Training Tips for the Aging Player

Aging is something we all have to deal with.

It's true that with every decade of life after age 25, we lose approximately 10 percent of our muscle capacity and our mental capacity. Now, before those of you over 25 go into depression, here is the good news: This is only true IF you don't train.

Studies have demonstrated that, if you train properly in the respective dimensions, people in their 90s can still build muscle and their brain cells can keep growing. The key, however, is that the individual still has to train and, as the aging process takes place, the work becomes harder.

Max VO2 decreases with age so the athlete must train harder aerobically to maintain his or her heart-lung capacity and thus the ability to recover in the short time intervals between points.

Strength and flexibility must be a big part of the individual's training regimen as muscles become less pliable with age and the dedication to improvement in these areas has to go up.

Finally, there is the entire process of recovery after the match. The bodies of these athletes will not recover as quickly following a long match so nutrition becomes incredibly important as does other mechanisms to help the body recovery. This could include massage therapy (and other modalities), sleep, hydration, all the way to the preparation and warm up for the next day's match.

At the end of the day, winning matters--and it matters big time! But, in the heat of the moment, great performers simply love the fight they are in right now. They are not afraid to lose and they know that winning (or losing) will take care of itself, as long as they play to the best of their potential.

This thinking enables them to hit a great shot on the run when down in a match. My partner, Jim Loehr, coined a phrase many years ago that I believe fits here: They learn to "Savor the moment and love the battle." That's what keeps them coming back to the gym for workouts, staying longer than anyone else to stretch more afterward and to the practice court day after day.

And, then, when they mature in their training and really learn what life on the tennis court is all about, they become literally profound in how they view their training.

Just take a look at this quote attributed to Andre Agassi in response to his performance at the U.S. Open and why he has trained so hard:

"A strong body listens. It obeys. A weak body commands. If your body is weak, it tells you what to do. If you're body is strong, it'll actually listen to you when you tell it to do something. If you build it right, you can overcome some of the obstacles of age and recovery."

I believe that says it all.

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Dr. Jack L. Groppel is the co-founder of the Human Performance Institute and the vice president of the USPTA National Board of Directors. To learn more, visit

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