Tennis is Good for Runners

Novak Djokovic reaches across the court in the French Open, June 2013.

Novak Djokovic reaches across the court in the French Open, June 2013.

Tennis cross-training tips from’s in-house personal trainer, Steve Haywood:

After all great sporting occasions there is a big increase in people having a go at the particular sports that have filled the screen, or in fact they have been lucky enough to see live.

At the moment, the UK is hosting one of the sporting world’s greatest annual events, the best tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon. Tennis in the UK has not traditionally had large numbers of people flocking to the courts but participation is on the increase and during and after Wimbledon that number will swell.

For all runners of any ability there may be questions in having a go at a sport which seems very different, certainly most tennis players will run as part of their training but how about the other way round? The simple answer is there are lots of advantages to tennis helping your running as a type of cross training exercise.

We are all blessed with a proportion of slow and fast twitch fibres within our muscles, slow fibres being employed mostly for endurance events like running and fast fibres for more explosive and speed events like sprinting.

Tennis uses a healthy mix – with its short bursts across court, for instance, but also a full game that can last hours. So runners would be getting the endurance aspect of time on their legs but with short bursts thrown in, ideal training for those busy half marathons and 10k’s where you are constantly in and out of runner traffic, avoiding tripping up and having to vary pace.

Another aspect of tennis is all the change in direction, driving off one foot and back to the other, leaping and almost squatting and also the use of the upper body – even if the racket hand and arm get the lion’s share of the work. This employs all major muscle groups, strengthens tendons and ligaments, improves co-ordination and reflexes thus providing a first class workout. All of this will help in making a more balanced runner and to some degree could help in avoiding injury.

The conclusion is that tennis is good for runners. However, as with any introduction to a new sport or re visiting the sport after a long break, use common sense. Always warm up, don’t do more than you can sensibly manage to begin with, seek some coaching if you keep the tennis going and stretch after every session, just the same as after a run.

Last but the most important aspect in any sport, enjoy it!

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