SoCal League Tennis

Beyond the Score: Rest and Recovery Are Keys To Success

By Lisa Thomas

What a memorable couple of weeks, watching some of the best tennis on the big stage in the great city of New York.  The US Open did not disappoint.  It was great to see new champions grace the courts and hold up the trophies.

It was also an interesting US Open from the perspective of watching these highly skilled and well-conditioned athletes suffer from fatigue.  After an extraordinary display against Murray, Nishikori had trouble maintaining the level of effort against Djokovic and it was clear to see that in turn Djokovic struggled to maintain the same spectacular level against Wawrinka in the final.  Just two examples of a tournament that seriously tested the best.  And yet we know these athletes on both the men’s and the women’s side are true professionals who train hard and bring every possible tool in their tool box to their game preparation.  What comes next for these athletes and how well they recover after a grueling year will be interesting to see.


The question of rest and recovery has to be considered.  How important is it now for them to take time off and how important is it for them to incorporate rest in their training regimens?  After watching the ramifications of two weeks of hard play at the end a long and busy season it is pretty easy to suggest that rest and recovery are important.

How about for us, the casual athlete?  Do we need to think about rest and recovery even though we don’t play or train at the same intensity as the pros?

The answer seems to be yes, and here is why.  As Kristina Swartzendruber of Michigan State University wrote in an article in 2013 rest and recovery is an important aspect of any exercise program because it allows the body time to repair and strengthen itself in between workouts.  It also allows the athlete to recover, both physically and psychologically. Ms. Swartzendruder went on to say that during a rest period the body is able to adapt to the stress associated with the exercise, replenishes muscle glycogen (energy stores) and provides time for the body tissue to repair.

We all also know that fatigue can lead to injuries.  We’ve all been there when we are so tired that we start to cheat on our footwork, stretch for a ball rather than move to the ball or take off slowly and end up pulling a muscle when we lunge trying to make a shot.  Rest during workouts and rest between workouts can help to alleviate fatigue and hence reduce our risk of injury.

Another important point brought up by the Michigan State University article is the value of sleep. Something that at times we ignore in our fast paced lives. It suggests that athletes who are sleep deprived are at risk of losing aerobic endurance and have an increased risk of having their human growth hormones decrease which is active during tissue repair.

When you do too much you can begin to feel over tired all of the time. If your workouts and practice on the court are leaving you dragging throughout the day then you might consider factoring in a day off or a day where you do something completely different.

The MSU article suggests that there are two different categories of recovery:

  1. Immediate or short-term recovery – This is the most common form of recovery and occurs within hours after an exercise session or event. Short-term recovery includes low intensity exercise after working out and during the cool down phase.
  2. Long-term recovery – This refers to recovery periods that are built into a seasonal training schedule and may include days or weeks incorporated into an annual athletic program.

How many times have you heard the advice to listen to your body?  It is still sound advice.  Tennis is such a great game because it is a game for a lifetime, don’t blow it in your thirties because you went too hard too soon.  Luckily we don’t have to keep up with the Serenas, the Angeliques and Murrays of the tennis world but we do want to play our game well and for a long time.  So before we get too tired, possibly injured and not able to get out there as much we can, make sure we factor in rest, sleep and time for recovery.



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