The Secret to Cardio Training for Better Tennis

Cardio is a huge factor in any tennis match. After a tough point, there is a good chance that you are breathing hard. One hard run can hinder your effort level for the next point or the rest of the game.

On the other hand, a well-trained player can recover quickly from one point to the next and give full effort on every play. Watch Roger Federer play. Even after the toughest points, full of running, he barely breaks a sweat! Well before the next point begins, he is calm and ready to go again.

It’s enough to make you wonder: what’s his secret?


Federer’s superior level of conditioning allows him to focus on his shot selection and power instead of reserving energy to make it through the match. This should be every tennis player’s goal.

The First Step to a Cardio Training Plan: Data

To start working toward it, it helps to have some data on where you currently are. We love MyZone because it offers the most complete, accurate data for tennis players. It can really help you improve your game, your fitness level, and your recovery time (aka: less soreness & tiredness!)

When you go out to play, wear your MyZone strap for the entire match. After you are done playing, look over the heart rate data. Was your first 10 minutes in Zone 1 (blue) and 2 (green) before hitting Zone 3 (yellow) or higher (red)? If so, congrats! You warmed up properly.

If not, focus more on a light warm up.

Does the data show you mostly stayed in Zone 1 (Blue)? Consider increasing your effort level. Otherwise, you won’t get all the cardiovascular benefits of regular tennis. Some ways to do this are moving more, and going after more balls. Be more active in your court positioning. Even in a doubles point where you didn’t get a single touch on the ball, you can move quickly for strategic positioning.

A particularly tough and close match may show you were mostly in Zone 3 and Zone 4. Look for these extended periods of high heart rates. It is these tough matches where your true conditioning level is exposed. A well-trained player would still expect times of high rates … followed by a drop back down shortly after. It’s how quickly you can drop back down that is a great indicator of your conditioning and your ability to stay in a match.

Think of Djokovic playing his masterful defense, sprinting all over the court, to then start the next point calm and collected once again. This level of conditioning, and speed of recovery, can separate a good player from a great player.

After your match, did you stay in Zone 1 for at least 5 minutes? If not, this means you skipped the crucial cooldown.

The Key to the Plan: Effort & Timing

Don’t be fooled. It’s not just pros who have such physical conditioning. Every player can achieve spectacular cardiovascular conditioning; it just takes a specific plan and a dedicated work ethic. As a Tennis Performance Specialist, I’ve been trained to help design a plan to address the specific demands of a tennis match, to help get you in the best shape for tennis.

The first step is effort level. Effort is the key to reaping the benefits from your cardio training. On-court cardio takes serious effort, beyond just lightly pedaling a bike. What you need to remember is that your off-court training should be more challenging than your on-court effort. By doing this, your body is more than prepared for the exertion on the court and you are better able to focus on technique and strategy instead of catching your breath. This helps you perform better, feel better after, and prevent injury – so you can play for the long run.

The next step is timing. During tennis points, there are 5-20 seconds where you are expending tons of energy to run around to each ball and hit strong shots. Each point is followed by 10-30 seconds of recovery, until the next serve. After 8 to 18 points (2 full games no ad), you will need a longer recovery during changeover. Knowing this information, we can structure your cardio workouts to prepare your hearts to meet this demand.

Off-court workouts that will increase your conditioning require intervals of great effort to achieve a heart rate of 85-95% of your max, followed by monitoring your ability to quickly decrease your heart rate back into the 70% range. That sounds like a lot of measuring and math, but using your MyZone makes it easy – another reason we love it.

I always wear my MyZone when I train cardio. It is crucial that you know your exact effort level because conditioning is a science. That’s the only secret the pros have: they know this, and train for it.

You can’t fool your body into conditioning by simply thinking you are working hard when you really aren’t. A MyZone helps ensure you’re doing it. Make sure to wear yours to help you train at the correct effort level.

To receive a sample of one of my recommended Cardio Training Plans for Tennis, click here.

Introducing Myzone March Madness!

Robin Robertson, BTTC Co-Owner

Robin Robertson, BTTC Co-Owner

We know it can be easy to get in to a rut with your fitness routine. That’s why we host MYZONE MADNESS each March! It’s a fun way to “level up” - go a little harder and reap the benefits in your waistline, your strength, and your stamina.

I have heart rate trained for more than 10 years and have found it is one of the most important pieces of information I can get while exercising. I SEE when I need to pull back or push a little harder to reach my goals. I find it EASY to use, it’s FUN to earn points, and it has led to my heart getting STRONGER and more resilient.


MYZONE is a unique fitness heart-rate monitoring system that accurately tracks your effort levels during physical activity to keep you motivated and engaged. This improves personalized results and allows you to workout at intensity levels that are right for your fitness level and goals.

MYZONE also utilizes a fun point system that rewards effort and not fitness. This amps up the competition so that through challenges, badges, status rankings, goal-setting, and social accountability aspects, you have fun while you work out.


Strap on your MYZONE belt prior to any physical activity inside or outside of BTTC to track calories burned, heart rate, duration of activity, and more.

Wear your MYZONE belt inside BTTC and look for the displays throughout the club. Your information will be streamed real-time to these displays in the form of a color-coded tile that will show you how much effort you're exerting at that particular moment.

Pair your MYZONE MZ-3 belt to the free MYZONE app, which serves as your portable tile. You can stream your activity, upload your data, and review your results right from your smartphone. In addition, the app allows you to monitor your activity calendar, workout graphs, and challenges, as well as upload your before and after photos and keep a picture food diary.

Your personalized MYZONE tile is full of helpful information to keep you working hard. It displays your name, calories burned, zone color, effort level, heart rate, and MYZONE Effort Points (MEPs) earned.

