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Bringing Body And Mind In Balance

There are various ways tennis players can manage their physical, mental and emotional stress.

Published September 22, 2010 12:00

Bringing Body And Mind In Balance
Shahar Peer

Everyone is looking for that extra something that will help you win more matches and perform consistently well. To do this, a lot of players will spend more time on the practice court, hit more balls, go to the gym, lift weights and run. Maybe you or your team (coach or fitness advisor), think that the harder and longer you work out, the better you will perform.

• BUT more work alone does not result in best performances. Sometimes, it causes a drop in performance (a "slump"), staleness, fatigue and low motivation.
• This can happen when the training load and recovery practices are not balanced.
• This set of symptoms is sometimes called overtraining syndrome or medical (sports) fatigue syndrome. It is a serious emotional, behavioral and physical condition which is reported to affect many of athletes at some time during their careers.
• Extreme cases may lead to burnout, a state of being physically and emotionally exhausted, where the player can no longer compete.

A Balancing Act
Fatigue is a normal and expected response to training. It becomes a problem when it is prolonged (more than a few days) which usually indicates there is an imbalance in training load and recovery over time. Tennis loads and stresses three systems:
Physical: training intensity and frequency; matches; gym or other fitness work
Mental: preparation of match strategies; focus, concentration; managing mistakes
Emotional: managing emotions like fear, anger, joy and disappointment
To improve resilience (the ability to bounce back from tough situations) and performance, players need to use skills to manage their stress in all three systems. When an imbalance exists, the result will be fatigue, performance drop, inability to train as usual, emotional stress, social stress (which affects your relationships with others) and increased risk of illness or injury.
• The KEY is to find the right balance to maintain good performance. There is no magic recipe.
• Every player is unique. What may be too much stress for one player is an appropriate load for another.
• Similarly, some types of recovery will work well for one player when they won't for another.

"The body does not get fitter through exercise; it gets fitter through recovering from exercise." Peter Keen, British Olympic Cycling Coach

PREVENT BURNOUT AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE SIGNS…
Pay attention to performance decreases: they are usually the first signs there is an imbalance.
These warning signs can be simply and quickly checked for at each training session:
• Tiredness • Heavy or sore legs • Slumped posture
• Frustration • Slow reactions on court • Slow or poor decision making
• Heavy, slow feet • Low motivation • Moody/ emotionally oversensitive
• Lack of confidence • Inadequate nutrition/ hydration • Inadequate sleep; waking up tired

Energize and Enjoy Tennis
Restore your equilibrium: balance physical, mental and emotional stress with recovery for all three systems:
• Have rest days each week and include regular short breaks through your year
Train Correctly: Ensure your technique is based on proper body mechanics.
• Ask a Physical Therapist or Certified Athletic Trainer for a functional movement evaluation or seek help with a qualified biomechanics expert.
• Avoid heavy training intensity right before matches or during tournaments.
Sleep Well: Get plenty of sleep - 7 to 9 hours is recommended for athletes. Good sleep helps with physical, mental and emotional rejuvenation. Adolescent athletes, especially during growth spurts may need 10 or more hours of sleep at night.
Eat Well: A balanced diet with adequate carbohydrate, iron and fluid intake is vital for athletic success.
Timeouts: Schedule a complete break away from tennis a couple of times per year. A break from your usual routine and stresses of tennis life is very healthy and rejuvenating.
Active Rest and Recovery is critically important every day to help you bounce back after training.
• Massage, stretching, relaxation techniques, hot & cold showers and spas will take care of your body and your mind.

Keep a Training Diary:
Monitor your daily training, matches, sleep (how much and the quality), morning heart rate (before you get up), your mood & your motivation.
Keep Stimulated: Avoid boredom by varying your training routine. Keep it fun and challenging.
Practice Mind Power: Learn to manage performance worries.
• Anxiousness about past events or future possibilities is a waste of energy. Focus on what you do now.
• Learn and use skills such as imagery, relaxation and helpful self-talk to reduce stress and improve performance.

DISCLAIMER
The contents of the Game, Set, Health site, are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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