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Photograph: Getty Images

Discipline. Structure. Urgency. Contingency.

Whether you play tennis for fun or compete at the highest level, your fitness ‘journey’ will embrace these notions in differing ways and to varying degrees.

Let’s start with an example of the obvious one – running. What this means is that regardless of your skill set in the sport, the way you move essentially dictates the quality of your performance. Elite players, whether on tour or not, will both meticulously and fastidiously plan and adhere to some sort of running regime.

Sure, these guys (women too, of course) will have the luxury of drawing upon the best conditioning people in the business, but they also possess the resilience and discipline to get the work done, but properly. On the other hand, the recreational warrior will usually and inadvertently train as they please. Running, weight work and other cross training mediums, may not in fact be at the top of their list – if things get in the way, then c’est la vie. Putting it simply, the elite tennis player will be driven and desperate to stick right to their plans.

The concept of structure follows on nicely from above. Higher echelon players will tailor their training with specificity, outlining everything with limits or boundaries, and will be ordinarily comfortable with what lies before them. Contrast this with the social type of tennis player, who rarely would go to such depths. A prime example of this, has inherently been one’s approach to resistance training in the gym. The elite operator will be exceptionally judicious with things like sets and repetitions, weights lifted, and rest periods taken between sets. A more liberal, casual, and often intermittent approach to training, is likely to resonate far more with the recreational player’s mindset.

Urgency has always been a big one with me. In a way it implies gravity, genuine purpose, and a marked insistence to get the work done - to the elite player’s satisfaction. Like before, the recreational tennis player feels comfortable to train, whenever they want or choose to. In other words, the former individual seems self-driven, the latter one not so much. The notion of exigency (or urgency) is notably defining in this context, for it strives to give credence to the topic at hand, by way of what it essentially purports to represent.

On a concluding note, the elite player will always have a plan b (or c), when their fitness regime is interrupted from time to time. Contingency plans are in a way testament, to the integrity of our other components already discussed. That is, when discipline, structure and urgency are sound contributors to the fitness program, alternate plans are much easier to devise. In comparison, their more relaxed tennis counterpart, may not even bother or wish to go to such lengths. This extent of forward planning, demonstrates not only a wish or desire to stay resolute, but serves as an integral extension to what has been already depicted above.


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