Eight ways to maintain your tennis motivation

Published by Allistair McCaw

Ana Ivanovic has maintained her motivation despite a number of frustrating years on Tour. Photo: Getty Images
Maintaining enthusiasm is one of the biggest challenges for any athlete undertaking a training program. Sports performance coach Allistair McCaw covers eight tips to help keep your motivation high.

No matter what your level or status, maintaining motivation in a training program can be a challenge. There will be days when you just don’t feel motivated to train and periods where it’s tempting to slack off.

As a former professional athlete and now a performance coach, there are eight tips I’d recommend to keep you on track and motivated for continued improvement.

1. Attach a deadline
Set a goal, a target or specific event. Training for a specific event or competition brings about a sense of urgency, keeping you motivated and less likely to miss a practice or workout. By signing up for an event well in advance, you’ve also made a financial commitment, which is no small consideration. Once you’ve signed up, let everyone know. This keeps you motivated since you’ve publicly pledged to do it.

2. Be accountable
It’s easy to blow off a practice or workout when nobody is expecting you to show. It’s a lot tougher to do so when you have a training partner or group expecting you. The social aspect of working out helps for a lot of people in general. More importantly, it provides the accountability you need to stay motivated.

3. Be flexible
As a former professional athlete, I know what it’s like to face an ambitious training session on a day when the drive and energy level isn’t there. Rather than dragging myself through it, I would sometimes plan to do something shorter or less strenuous. It’s not that I was backing out, but rather being flexible to how the body and mind felt. Once I started, I often found the energy level kicking in and was able to tackle my original workout plan.

4. Plan ahead
It’s easy to rationalise missing a practice or workout because you forgot your clothes or don’t have time to rush home to get workout gear. Stay motivated and on course by laying clothes out the night before and keeping extra gear in your car. I keep extra clothes, towels and even energy bars in my car, so that if I get a gap in the middle of the day or I’m on my way home from work, I can stop off at the gym or go to the courts.

5. Mix it up
The last thing you want to do is make your training routine, day in day out, the same grind. Sometimes, especially with professional level athletes, it can become like this. As a trainer, I always like to mix things up. For example, I’ve taken athletes like Xavier Malisse, a professional tennis player, to the beach for a ‘surprise’ six kilometre race, Michaella Krajicek has completed a full triathlon, LPGA pro golfer Jessica Korda likes to box, or the current world No. 1 squash player David Nicol and former no. 2, Nat Grinham had boot camps in the forest. Don’t be afraid of change and be sure to vary your training to constantly stimulate your body and mind.

6. Get out of the comfort zone
I tell the clients or athletes I work with to be aware of the comfort zone. If you are comfortable where you are, then you’re not progressing – you’re simply maintaining or cruising along. Obviously there are days that should be recovery planned days, but to improve you need to push yourself as well. Raise the ladder, to raise the performance level. It’s easy to get into a comfort zone, so keep challenging yourself to keeping track of things and also doing something that you wouldn’t normally do.

7. Track your progress
The first thing I tell an athlete or client to do is to keep a training journal or book to record their training and track progress. I kept log books for 14 years during my career as an athlete and can go back to every single day of those 14 years to see what my heart rate, weight, training session, route, location and effort was. You don’t need to be that extreme, but it’s important to keep a diary to see what has worked for you or what hasn’t. Also, just like investing, seeing that progress helps keep you motivated and on track.

8. Find your rhythm
Maybe you’re not lacking motivation, just timing. Some people will never be “morning people” while others know that if they don’t do their work out in the morning, it will never happen. Some people can’t imagine training after a long day at work while others need that time to de-stress before heading home.

Having worked with an array of athletes and sports, I’ve discovered that each one has different preferable times during the day for working out. I also learnt, as a coach, that to get the best from my athlete, I would schedule their sessions to the time of day they responded best.

But, getting back, once you discover when you’re most motivated to train, that’s going to knock down another barrier for you, and help you stay motivated.

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