto their prior beliefs, all to their detriment. If they want to stay healthy and continue to play big tennis matches, changes are in order.
Last winter, I sought out a new plan to improve my body and thus, not miss any time on the tennis courts. So, I joined a gym and started my quest to completely transform my physical body. In no way was I in horrible condition, but I wasn’t fully educated in the fitness arena. As a rule, I always found an excuse to hit the fitness room.
But no more; Time for a paradigm change, as I knew I needed to make this crucial adjustment if I ever wanted to be a top athlete again. After one full week of the treadmill and the elliptical machines, I was addicted to my new routine. Additionally, I wanted to learn more about the arm and leg machines, as well as the bar bells.
To my amazement, this fitness environment is one of the more welcoming places in the sports world. The 24-hour fitness participants enjoy sharing their knowledge and encourage each person in the facility. Now, I was hooked and excited to come back every single day.
During my long-playing career, I have had my knee scoped twice, as well as my elbow. Earlier, an MRI confirmed too much arthritis in my right shoulder and I have had long bouts of plantar fasciitis. Once acquainted with the new machines in the gym, I was ready to attack the areas of the body that needed to improve if I wanted to be a top ranked senior tennis player.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
To increase my flexibility with my right shoulder, I would use the cable rows each day and stretch out the joint. This particular exercise unlocked the pain and allowed me to serve with power, as well as throw a football with less effort.
With the damaged right knee, I knew I had to build up the calves and hamstrings. After a month or so, I did not feel my right knee as I practiced on hard courts. The usual swelling died down and I had much more agility as I moved to the ball.
The great irony about my “new” life is that after I play 90-minutes of singles, I still hit the fitness room to complete my day. Or, I go to the gym before I play and do a number of flexibility drills to prepare for my tennis court workout.
The key for any adult tennis player is that they must embrace vigorous exercise in order to avoid serious injury. As the years pile up, we must embrace the challenge and be willing to make drastic changes. For example, one of the best places to start is in the kitchen. Be bold, heavily scrutinize your refrigerator and throw out the unhealthy foods. Wake up each day and drink a vegetable smoothie, snack on apples and continue to supply the body with nutritious foods. In short order, one will lose weight, gain confidence and have more endurance in the health club.
Several years ago while attending an Iowa Hawkeye tennis reunion, I met a restaurant owner who told me yoga saved his life. Naturally, I was skeptical because he was in supreme physical condition. “Tell me your secret,” I asked.
He proceeded to put his body in a contorted position, as if he were an octopus.
“Ok, Joseph, what are you trying to show us?” I inquired.
“I could barely walk last year. So, I began to go to this amazing yoga class and look at me now!” Joseph proudly boasted. (He continued to show us his new dexterity with a proud look on his face).
So, without a doubt, my number one recommendation for senior tennis players is to not rely on the court only as their primary training. Moreover, open the mind and start a serious nutritional program to aid in weight control and endurance. Senior tennis players should also consider yoga or hot yoga and other innovative stretching techniques.
My final advice to having a long competitive tennis career is to listen to your body and rest when necessary. Too many of us are stubborn and we play too many league matches or weekend tournaments. Everyone is so worried about losing their “edge” that they forget that rest is part of the winning formula. Good luck.
Since 2000, Doug Browne was the Collier County Pro of the Year three times, and has been a USPTA pro in the area for 28 years. Doug was also honored in the International Hall of Fame (Newport, Rhode Island) as Tennis Director during the 2010 summer season. Doug has been writing about tennis for the last 19 years.