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Tennis Anyone?

Cross Training

Quick Guidelines for New Sports

  • Start slow. Don't assume you can jump right into a new sport on your first day.
  • Find a group or class.
  • Learn about the sport; do your research.
  • Find out what the common injuries are for that sport and how to avoid them.
  • Do something fun. Enjoy yourself!


Why Should You Crosstrain?

Crosstraining is the use of another sport (or sports) to enhance training in one's primary sport, tennis in this case. Crosstraining builds your "non-tennis" muscles, rests your "tennis" muscles while maintaining (or gaining) cardiovascular fitness, and provides balance to your muscle groups.

Who Can Benefit from Crosstraining?

Almost every player can benefit, in some way, from crosstraining.

As mentioned before, crosstraining can be useful to just about any player.

What Counts as Crosstraining?

A lot of activities count as crosstraining for tennis players. Here is a list of some (but certainly not all):
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Strength (or Weight) Training
  • Yoga
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Skating
  • Water Jogging
  • Biking
  • Spinning
  • Elliptical
  • Race Walking
  • Fitness Walking
  • Other Sports

Swimming focuses on the upper body and general conditioning. It can help you relax and recover after long or hard workouts. Swimming provides an aerobic workout without being a weight-bearing exercise.

Rowing also focuses on the upper body, as well as the abdomen. This can be useful for players who have played for years and are interested in both learning a new sport and balancing their upper body and core area with the strength they have earned in their legs. Kayaking and canoeing are also great alternatives for rowing.

Strength training can focus on keeping your legs strong during an injury or on strengthening unbalanced muscle groups (either upper body or the front of the leg, wherever you need). (Strength training is doing exercise that use your own weight for resistance (like pushups), whereas weight training is using weights for resistance (like bicep curls with hand weights).

Yoga can be used in much the same way as strength training, since some poses use your body weight as resistance to strengthen your muscles. For example, "downward dog" pose strengthens your upper body through this means of resistance, while it also stretches and lengthens your spine, hips, and hamstrings. So, not only can yoga be used as a complete body strength training routine, it also is useful for stretching and conditioning all your "running" muscles. It can also be a nice way to relax from a long run or a hard day at work.

Cross-country skiing is another great complete body workout. It incorporates upper body, lower body, and core strengthening with an aerobic workout, and, if done in the snow instead of the gym, it can be a great way to connect with nature and prevent boredom. It can also be an alternative to running in the snow if you live in or are visiting a snowing climate.

Skating, whether roller/inline or ice, can be a good alternative to running as well. It works the lower body in much the same way, but also uses the "sideways" muscles that tennis players especially need to work.

Water jogging is a wonderful alternative for hot weather or injured runners. It requires the use, if done correctly, of all your running muscles, but, since you are in the water, it is no-impact and cool.I replace half of my normal runs with water jogging. I even do my sprints and speed work in the water.

Biking and spinning do focus on the lower body, but not necessarily on the "running" muscles. Adding biking, whether cycling, spinning, or mountain biking is your favorite, into your routine can add interest, maintain (or gain) cardiovascular fitness, and balance out the muscles in your leg by working the quadricep and shin muscles. (I suggest mountain biking for the adventurous! Also by adding mountain biking and kayaking into your routine, you've open yourself up to a new sport, Adventure Racing! Or, add cycling and swimming and become a triathlete!)

Elliptical machines at the gym or in your home offer an alternative for nasty weather or for injured runners who can still run, but need no-impact. Stair-steppers are good for this too, but may build up your "running" muscles too quickly without building your "non-running" muscles fast enough. If you crosstrain using an elliptical machine, you should spend at least 1/4 of the time you workout going backwards (running backwards) to work the front of the leg.

Race walking and fitness walking also work your "running" muscles without as much impact. Most often these workouts are used as alternatives to running, not as extra days, since they work a lot of the same muscles. Don't think though that since you can run 10 miles, you can walk 10 miles (especially walk 10 miles fast) because the activities do use different muscles. Your bum and hips may find that after 10 miles of 15 min/mi walking they are in quite a bit of pain. So, ease into it at first.

Other sports, like hockey, baseball, golf, and basketball, work the whole body and allow for plenty of socializing.

Cross training can benefit nearly all players by:
  • balancing muscle groups
  • boosting cardiovascular fitness
  • reducing chances of injury
  • keeping boredom away
  • giving injuries proper time to recover.

It is important to understand how to incorporate crosstraining into your routine and how to decide which sport or sports to incorporate. Reasons for picking a certain sport vary greatly, but could be:

  • it's a sport you enjoy
  • it's a sport you've always wanted to try
  • it works muscle groups you want to work/strengthen
  • it works muscle groups or is a cardiovascular workout that avoids/rests your recovering injury.

Injured players can crosstrain as often as they want, as long as their doctors allow; crosstraining can be used as a replacement for tennis in this case

Beginning and recovering players should alternate days of crosstraining, rest, and running to gain the most benefit. Experienced runners (those who run almost daily and/or those who have run for many years) can use blocks (run and then crosstrain on the same day) or substitute crosstraining for one or two of their runs to prevent boredom and injury.

"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself." -William Faulkner