Ask The Doc

Why do I need to have endurance on the court if the distance I run for each shot is short?

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Tennis is classified as an ‘anaerobic’ sport, i.e., each individual point is of relatively short duration and each run during the point is of a short distance.  However, tennis is also classified as an ‘aerobic’ sport, meaning that the number of points and runs is large and recovery between each point is required.  Therefore, stamina or endurance, is one of the 4 “S’s” of complete conditioning for tennis.

There are 2 aspects of stamina/endurance.  The first is the ability of the heart (circulatory system) to efficiently provide oxygen to the tissues.  This allows the muscles to efficiently use the oxygen to do the work required in each point and over the length of the match, so you can be almost as “fresh” at the end of the match as you were at the start.  You can still run to the ball, hit it and last as long as necessary in the rally.  The second aspect of stamina is perhaps even more important- the ability to recover between points.  This allows the body systems to replenish energy and strength rapidly and efficiently, to be ready to play the next point, game and set.  Both aspects need to be trained - like the other “S’s”, you can’t completely achieve maximum stamina/endurance just from playing.  Also, stamina/endurance is more dependent upon hydration and fuel for optimum function.

Conditioning for stamina/endurance requires exposing the body to exercise for longer periods of time than for strength or speed and building in periods of recovery.  The most frequently suggested training times are at least 20 - 30 minutes and at least 3 - 4 times per week.  It has been suggested that 20 minutes can be obtained by exercising in several shorter periods of time that will add up to 20- 30 minutes, but most recommendations are to complete the time in one exercise episode.  The exercise resistance must be enough to raise the heart rate to a minimum level, depending on age and fitness level.  A common formula for determining the training heart rate involves subtracting your age from 220 (maximum possible heart rate) and multiplying it by 0.67 - 0.75, to get a satisfactory training range.  A good estimate of the ability to recover is to determine how long it takes your heart rate to return from maximum to baseline after a workout.  The target recovery range is between 20 and 60 seconds.  A good estimate of your baseline level of stamina/endurance is your resting heart rate.  A rate of 65 or lower is usually considered indicative of good stamina/endurance.  
Multiple types of exercise, including running, bicycling, rowing, aerobics, weightlifting and swimming, will elevate the heart rate to the desired level to achieve the training load to improve stamina.  The best training for tennis usually involves some type of running or lower body exercising because it closely mimics the challenges in tennis.  A common method of conditioning for tennis would include alternating jogging and sprinting (for stamina/endurance) with walking (for recovery), with the work/recovery time ratio of 3:1.  Because of the amount of time and effort in stamina/endurance training, warm up and cool down is important.  Adequate stretching should be performed and a gradual increase in exercise intensity should occur.  
For guidance on specific stretches, please refer to our previous article in the May 2021 USTAKY newsletter.

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