We have all been there - work deadlines mount up, the social calendar fills and before you know it your racket is gathering dust in the cupboard under the stairs. Don't underestimate the challenge of getting back in the game! It may seem tempting to just grab your racket and expect to effortlessly reclaim your previous skill level. However, the reality is far from that.
It is not as easy as just picking up your racket, finding a court and finding your previous form. Inactivity will see the loss of base fitness levels, opening up the possibility of injury. So, before diving headfirst into the court, take a moment to consider the importance of gradual training and reconditioning your body.
Sweatband.com caught up with former British number 1 and now LTA coach Chris Wilkinson on his tips to help ease your return to the court.
How do I get back into tennis after a long break?
It is really important to work your way back slowly, don’t feel you have to over play early on as this will cause injury. It is also worth getting your fitness back to a reasonable level before picking up a racket. A lot of people make the mistake of going flat out too soon.
TIP: Focus on footwork and shadow tennis to start. Incorporating lateral movements across the caught and shuttle sprints towards the net and back.
How do I get back into shape for tennis?
Working on general fitness such as walking, running and cycling would be an easy way to start getting back into shape and ready for tennis.
TIP: Before entering the court again, it would be advisable to incorporate 3 x 30 mins of steady state exercise a week before upping the intensity of your exercise.
What equipment would you advise for someone getting back into tennis?
Choosing the right racket is important and depending on your level will determine what racket to use. Using a lighter racket for a beginner would be beneficial, with an approx weight of racket would be 250-285g.
I also think as important as rackets is getting the right shoes to wear. When you haven’t played and are returning to the game, many players get blisters very easily by wearing the wrong shoe, I would advise wearing a comfortable pair to begin with.
TIP: Look for an equipment provider that can cater for your experience level (beginner, advanced, intermediate) or stroke play (compact, moderate, long).
What other sports or activities will help me get back into tennis?
Obviously as mentioned general fitness will help and anything that involves good eye coordination exercises will also be of benefit, this might simply be some throwing and catching exercises in the garden.
Other sports that will help tennis would be Squash, Badminton and table tennis as these all involve receiving a moving ball similar to tennis.
TIP: If it isn’t just hand eye coordination that concerns you, why don’t you look for a sport that helps you with court positioning? Whether it is playing 5-a-side football, netball or basketball.
How long will it take me to redevelop my game after a break from tennis?
A lot depends on how well you learn and how often you play. If you play at least a couple of times a week it could take you a couple of months to redevelop your game. The main question will revolve around the reason for playing. Is it for leisure? Competition? Or just for general fitness?
How do I recover from tennis once I have taken the plunge again?
It is important to warm up and warm down properly before and after tennis, just using some simple stretching exercises will help you recover. Tennis will work the majority of muscles within your body, so a full-body stretching routine or even a yoga session once or twice a week will help you recover and remain mobile.
TIP: When talking about taking the plunge, why not incorporate some swimming into your recovery? Also, do not forget about nutrition. With increased activity it is not only important to be eating the right amount of food,but the right types of food to fuel your recovery. For further credit, pick up a foam roller and use after your tennis sessions.
Where is the best place to pick up a racket again? A club? A leisure centre? A local court?
Playing at your local club is the best way to start up again. It isn’t not too expensive and easy to travel to. Follow the link to see which club is near you.
I would also suggest contacting your local coach to get some coaching when starting up just so you know what you are doing when stepping on the court. This might be individual lessons or group coaching or even a combination of both.
During the Winter you might also want to consider joining an indoor centre or outdoor floodlit courts.
To sum it up
Although there can be significant barriers to picking up your tennis racket after a long lay off, once you have eased yourself back into playing, the benefits are countless. If you want to pick up a new tennis racket suited to your playing style or experience, or want to get the lowdown on the best tips and tricks on the court, check out our tennis section or our tennis features.