As a Professor of Communications, one of the courses that I teach is called Advertising Techniques. In my lectures, I present students with a problem. How can advertising clients get maximum benefit from their allocated budgets, when these budgets do not permit advertising year round? The answer that I provide them involves pulsated advertising.
Pulsated advertising means that, at times, you do not advertise at all. Instead, these clients will advertise in a saturated manner
but only at a few selected times of the year. In this manner, the product/service will get the maximum benefit from repeated exposures.
While the subtleties of pulsated advertising are not important to your tennis game, a good case can be made that the concept of pulsation does have relevance to your tennis.
Most, if not all, of us cannot play our best tennis at all times of the year. One of the problems with the professional tours is that players are asked to compete almost all year. Some players wisely choose not to compete at certain times. However, ranking criteria force all pros to compete more than is probably healthy.
As I have aged in this game, I realize that I can only play my very best tennis for about two months. I try to make these months be July and August, which is from a weather perspective advantageous. Although I do not compete much anymore, I probably would not be able to compete at my best level for much more than three months.
Novice players and juniors often believe that training at full-speed throughout the year is the best course of action for improving and maintaining their games. More experienced or older players realize that this is generally not true for most players.
Even the pros need to take breaks, albeit rare. Guga likes to go surfing. Agassi will spend time at his home in Las Vegas; the Williams sisters will take a periodic hiatus, etc. Sometimes, injuries will force these pros to take breaks. But frequently, "injuries" are really excuses not to play.
At a maximum, most recreational, amateur and scholastic tennis players can have two "best" competition periods per calendar year. The wise players, in my mind, are those who realize this fact and plan accordingly.
Now, I am not suggesting that you abandon physical training or stop playing entirely for long periods of time. However, I do recommend that you train with a pulsated regimen in mind. The benefits to this latter approach are both physical and mental. No ones body or mind can compete at high levels, at all times.
So, in this months column, I will give you my suggestions for a training routine that, I believe, will lead to the optimal results
but only at certain times of the year. You, the player, need to select one or two times in the calendar year when you want to or need to play your best tennis. Once these are determined, you can apply the guidelines that I list below by working backwards. If you must, you can specify three "key" periods per year. But, I do not recommend this.
Sometimes, we will luck out and have three "ideal" periods per year without really trying
or have an extended "ideal" period. Luck and fate are more at play here than anything else.
When preparing to compete in tennis, you need to be aware of the following training components:
- physical strength
- foot speed
- body weight
- tennis skills
- tennis strategy
- competitive toughness
As you can see, there really is a lot to consider when training to be truly competitive in your game of tennis. Just paying attention to each of these aspects may go a long way toward improving your results. However, in pulsated training, there is an organized and progressive nature to your competition preparations.
I like to use a four month preparation phase to yield one or two months of "ideal" competition. At the end of this "ideal" competition phase, it is imperative to take a complete break from any tennis playing. The body and mind need at least a week or two to recover from the competitive strains of tennis tournaments.
Lets begin with the first month of preparation for competition:
During this period, your goals should focus primarily on strength, endurance and flexibility. Generally, resistance training in earnest is in order. The body should show a noticeable increase in muscle mass. I try to do serious weight training four times per week during this first month of preparation.
However, endurance is another goal. I will integrate running and biking into my training. I will run for 3 to 5 miles or bike in excess of 10 miles. I will engage in these activities three times per week. I try to avoid doing these activities on the days that I strength train.
Flexibility is key in the game of tennis. It becomes a more difficult goal to achieve, as we age. I will deliberate stretch before any exercise activity. But during this month, I will do additional stretching every day.
As for tennis play, I will hit three days per week
but not any more. I will not play sets. Rather, I do drills or work with my ball machine. I never neglect to practice my serves during this time. The emphasis is not on tennis. Physical conditioning is the main goal.
Nutritionally, I will increase the amount of proteins in my diet. I do not get too concerned about weight, but I keep an eye on it. I want to bulk up a bit, but not in an exaggerated way.
As you train, do not neglect to take in lots of water. It is essential!!!
I always take one full day per week to rest. On these "off" days, I will only stretch.
During this training phase, I place emphasis upon speed, tennis skills, and as always, flexibility. I will reduce my strength training to no more than two days per week. I will distance run or bike no more than two days per week. Again, I dont strength train and endurance train on the same days.
I will increase my tennis play to four or five days per week
whatever I can fit into my schedule. I will play some practice sets, but most of my court activity involves drills. I will assess and work on specific strokes. If I find something lacking, I try to correct it, improve it or add to it
as the case may be.
