Tennis is a start-and-stop sport made up of brief periods of intense play with rests in between. While a tennis match can be long, rallies seldom last more than a few seconds. This means tennis is primarily an anaerobic sport. Distance running is an aerobic activity, so at first glance it may seem like an unsuitable training method for tennis players. But distance running offers a number of benefits that may improve your performance on the court.
Playing tennis, like any other intense anaerobic activity, produces and builds up lactic acid, the stuff that makes your muscles burn. To remove lactic acid from your system, your body uses lots of oxygen. The greater your cardiovascular fitness, the more oxygen you can take in, transport and use. Distance running is an effective way to develop cardiovascular fitness.
Local Muscular Endurance
A long game of tennis, with its running, lunging and jumping, can really test your lower body muscular endurance. The sustained and repetitive action of distance running can help improve your lower body staying power, or endurance. Regular distance running training can help prevent your legs from becoming tired and heavy toward the end of a long tennis match.
Carrying extra weight can make your movements on the tennis court slower and more tiring. Imagine playing tennis while wearing a 20-pound insulated foam suit. Losing excess fat will make you a faster, fitter and more energetic tennis player. Long distance running, combined with a healthy eating plan, is an effective weight-control method.
A long tennis match can be physically and mentally exhausting. Tennis matches can last many hours -- the longest match on record being 11 hours and five minutes between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010. As well as being physically demanding, such prolonged effort requires mental toughness. Long distance running can help improve psychological fitness as well as physical fitness.
Distance running offers a number of benefits to tennis players but is only one part of the training required for successful tennis. Players should also work on speed, quickness, agility, strength, power and technique. Distance running is not a tennis cure-all and should be included only as a part of a well-balanced tennis-specific training program.
- Complete Conditioning for Tennis; Paul Roetert and Todd S. Ellenbecker
- Tennis Fitness for the Love of It: A Mindful Approach to Fitness for Injury-Free Tennis; Suzanna McGee
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.