Fitness Facts

The legendary tennis player Margaret Court is credited with being the first woman player to use physical conditioning and training to improve her on-court performance. In the 1960s and 70s, Court was unique to work on that aspect of her game.

Martina Navratilova took fitness training to another level in the 1970s, and soon other women players took up the challenge. Today fitness preparation is an essential part of every elite tennis and Beach Tennis player’s routine.

Physical “fitness” is the overall condition of the body of an athlete. It includes:

- Endurance: the ability to keep going at low intensity for long time without getting tired; and to manage short bursts of high intensity activity over a long time.
- Speed: to react swiftly to a ball; to accelerate and move quickly around the court.
- Agility: to rapidly change direction, and to quickly stop and start while moving.
- Strength: the amount of force a muscle can produce.
- Flexibility: the extent to which a muscle or joint can safely move or stretch.

What Qualifications does a “Fitness Trainer” need?

The key to understanding fitness is the science of exercise physiology. Exercise physiologists, also known as sports scientists, are responsible for the research and knowledge about how the human body develops the characteristics described above.

From laboratory to on-field testing, exercise physiologists uncover the physical requirements to athletic success. This information is the foundation of all on-court and fitness training methods and is taught in accredited courses.

Physiotherapists, Certified Athletic Trainers, some coaches and fitness trainers have normal (university level) sports sciences education. National certification programs exist for fitness trainers in most countries. The programs are usually for people who already have a University Degree and include courses, exams and internships.

Making the right choice for you… confused?

Fitness and personal trainers can have many names depending on what qualification they hold. For example: Strength and Conditioning Coach, Exercise Physiologist, and Physical Educator are common names.

Certification programs may vary greatly depending on the content and duration of the course work. This can be confusing when trying to make a decision about who to seek advice from

To help you, ensure the person you choose has:

- Professional Education in an appropriate specialisation.
- Experience with athletes.
- Additional useful qualifications (optional).
- Personal qualities: good communicator, professional, honest, supportive.
- Professional insurance coverage.
- A method to evaluate when you reach your goals.
- References - happy former clients who will support their credibility.
- Evidence of recent continuing education e.g. conferences, journals.
- Current CPR certificate.
- A plan that meets your performance goals.
- Current accreditation and member of professional association.

Expect the Best

The “Dos”

What do you expect your fitness trainer to do? When you make your selection there are some essential “dos” and “don'ts” that you need to consider:

A qualified fitness trainer will:

- Apply scientific principles of periodisation to meet your goals and perform at your best for tournaments.

They will know that periodisation involves:

- Macro cycles (in the preparation and pre-season time when you are off the road) include aerobic base and strength training. This time is appropriate to work on technical adjustments and ensure full recovery and rehabilitation of any injuries.

- Micro cycles (during the competitive year) include programs to maintain strength and endurance; include balance and tactical training; and incorporate your therapeutic exercises as prescribed by the PHCPs. Volume will vary according to the amount of matches you play, with less intensity and frequency when you play more matches.

- Understand the principles of “core stability” and include your therapeutic exercises into your regular fitness program.

- Recognise when and how it is appropriate to work with you in and out of competition.  Time spent training to build the fitness base is NOT at tournaments. Your training in competition phase at tournaments will focus on maintenance, such as helping with warm-ups/cool-downs, Ther-Ex programs, stretching etc.

- Fully evaluate all aspects of your fitness to ensure an individual training program.

- Use a monitoring system to make occasional adjustments to your programs to accommodate any injuries or illnesses.

- Comply with the Tennis Anti-Doping Rule and refer all questions regarding supplements/over the counter medicines to IDTM.

- Include Rest and Recovery days and phases. This “R&R” is scientifically recognised as one of the main underestimated factors in effective training.

- Recognise and act early if signs and symptoms of over training occur. The fitness trainer should understand and use tools such as training diaries, and monitor resting heart rate.

Top Tip: It’s a good idea to have a few workouts together before you commit to working with someone to make sure their approach and personality suits you.

The “Don'ts”

A qualified fitness trainer will not:

- Provide advice in areas in which they are not certified. For example, massage therapy; sports nutrition and psychology all require separate University level qualifications. Reputable fitness and personal trainers will refer their player to health care professionals to provide health care advice or recommend specialist consultants.

- Reading materials or working alongside other professionals does NOT qualify any fitness trainer to proved advice outside their area of expertise.

- Give advice about or administer nutrition and supplements. DO NOT take anything without having it checked by IDTM, or you risk ingesting a banned substance and testing positive in the Tennis Anti-Doping program.

- Make false claims. Unfortunately there are individuals in the fitness area who will claim unrealistic results; claim to work with elite athletes; or develop a “guru” like status.  Is it just talk?

The information provided within this Physically Speaking topic is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice.  If you have any health or related questions or concerns, please contact your medical advisor.

Reproduced by kind permission from WTA Tour.