I, of course, stretch before any exercise activity, but I do my additional stretching for only three days per week. For me, the best days to stretch, in this manner, are those days on which I strength train.
Two days per week, I will do sprints. Sprints or other sprint-like running drills are the best way to improve foot speed. In my mind, sprints are more essential to playing great tennis than distance running. Tennis is a game of short spurts. Sprints replicate this reality.
If cant sprint, I will jump rope. Jumping rope is a great way to improve that "first step."
Nutritionally, I will stick to the higher protein diet. However, as I introduce more sprints and strength train less frequently, I probably find that my weight is beginning to reduce slightly.
Dont neglect to intake water.
I force myself to take one day off per week. On this day, I do no physical training or stretching.
For me, this is the month to really work on my tennis skills. I will play tennis five or six days per week. I will do a mixture of drills and practice sets. I try to vary my hitting partners to allow me to see different spins, paces, etc.
I engage in distance running or biking one or two days per week. However, I increase my sprinting to four days per week.
I continue to strength train two or three days per week. But, I significantly reduce the rigors associated with this activity. I decrease resistance and increase repetitions in my weight training and calisthenics. I try to maintain strength
not increase it.
I continue to stretch for flexibility before any activity. I do not, however, engage in any special stretching routines. By now, my time is very much dedicated toward actual tennis training. If I have done my work in the previous two months, my flexibility is something that only needs to be maintained.
I introduce more carbohydrates into my diet at this time. Why? Well, I generally am burning more calories during this phase and I need the carbs to keep myself fueled. I should be able to introduce these additional carbohydrates without any weight increase. If my weight does increase, I am not doing enough sprints.
It is important to make certain that you continue to take water and to take a day off each week.
This is my transition month. I am, hopefully, ready to compete. I should be strong, fast and have a level of endurance that is capable of carrying me through a long, three-set match.
My goal in this time is to perfect my game of tennis. I am still working on stroke perfection, but I am beginning to compete more. I play more practice sets and I will begin to compete in tournaments. I take all pressure off of myself with respect to these tournaments. I want to win, but I am prepared to lose.
I compete to begin working on my strategies and to develop "match toughness." The only way to develop this latter quality is to actually compete. If you are away from tournament competition, you need some time to get back into the proper mind set. The key is not to put pressure on yourself. Improvement
not winning is the real goal.
I do very light strength training one or two days per week. I distance run or bike one or two days per week. I will sprint one or two days per week. I try to mix these up in a balanced manner
Month four finds me training off-court less and on-court more. I may even hit two times per day. This is the time for me to get used to playing tennis, again.
I may do some extra stretching during this month. If I find myself becoming stiff, I will introduce extra stretching.
I will eat less food, but more of these foods will be carbohydrates. I really make certain to keep myself hydrated. Hydration is something that should be done at all times, but I make an extra effort to take in water during this month. My weight should be stable but probably I am lighter than was the case in Month 1.
If I have done all of this well, I should be ready to play my best tennis for another month or two months. Physically, tactically, and mentally, I am ready and eager to compete in tournaments.
I monitor what I do during the competition months very carefully. I let my body and mind tell me what to do or not to do. I always stretch and I will play tennis a lot. However, I do not have any hard and fast routine for off-court training. I find that being flexible during this competitive stage is best for me. I train less but compete more.
The day before a tournament, I begin to carbo-load. I eat lots of pasta, reduce any fats, and make certain that I drink plenty of water. I introduce bananas into my diet on these days to help me retain water. I am not fond of sport drinks. I will bring one with me to a match in case I am feeling energy weak. Water is really the best fluid for me.
I do not take alcohol at any time. I do not take much caffeine, if at all, during this competition period. Both of these tend to dehydrate me, which can lead to cramping during matches.
Sleep and diet are very critical to my performance. I try to get 7 to 8 hours sleep during this competition phase. If I am in a different time zone, I make certain that at least 3 full days have passed before my first match.
POST COMPETITION PERIOD
At the end of my planned competition phase, I force myself to put the racquets down. By the end of this phase, I am ready for a break from tennis. I will do moderate and varied physical training during this "down time." I dont want to lose all conditioning. But, I do not want to play tennis. I engage in lots of different physical activities from swimming to hiking. Variety is the key thing for me.
I want to get to a point where I truly miss playing tennis. I want to be eager to begin the training regimen again.
The above plan may not be appropriate for you
however, there is certainly one that you can develop that will work. The point is that you need to discover a plan of preparation and competition that allows you to compete at your best level when you want to or need to. This is what I mean by pulsated training. Believe me, this approach works and gives results!
If you come up with a training plan that is viable and well thought out, I am sure that you will become a tennis overdog!