After missing almost the entire spring tennis season, players are eager to take to the local courts and get in some tennis this summer as the sport resumes in the Mid-Atlantic. However, long absences from tennis may mean approaching getting back onto the court differently than you may be used to, both physically and with the equipment you use.
As part of our #ServeItForward campaign, USTA Mid-Atlantic has teamed up with some local experts and tennis business owners – featured on the #ServeItForward business list – to bring you tips and info that can help you get back into tennis.
First up, we talked with LaRue Cook, Owner/Managing Member of LEC Fitness, LLC. LaRue has more than 24 years of sports performance training experience and has served as consultant and trainer to various tennis, golf, fitness, and health organizations and programs such as Army-Navy Club and Aspen Hill Racquet Club. Additionally, he has written/contributed a number of articles for publications and organizations such as the International Tennis Performance Association, Tennis View Magazine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. His articles covered topics such as Tennis Fitness and Conditioning, Injury Prevention for Athletes, Post-Rehab Training, and Strength and Conditioning for Female Athletes.
LaRue knows firsthand the powerful effect of post-rehabilitation strength and conditioning. During his senior year of high school, LaRue was on track to play collegiate baseball when he suffered a rotator cuff injury. He was unable to continue playing and was in significant pain for years until he started post-rehabilitation strengthening exercises. The strengthening exercises specifically targeted the muscles surrounding his injury and allowed him to regain the strength and movement necessary to return to sports.
In the years since LaRue returned to playing sports, he took up tennis.
“I primarily compete in USTA-sanctioned tournaments,” LaRue says. Last year he represented the Mid-Atlantic Section at the NTRP National 50+ Championships in Surprise, AZ, and ranked in the Top 10 of the Mid-Atlantic Men’s 4.0 Adult [18+] Singles for more than 10 years.
With all of LaRue’s experience as a tennis player and professional in sports training, USTA Mid-Atlantic asked him for a few tips for getting back out on the courts in the summer months and after an absence from regularly playing.
Here are his top three tips:
Tip #1: Warm up by doing a series of dynamic stretches
During the summer tennis season, a common misconception is that the warm weather outside is an adequate warm-up for playing sports or exercise. However, your body does not function this way. The best and most effective way to warm up your major muscles and joints is to perform dynamic stretches.
Dynamic stretches are a series of repetitive motions that increase your range of motion and slightly increase your core temperature. These stretches are used for warming up the muscles and loosening the joints to prepare them for a strenuous workout.
Try this quick, 5-minute warm-up consisting of side shuffles, backpedal jog, power skip plus reach, and walking knee to chest.
Tip #2: Do not underestimate how heat can affect your body
Heat can be harmful during the summer tennis season and conditions ranging from muscle cramping to heat exhaustion can creep up on players. Therefore, it is especially important to stay hydrated by drinking at regular intervals to replace some of the fluids the body loses through sweating. Equally as important is to cover up with clothing and sunscreen. Light-colored, breathable clothing and sunscreen of at least 30 SPF will protect the skin and help your body stay cool while on the court.
Tip #3: Take it easy the first few times you return to court
During the last several months, many of us have not been as active as we normally would be and because of this, we may have all regressed in our ability to play tennis. Do not return to the court expecting that you will immediately perform at the same level of play you had prior to the pandemic shutdowns. Take it easy and be patient with your body as it gets used to being active again.
LaRue’s final nugget of advice: “Remember, the most important piece of equipment you ALWAYS take out onto the court with you is your body. Tune it up through exercise and conditioning before trying to go ‘full tilt’ back into the competition!”
USTA Mid-Atlantic hopes that these excellent tips will help your body adjust to getting out to play!
USTA Mid-Atlantic invites everyone to #ServeItForward both on and off-court, and get involved in helping to support tennis in the Mid-Atlantic Section as part of the recovery process we’ll all need. Learn more about how you can #ServeItForward and support the USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, as we bring the healing power of tennis to our Mid-Atlantic community.
Let us know how you or your tennis friends #ServeItForward by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.