Okay, today we're going to take a look at some easy steps to make you the best player you can be without even working a minute on your strokes! Here are two great considerations you can use each time you have a match.
Part 1 - Nutrition
We all know that a healthy diet overall leads to better physical performance, but there are specific things you can do on the day of a match that will make a big difference too. For instance, three to four hours before a match you should give your body the right blend of foods to provide energy stores for the match to come. This energy should come from a meal comprised primarily of carbohydrates (pasta, bread, rice, etc), with a moderate serving of protein (lean meats) and light mix fats (avacado, cheese, eggs) and fiber (fruits and vegetables). Carbs are easy to digest and convert into energy easily. This works unless you're currently on the Keto or Paleo diet, but that's a topic for another blog post :) You'll want to avoid ordering lunch from that new restaurant that you've never tried before. Keep it familiar so there are no surprise tummy upsets! Then an hour or two before your match have a light snack consisting of a piece of fruit like a banana (bananas are high in potassium which will help prevent muscle cramps in a tough match, especially in hot weather). You should also be drinking water well in advance even when you're not thirsty. I wouldn't recommend sports drinks at this time because of the typical high sugar content. You don't want to have a sugar crash before you've even stepped foot on the court! You'll also be losing water in your match faster than you can replace it, so hydrating early is key!
During your match you'll want to be sipping water and/or a sports drink during most every changeover. Too much will leave you feeling bloated while too little will leave you dehydrated and feeling gassed by the third set. Energy bars and bananas should also be standard items in your tennis bag on match days. They'll give you a quick boost when you start feeling fatigue set in. Similar to drinking, a bite here and there will often produce better results then munching down the whole bar between games.
Post match nutrition is essential to speedy recovery. You've just won your match and now it's time to celebrate with huge steak dinner...wrong. As soon as you can, eating a high quality carb-loaded meal will maximize muscle glycogen recovery that will activate protein synthesis in your muscles. You'll thank yourself when you roll out bed the next day and don't feel like the Tin Man. Think Mediterranean here. A plate of pasta with tomato sauce, olives (to replace lost sodium) and some lean meat (chicken, salmon) accompanied by some fresh greens is an example.
Part 2 - Match Preparation
You've got a match at 7pm and you speed into the parking lot at 6:55 with your shoelaces still untied. Hustling to get your gear together you step on the court at 7:02 feeling rushed and not anywhere remotely near "the zone" that we all crave to be in during our toughest matches. Your opponent, who got to the club a half hour early already has a huge leg up on you. When they arrived to club, the first thing they did was 5-10 minutes of meditation and visualization. Here, they settled their breathing into a deep, calming inhale/exhale, while running visuals in their mind of themselves playing at peak performance. They watched the easy rhythm of their service aces, and heard the chirp of their sneaks as they seemingly glided on the balls of their feet into perfect position on every shot. Nothing was rushed, they were on balance and the ball always landed in. Then they strolled out to the court and began a light warm-up consisting of a few minutes of jumping rope, followed by some forward, backward and lateral jogs around the perimeter of their side of the tennis court. Once they got their core temp up and had activated the big muscles in their legs, they took a few sips of water and did a couple of dynamic stretches followed by static ones. At about 6:55, as you were screeching into the parking lot, they were taking a quick look at some "tennis notes" they keep on their phone that are simple reminders of what they want to be thinking about while on the court. By the time you meet and shake hands, you're already down a couple of breaks as far as the odds go! Give yourself 20-30 minutes before the match to prepare and you'll be amazed at what happens.
Employ nutrition and match preparation the next time you want to get serious on the court. Your opponents won't know what hit them!