The color of your tile represents the zone you're working in according to your effort level. MYZONE Effort Points (MEPs) are awarded for every minute spent exercising in a particular zone. High zones indicate more effort, which translates into more MEPs.

Why do you want to track your heart rate?
You heart is your most important muscle! Many people don’t think about “training” for your heart - but by becoming aware of your effort and your heart’s response, you can make BIG changes that will improve your heart function. AND THAT is important for LIFE. 


March Fitness Tip: RELAX!

BTTC Fitness Director Tyler Brown

BTTC Fitness Director Tyler Brown

Focus on these three things next time you’re running, walking, on the elliptical, or doing another form of cardio, and you’ll ensure your joints aren’t just getting pounded, risking pain and even injury.

Instead, do this and your muscles will do the work, and you’ll be stable, you’ll feel strong, and you’ll better resist injury.

While you’re doing cardio, remember to drop and relax your shoulders, keep your core engaged and make sure your glutes are working.

If your shoulders hike up, you start breathing more shallowly, impairing the amount of oxygen you can get to your muscles.

Keeping your core engaged and making sure your glutes are working will protect your back and knees, making sure that you are stable and avoid aches and pains. Often, back pain occurs because our core musculature is turned off, allowing our low backs to arch and be hyper-mobile, and knee pain often happens because our knees collapse inward.

It’ll be hard at first and will take conscious effort, but put in the work and you will definitely reap the reward.

The Secret to Setting Goals That Matter

Fitness Director Tyler Brown

Fitness Director Tyler Brown

Goal setting and growth are huge topics during this time of year. You'll hear various opinions on how to "best" approach it, such as: 

-"Shoot for the moon! Set a big scary goal which will feel so good … if you accomplish it."

-"Don't bother. If you didn’t change it before, you won’t now."

-"Set a small goal, accomplish it, then set another one, building more and more momentum."

These contradictions probably are more confusing than helpful. How can we reconcile these?  Let's see what works with each approach:

YES, we need to have a goal that’s big enough to matter if we accomplish it. If your life won't really change if you accomplish your goal, it’s less likely that you’ll care enough to work towards it.

YES, it’s easy to get caught up in the resolution mindset and set goals because it’s “that time of year,” and just setting a goal doesn’t mean anything if you don’t actually care about it, because you won't work towards accomplishing it.

YES, setting smaller, achievable goals to build momentum is a great approach. But where are they taking you? If you’re just setting small goals because they’re easy to accomplish, but they aren’t actually leading you somewhere you care about going, then why set them?

There’s a theme here. Did you catch it?

You have to set a goal that MATTERS to you. How?

First, identify it: What, if you accomplished it, would make you SO EXCITED? What would make your soul sing? What fires you up just thinking about it? What makes you a little nervous to think about going after it? What would elevate you to the next level? What would make you better?

Second, define it as clearly as possible: Instead of “lose weight,” maybe it’s “lose 50 lbs in support of my long-term health.” If possible, make it quantifiable so you can measure your progress by numbers. Also, set a time frame in which you’d like to accomplish your goal, long or short.

At any time in this process, if you’re not excited about what you’re setting out to do, you need to re-evaluate your WHY. You have to be excited about this. This is why so many goals are left unaccomplished and so many lives are left unchanged: it doesn't actually matter to people, or they forget their WHY.

Now, reverse engineer what success looks like. To do that, start at the end: you achieved the goal. Now think, HOW DID YOU GET THERE? Be more and more specific as you go backwards through the steps to get there.

Here's a simple example:  

End: You lost 50lbs and feel great!
How did you get there?: You made lifestyle changes.
What lifestyle changes?: You changed your diet and started exercising.
What does that look like?: You started eating a primarily plant-based diet and came to group fitness classes three times per week.

Start at the end and work your way backwards. 

This is where the small goals come into play. You have your big, audacious, exciting, life-changing goal ("Lose 50 lbs to feel better!") that you’re stoked to work towards. Now here's where you get to set those small, manageable goals. Plan out what each of those steps looks like moving forward, being specific and giving yourself deadlines and quantifiable measures. These smaller goals serve as stepping stones to get you there. Every time you accomplish one of these smaller goals, you know that you are closer to accomplishing your big goal. This is a key approach in personal training and programs like Ignite Your Body that really help skyrocket people to success! 

Here’s a basic example of this:

  • By January 1st, I want to plan which 3 group fitness classes I’m going to come to each week.

  • By January 5th, I want to have gone to those 3 classes.

  • By January 6th, I want to have 1 plant-based recipe that I’m going to make this upcoming week.

  • On January 8th, I’m going to make the plant-based recipe.

  • By January 31st, I want to have my routine of training 3 times per week down and have lost 4lbs.

  • By February 3rd, I want to find 2 more plant-based recipes to try.

  • On February 4th, 6th, and 8th, I’m going to make plant-based recipes.

  • By February 28th, I want to have lost 8lbs.

  • By March 31st, I want to be making 3 plant-based meals per week and have lost 12lbs.

And so on. Define your big goal, break it into smaller goals, then do it! 

All right, here's where the real secret comes in: one of the most overlooked aspects of goal-setting is to CELEBRATE your SUCCESSES and LEARN from your FAILURES.

Each time you accomplish one of your smaller goals, look back at where you started and take note of where you are that moment. Acknowledge how far you’ve come and that you’re progressing because you’re putting in the work it takes! And know that there WILL be failures along the path. There just will be. That’s NORMAL and OK, and there’s NO WAY that you would be able to learn what works best for you without other things not working. 

This is your quest, and at the end, it’s going to feel so good knowing that you put in the work to accomplish what you set out to do. I wish you all the best in your journey during the New Year, and I hope 2019 is your best year yet!