The Best Running Schedule to Get in Shape for Tennis

Tennis players should avoid jogging during the season.
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While jogging might be a good way to get in shape for other sports, it’s probably best to save it for the offseason -- if you do it at all -- if you’re a tennis player. The nearer you are to an important tennis match, the closer your training should mirror the demands of the sport, and that means interval training, or short, intense bursts of running. Planning a running schedule for tennis will rely on knowing when you want to peak in terms of physical conditioning.

Off-Season Running Schedule

Because aerobic running is so different from the way you run during a tennis match and can interfere with your performance, it’s best to save this type of running for your offseason, if at all. If you are not playing matches or doing other any other type of training, aim for at least 30 minutes of nonstop running at a vigorous intensity every other day. Talk while you are running to make sure you aren't running too fast, or in your anaerobic energy zone.

Pres-Season and In-Season Running Schedule

Once you have an aerobic base, sprint training can help you maintain it. If you jog, stop doing so at least a month before your season starts to focus on training your anaerobic conditioning. After a tough tennis match, give yourself 24 to 48 hours to recover instead of getting back on the court and training. On non-practice days, perform 10 to 15 minutes of high-intensity interval sprints. If you are not in tennis shape, start with 30 seconds of sprinting, followed by two or more minutes of walking. As you increase your fitness, raise your sprints to 60 seconds, then 90 seconds. Take one or two days off from practice or sprint-training before a tournament to let your body recover and regenerate. You can do some light hitting, but don’t run hard, play sets or otherwise perform high-impact, intense exercise. Sprint training is also appropriate for offseason conditioning.

Footwork Drills

In addition to running in a straight line for sprints, add footwork drills that require you to run forward and back, side to side and on an angle. If you consider footwork drills, such as using a rope ladder or performing spider drills, a type of running, you will cover very little distance while making many quick steps. Work hard for 30 seconds, then recover for 90 seconds. Perform this type of training after practices or on off days. Perform each drill three times during your workouts, and at least three times each week.

Suggested Running Drills

Perform a spider drill, starting from the center service mark, running on a 45-degree angle forward to the left sideline at the service line, then back to the baseline. Run to the middle of the court, then back, then to the right sideline and back. When you are done, jog to the other side of the court, then repeat. Vary this drill by running all the way to the net, then backward.

Perform “suicides” by starting on one side of the court at the outside doubles line. Touch the adjacent doubles line, then go back and touch the first line. Run to the center service box line, then run back to the first line. Continue running from line to line on one court or two. Take one minute to recover, then repeat the drill. Do three sets.

Try ladder drills moving forward and backward and side to side. Run across one or two courts using the biggest steps you can, then walk back and repeat two more times. Try to run for balls hit just out of your reach to improve your speed. Start at the middle of the court on the baseline. Have a partner feed a ball to your forehand that is too far for you to reach. Try to hit the ball, even if you know you can’t get to it. If your range is 18 feet, you won’t be able to hit a ball fed 20 feet away from you, but eventually, your range might increase to 19 feet even if you never hit a ball during the drill. Go for six feeds, take a short break, then do six balls to your backhand. Repeat the drill three times.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Systems

Sports that require short bursts of high-intensity movements, such as tennis, rely on your fast-twitch fibers to create explosive movements. Unlike aerobic exercise, anaerobic training burns more glycogen than fat and helps you train your ability to recover after each tennis point, which is critical for tennis players. If you run slow and steady for 15 minutes or longer, you call on your body’s aerobic energy system. You burn more calories from fat than when you run short, anaerobic sprints. You also recruit the slow-twitch fibers in your muscles, which are responsible for power, not speed.

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