Have you ever wondered what your favourite tennis star might be doing over the festive period?
While you might be out for the Christmas party or sitting back ready to tuck into a turkey and all the trimmings. The days are gone when tennis players would be doing the same, now they are training several times a day. Even on Christmas Day, they will be training but possibly only the one session, rather than multiple sessions.
If you are a professional tennis player then December is not Christmas party season but off-season, the competitive tennis period is passed after the tour final events and last few ITF events. Though rest time for the players is somewhat limited, in the 4-6 weeks away from the circuit they need to take some time off for a break or holiday to relax and recharge the batteries. It’s vital that the players utilise this period of rest to recover from any injuries or niggles.
Once those days relaxing and unwinding have passed, it is straight back into a periodized, specific and tailored training block. All to set the foundations for a long competitive campaign ahead which starts in early January. Out of all the sports football, rugby, professional tennis has one of the shortest offseasons with the top players having from the end of November or beginning of December where they are not scheduled to play any competitive tournaments.
In such a long and competitive season this is the only real extended block of time which is ideal for players to make improvements to their game. The first few weeks of the training block are usually focused on improving physically, that might take the shape of building muscle, strengthen core stability, increasing muscular endurance or developing a strong aerobic base. Now every player is individual to there approach, each player will attempt to accumulate a training volume with activities which suit them. Some might grind out the hours in the gym lifting weights and packing on as much muscle mass as possible.
Others like Sam Stosur like to use the outdoors, in this case, the Gold Coast to sprint up staircases, kayaking and boxing to get away from the court but still increase their physicality. Kayaking is a great way to maintain or build upper body strength, trunk rotation and core work with very little impact. The other priority is to build explosive leg strength and quick agile footwork.
After the first few weeks work of setting a newly improved physical platform, then the players tend to spend more hours on the court. The approach becoming more specific to the on-court demands of hard court tennis which they will embark at the beginning of a season.
But it’s not just the physical that is accounted for, though every muscle in the body is targeted to improve the player in each possible aspect. Every bit of food and drink is carefully selected and noted down for its nutritional value, as well as an effect on the player, in addition to every hour of wake and sleep. What works for one athlete doesn’t necessarily work for another, some may spend more time on the court, others none at all.
Every athlete offseason is programmed and tailored to the individual’s needs, but whichever form it takes, it’s not an easy ride. So whilst you’re sitting there, as I will be enjoying some downtime and Christmas pudding. Raise a glass for those players spending their festive period training hard!