I played tennis yesterday in 91F/32.8C degree weather. I was dreading it because not only was it hot, but Louisville is in a river valley and is very humid (much like the Cincinnati Masters). I have had friends from less humid environments describe playing tennis here like playing tennis “inside of an aquarium.”
By the third set, my mobility and legs were not in a great spot because I could stand to be in better aerobic shape (keep in mind that I am a master of understatement). However, in the first two sets (we pay doubles and switch partners each set – I owe my 3rd set partner an apology), I played really well. I was hitting the ball with authority, able to change spins and directions during rallies, volleyed well etc. The biggest reason for this is that my spine was loose. Some of this had to do with it being so hot, but a lot of it had to do with cross training in recent weeks.
I am 43 and my flexibility is not what it was at say 30. One of my children has gotten interested in volleyball so simply doing drills with her has led me to stretching for shots as well as serving and spiking. I think my volleyball motions for serving and spiking are derivative of my tennis serve and overhead (probably not ideal from a volleyball perspective). However, doing this does open my shoulders and loosen my upper spine. Obviously, playing more tennis would be the best way to do this, but volleyball seems to help me stand tall on the court and feel looser in my shoulders and upper spine.
In terms of loosening my entire body, DDP Yoga does wonders. Again flexibility is not my strong suit, but doing this program (and probably any form of yoga) got me on court yesterday feeling like a hot and humid player in the zone. During warm-ups and the first two sets, I felt so free to move on the court. I cannot recommend this form of yoga enough to tennis players!
Time in a pool can oil up rusty joints
With summer here, I have been in the area swimming pool with my kids. It too has helped my spine feel longer and looser. This helps when serving, when needing to snap through the ball on an overhead, and when reaching for a poach at the net in doubles. Time in a pool can help give some oil to the Tin Man so to speak.
Obviously, playing two good sets is not my goal. While flexibility may have been addressed, I need some cross training to help me improve my mobility, my aerobic conditioning, and my body weight. I tend to prefer games in which I get exercise to time on a trail, track, or treadmill. In order to trick myself into doing this, I am thinking that basketball may be my best path forward. Of course, I could do 10 spider drills and feel a sense of dread ahead of time and exhausted satisfaction (deep despair?) when they are over.