Staying fit

Written by Suzanne Clark, Chartered Physiotherapist and author of Play Tennis Forever, this series about staying fit focusses on tennis but can relate to other sports and fitness generally. We hope our members find them useful. For more information, visit Fitter Forever.

Warming up before playing tennis in cold weather

All following content is © Fitter Forever Ltd 2014

Note: If you have any existing medical conditions then you should check with your GP or appropriate healthcare professional before undertaking any exercise or stretching programmes.

Many of us continue to play tennis outside despite the cold weather. However, the older we get the more susceptible our bodies are to the cold and its effects. It is important to always warm up before playing but even more so when playing in cold weather.

The main aim of warming up is to increase the heart rate gradually which then increases the amount of blood circulating through our muscle to warm them. It also makes the ligaments and tendons more flexible and so helps to avoid injury.

When the weather is cold it is harder to keep these structures warm and flexible. It is a bit like driving a car in cold weather. You usually let it warm up a little before driving off...well your body needs the same care.

So what should you do?
 

  •  Firstly wear the right gear for the conditions. If you run around your body will get hotter and you will sweat. If your first layer is a non-wicking textile eg cotton, then it will become damp and lose its insulating effects causing you to lose heat. Wear a synthetic, breathable layer to draw the sweat away. Your second layer should be an insulating layer eg fleece, and if you need a third layer then a loose, waterproof and windproof material top or jacket would be good. Another effect of age is that the circulation in your extremities is less efficient and in cold weather your body compounds this by trying to keep your core warm at the expense of your extremities. By layering up correctly, your core stays warm enabling your body to keep your extremities warmer.

  • Gradually increase you heart rate (ideally for about 5-10 minutes) by gentle jogging or gentle running on the spot or perhaps up and down stairs if you feel particularly energetic!

  • Then try some dynamic stretches to stretch your muscles, tendons and ligaments such as lunges, trunk twists, reaching up and circling your arms.

     

You can warm up at home so long as you start playing within about 30 minutes. Cooling down after play will also help prevent injuries. With good preparation, good fitness levels and good aftercare you’ll be able to make the most of your winter playing... have fun!

Staying fit for Tennis

Part 1 Strength
Three simple exercises to keep you fit for tennis:

Playing tennis helps to keep us fit. However, as we age the strength in our muscles naturally declines and the best way to stop this is by doing strengthening exercises, also called resisted exercises.

As a physiotherapist I know that the simpler and easier the exercise, the more likely it will get done.

So I have put together three easy exercises that will help to maintain the strength in your leg muscles. You do the exercises by slightly changing three everyday activities you already do at home. They are designed to use your body weight as resistance so no special equipment needed.

Stronger leg muscles allow you to move faster, improve your performance and help prevent injury.

Exercise 1: Whenever you go up a flight of stairs, take the steps two at a time. You may have to hold onto the bannister for balance at first, but the more you do the stronger and more balanced you will become.

Exercise 2: When you stand up from a chair, do not push up with your arms, only use your legs to stand up. Try to do this 3 times (or more!) each time you stand up.

Exercise 3: Whenever you are standing (e.g. at the sink washing up), with knees straight lift your heels up off the ground, then lower back down. This will strengthen your calf muscles.

Small changes to your everyday activities can make a huge difference to the strength in your legs. You can benefit from these exercises whatever your age and it is never too late to start.

Part 2 Flexibility

Three simple exercises to keep you flexible for tennis:

As we age, our joints can become stiffer and our muscles less flexible. This causes loss of movement in our joints, can result in arthritic changes and predisposes the tennis player to injury.

As a physiotherapist I know that the simpler and easier the exercise, the more likely it will get done.

So I have put together three easy stretching exercises that will help you to maintain the flexibility in your leg muscles. The exercises are simple and are best done straight after you finish playing tennis or exercising when your muscles are still warm. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury.

 

More flexible muscles will help you move better on court, help prevent injury and help prevent arthritic changes in your joints.

 

Stretch 1: Hamstrings stretch. Sitting on a chair, put your right leg straight out in front of you. Keeping your knee straight, gently slide your right hand down your leg until you feel tension in your hamstrings on the back of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat three times for each leg.

 

Exercise 2: Quads stretch. Sit near the edge of the chair seat so that your leg can move back along the side of the chair. Hold onto your ankle and gently pull your ankle up and back, bending your knee, until you feel the tension in your quadriceps muscles on the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds then relax. Repeat three times each leg.

 

Exercise 3: Calf stretch. Stand with your arms straight against a wall and put your left foot forwards knee bent. Keep your right leg back with your heel on the ground and knee straight. Lean forwards against the wall until you feel the tension in your right calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat three times for each leg.

Part 3 Balance
Three simple balance exercises to keep you fit for tennis:

Balance is the foundation to movement and is vital for good sporting performance. However, as we age our balance gradually deteriorates making some tasks more difficult, like balancing on one leg to put your socks on. This is a natural decline but it can also be related to existing conditions or medication. Simple balance exercises can make a huge difference to maintaining your balance.

Better balance allows you to move faster, improve your performance and help prevent injury.


As a physiotherapist I know that the simpler and easier the exercise, the more likely it will get done.

 

So I have put together three easy balance exercises that will help to maintain your balance. The exercises are simple, can be done at home and no equipment is needed.

Exercise 1: When brushing your teeth, try to get into the habit of balancing on one leg and then the other. You may have to hold on at first but gradually your balance should improve and you won’t have to.

 

Exercise 2: See how long you can balance on one leg first with your eyes open and then with them closed. It is really hard to do it with them closed, but if you can improve the length of time you can do it, you will know that you really are improving your balance.

 

Exercise 3: Stand near to a wall in case you need to touch it for balance. Stand straight and try to walk by placing your right heel on the floor directly in front of your left toes (heel toe walking). Then do the same by placing your left heel directly in front of your right toes. Try to continue walking like this for 5 steps. With time, as your balance improves, you should be able to walk further.

Keep exercising to keep playing.

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