08/02/2017 | Erwan Nicolas
Take your time - no rush
The first thing you need to do when hitting the tennis court is to slowly run around it. Everyone is different, so take your time and do what feels right, you are aiming for slow, gentle jogging in one direction. Don’t just jog for the sake of it; focus on feeling the ground with your feet. Use your toes to push off, lift up your knees, keep your upper body straight, your head up and look forward. Listen to your body - you are trying to achieve a “feel good” sensation. You are aiming for the point when you start to sweat and can feel your muscles relax. Hopefully as you warm up and hit this point, any niggling pains should go away and muscle tightness release. It will take between 8 to 15 minutes. A steady. slow pace is required so do not dig too deep into your energy levels in this session.
Training outside at this time of year means dressing appropriately. Your first layer should be a synthetic, breathable layer, your second layer an insulating top. You may need a water or wind proof shell on top, and try to get used to playing with thin gloves - silk ones are the best.
Activate your metabolism
Gently raise the range and number of steps. Always start with small steps (don’t allow your muscle to be over stretched) gently increase the frequency and raise your heart rate slowly. The warmer you get, the bigger the steps you can take. Keep track of your energy level - do not use all your energy! Try to control your breathing rate. High level athletes will get to this point without sweat and tiredness, whereas occasional players might feel they have already used too much. Out of breath, red faced, and feeling hot is not what you are aiming for! Training and practice will help you achieve this feeling.
Raising the intensity
You are now ready to push harder, stronger, and faster, but do keep an eye on your technique. Do not rush by thinking more is better. You have to keep the perfect action and this is where awareness of the ‘perfect technique’ is needed. The old saying ‘perfect practise makes perfect’ could never be truer at this stage. Don’t wait until the summer to ensure your technique is right.
At JMT, we run Technical Clinics which focus on biomechanical action. Our coaches work with players to ensure they know what and how to practise outside of the course. If you are using a private or local coach then ensure they focus on your technique and give you the correct ‘homework’! Without going into too much detail - you need to ensure that you have good alignment to keep yourself injury free, this is vital. Most injuries come from incorrect alignment. Focus on easy simple drills based on rally and ball striking situations. Try to run up and down the middle of the court, bend the legs and contact the ball well in front. Don’t forget - keep that ball pace low!
Focusing more on specific areas
Your body is unique. You have to care for areas which have been subject to previous injury. They need to be up and running and you might need to double up the work on them beforehand. Massage and oil can be used before you go on court. Keep your second skin on, for part or full training. The warmer your body is the more efficient it will be.
Finding your cruising mode
It is now time to test your body’s reaction! Full throttle on speed, reaction and change of direction. Repeat a variety of exercises that are similar to reality. If you like sprinting forward, go ahead. If you don’t like running on your left, do it even more!. The general purpose of the warm up in winter is to activate your whole body and specifically work any area you know you will struggle with. The more you are doing it, the more you develop cognitive awareness.
So, get on court this weekend but make sure you are working towards your summer goals. Build a strong base now and you will be pleasantly surprised how your game has improved when the sun starts shining.
If you would like some coaching then you can join one of our Technical Clinics this Easter. We will be running a Clinic in Oxford (10-13 April) and London (14-17 April).
Erwan Nicolas (JMT Ambassador and Technical Consultant)