Venus Williams: How to Elevate Your Game

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Grand Slam champion. Entrepreneur. Fashion Icon. Philanthropist. Interior designer. Gold medalist. Movie producer. Force of nature.

Considering that Venus Williams can rightfully include all these illustrious descriptions in her bio, it would be easy to think she lives her life in a constant state of hustle. However, a lesser-known family nickname will quickly put any thoughts of the superstar being constantly on the go to bed. They call her Rip—as in Van Winkle. In fact, Williams calls 8-10 hours of sleep per night her "sweet spot."

Therefore, it wasn't surprising when we asked her if she had any tips for athletes who want to elevate their game. She quickly named quality sleep as the single most important factor.

"This probably doesn't come as a surprise, but my number one piece of advice for anyone preparing to be a competitive athlete is to invest in your sleep. Sleep is SO important— consistently getting quality sleep sets you up for success. You need a great pillow and a high-quality mattress with just the right balance of comfort and support. These small things make a big impact on how well you sleep, which then impacts the day you'll have when you wake." Williams said.

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It makes perfect sense that the seven-time Grand Slam winner is taking her love of shut-eye and combining it with her business acumen by partnering with GhostBed, an online mattress industry leader. GhostBed focuses on high-quality, low-cost sleep products, which is why Williams decided it was the right brand to create her own sleep collection with. Meet the Venus Williams Collection by GhostBed, a line curated by Williams designed to optimize your performance as it relates to sleep and recovery.

As someone with not only success and longevity in the demanding sport of pro-tennis but also several bankable ventures to her name, Williams is uniquely positioned to share her secrets on how she has been able to constantly elevate her game. So, the team at ACTIVE sat down and asked her to serve up her best tips.

Spoiler alert: It's more than just having a strong backhand.

Do you have a philosophy that guides how you approach your personal health to stay competitive at such an elite level?

Williams: Health is all about balancing your body and your mind. I keep my body fit by varying my workouts. Some people assume I'm just out on the tennis court all the time, but it's so important to mix things up. Cardio, strength training, biking, running, intervals… I do it all. But you can't forget about the mental aspects, either. You need to figure out what makes you feel confident, what motivates you, and how to stay balanced.

Is self-care off the court more important or at least equally important to elevating your game?

Williams: Absolutely. It's my job to be healthy, and it's a 24/7 job! The day has to start and end with quality sleep in order to positively affect how I train and play. That has a huge impact on my performance, so I make sure to prioritize rest. After a busy day, I always take a few moments to myself to relax. And then during the day, it's about making other healthy choices—eating the right foods to fuel my body, practicing gratitude, and finding ways to stay grounded.

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Is there anything you now know about how to eat, sleep, and train that you wish you knew when you were first getting started?

Williams: Eating, sleeping, and training are actually the easy part—it's the mental aspects that are more challenging. I learned from a pretty early age that if I wasn't feeling confident, I didn't play as well. I wish I had that all figured out earlier on, but to be honest, it's still something I'm working on. It can be as simple as what you're wearing during your workout, to the attitude you have when starting a new routine. Now, if I ever start doubting myself, I take a minute to relax and really appreciate what my body is capable of. Sometimes it just takes a mental reframe.

What kind of results and improvements can someone expect by applying these principles to their personal health and fitness regimens?

Williams: We have to remember that health and fitness is a long game. There are no quick fixes. One night of sleep won't change a lifetime of skimping on your health, so you really have to commit to a new lifestyle in order to experience a noticeable change. Stay consistent, but don't beat yourself up if you're not perfect. However, if you work at it every day and really hone in on what your goals are, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

It is clear that Williams is serious about sleep and how it affects performance. However, before we concluded our interview, we asked her for any additional tips or principles that she lives by. She left us with the following:

  • TLC - Even when I was a kid, I was reminded to give my body some TLC, to take breaks, and to not push it to its breaking point. I love getting sports massages. Foam rolling is amazing, too. Your body needs that extra care and attention to recover. And that's another reason why sleep is so important—that's when the magic happens!
  • A Balanced Diet - Following a balanced diet can make a huge difference in your overall performance. When I'm gearing up to train or play a match, it's all about the complex carbs. I love sweet potatoes and steamed rice. Outside of that, I focus on clean, plant-based foods. Don't forget that it's all about balance, too. Every now and then, you deserve a little splurge.
  • Mix it Up - I also love to mix up my workout routines. This is a great tip for athletes preparing for big events, but also anyone because it helps to keep you engaged and having fun. If you're doing strength training one day, go for a run the next. Finding variety in things you enjoy will help you stay consistent.
  • Find your Tribe - This might seem trivial, but I think it is really important to 'find your tribe'. Having people in your corner is so important. You need family, friends, and coaches who will work out with you, motivate you, and inspire you.
  • Prioritize your Mental Health - You've got to take care of your mental health. I'm so grateful that from an early age my parents insisted that I protect my mental health, and I believe that's had a huge impact on my success. You really have to be proactive about it, too. Whether that's talking to a professional, making for self-care, or simply prioritizing your sleep, taking care of your mind goes hand in hand with caring for your body. There will always be a million things to do in a day, but they can wait!
  • Grace - Finally, give yourself some grace. Please. Even as a professional athlete, you can't push yourself 24/7. Just like there's room for balance in your diet, aim for the same with your workouts. Don't have it in you for today? Take a rest day. Do something fun with family or friends. Take a long nap.

As a society and especially as athletes, we often believe that the recipe for success consists of nothing but hustling and going hard 24/7. However, Williams goes to show that the actual ingredients of a successful life are found by adding a dash of grace, a sprinkle of TLC, and a heaping helping of sleep.

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Meet the Venus Williams by GhostBed Collection
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