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Stretching Exercises

Q. “As I'm nearing 40, I'm finding my muscles are aching more and more. I play about twice a week and can't decide if breaks are good or bad for recovery. Can anyone recommend any stretching exercises that may help? Thanks."

From Robin, Suffern, NY:

Yoga stretches are great for tennis; they help to build strength, balance and flexibility. The deep breathing that goes along with yoga poses also helps to calm the mind and increase focus. Try the following yoga poses to help your tennis game:

~ Triangle pose: tones legs, alleviates stiffness in legs and hips

~ Warrior II: tones ankles, knees and abs; relieves shin splints and tight hamstrings/calves

~ Downward facing dog: rejuvenating/energizing pose; relieves stiffness

~ Chair pose: builds strength in thighs and ankles

~ Cow pose arms: helps to loosen the shoulders and wrists

See the pose finder on yogajournal.com for illustrations and step-by-step instructions for these poses.

Good luck!

From John L., Chicago, IL:

I'm into my 50s now (plus a bit overweight!), but I try and play about two or three times a week -- more in the summer if my wife will let me.

For me, I have really gotten a lot of benefit from using the Warrior I yoga pose. It gives me a great stretch in my calves, and by holding it for 30 seconds or more, it really helps me with my balance, too. I'm not really a yoga guy, but this really hits the achy spots and stretches them out pretty well.

From Anonymous:

I've been playing for 15 years now and realized that it gets harder to just walk on the court and play a match at 55 years young!

Always willing to try new techniques applied with common sense, I found several key elements that improved my strength and performance – stretching before, during and after a match, and drinking lots of water before, during and after a match (not sports drinks, but water).

These two components are a critical part of any athlete’s game to perform without strain or injury. Remember, it's the little things we do that make a big difference in our lives and how we perform!

From Coach Poppie, Palm Bay, FL:

Beth, welcome to the club. You are not alone. It’s great that you play twice a week. While nearing 40 does have a little to do with it, here are some easy questions to ask yourself:

~ Do I play tennis to get and stay in shape?

~ Am I in shape to play tennis?

~ Are these muscle aches from strain or normal out-of-shape use?

~ Does my recovery time take more than the morning after and get better as the day goes on?

~ Does your warm-up consist of slow to rapid movement, or do you hit balls around till you think you are ready to play?

Many people, when asked the question, “Why do you play tennis?” reply, “To get in and to stay in shape.” Yet they want to play like the pros.

Everybody needs recovery time. The question is for how long and why. You asked for stretching exercises. They are very important, but let’s take first things first.

Take a brisk 45-50 minute walk in which you are carrying your racket. Wear a watch that shows seconds. Practice taking your heart rate before starting your timed walk by finding a vein in your neck with a finger and counting the number of beats for 10 seconds as you continue to walk and multiply by 6 or for 6 seconds x 10. Formula: 220 – age 40 = maximum heart rate. At your maximum, you should be 85-100% of your Maximun Heart Rate (MHR).

At the 10-minute mark, check your heart rate. If you are in shape, you should be well below 180 beats per minute (bpm) at about 55-60% of your MHR, about 120 bpm. After 20 and 30 minutes, check again; you should be around 130 bpm /-. Then, at 40 minutes, if you were walking strong, you may be around 140-150 bpm. At any time you hit 150-155 bpm, stop and cool down. Had you been jogging for 30 minutes, the results happen faster and may reach 180 bpm quickly.

Warning: Should you hit 180 bmp within the first 10 minutes or you feel dizzy, ill, etc., STOP. See your doctor.

The point is, are you in shape to play tennis? If not, work on getting fit to play tennis with a workout such as Cardio Tennis. Cardio Tennis will put you in the right direction. It covers proper warm up, aerobic fitness and cool-down stretching. Just go to www.cardiotennis.com and find the location nearest you.

Also, if you are in great shape, stay in shape with Cardio Tennis. For years, most folks did stretching on cold muscles prior to and as part of their warming up. Today’s methods have proved that you need to warm up your muscles with slow to rapid movements for about 10 minutes prior to play. Follow your match play, workouts and lessons with about 10 minutes of muscle lengthening while your muscles are still warm. I suggest finding an area, whether courtside or off court, to start your warm-up by:

* With racket in hand, walking briskly, lifting the racket overhead and going through the service motion (alternate hands). Follow this with movement to the forehand, backhand and volleys.

* Picking up the pace as you move forward, backward and side to side. Get all your court movements aligned.

* Once on court, start in the service area with controlled ball movement, and use all of your strokes. Remember, this is a warm-up, not practice. You are warming up to play. Work your way to the baseline, then warm up your serve. A proper warm-up takes about 20 minutes total – 10 minutes physical warm-up plus 10 minutes eye-to-hand warm-up.

That is my suggestion. Good luck, and play more tennis.

From Lorna E., Cambridge, MA:

I am 65, and I do stretch sometimes. When I do have a match, I don't do all the warm-ups. You don't have to. Also, you can take over-the-counter Osteo Bi-Flex, Move Free, and these will keep you moving and also help the joints.

In reference to the warm-ups, the less they see the better.

I hope this has been helpful. Also, a nice hot shower and afterwards rubbing some Flex-all or Capizan, which is really good. I have seen a roll-on, and Icy Hot also has a roll-on.

Before I sign off, the pain patches are great, as you can wear them while you play, and no one will see them, depending where you need it.

Again, I hope this has been some help for you.

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