Breathing properly during a point

Toronto11

New User
I’m a 38 yr old 4.5 player who can run 5KM in 23 minutes but find I tire much quicker than all my opponents after an average 8 shot rally. This includes 50 yr olds who are far from skinny.

I’ve been told by coaches that I should not get that tired and that my breathing during the point must be incorrect. Has anyone had this? If so how can it be fixed? Thx
 

pencilcheck

Professional
Are you aware of your own breathing while doing the rallies? Perhaps running and stopping + inefficient stroke production is slowing you down.

Another angle is that running is monotonous as it is mindless, but tennis rallies requires intense focus and running + focus wears down a lot of people so you are probably not used to using your mental focus on the stroke at your age on consistent long rallies. Meditation or clear out your mind after 30 mins rallies, or get some refreshment regularly and stay cooler should help.
 
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Toronto11

New User
Are you aware of your own breathing while doing the rallies? Perhaps running and stopping + inefficient stroke production is slowing you down.

Another angle is that running is monotonous as it is mindless, but tennis rallies requires intense focus and running + focus wears down a lot of people so you are probably not used to using your mental focus on the stroke at your age on consistent long rallies. Meditation or clear out your mind after 30 mins rallies, or get some refreshment regularly and stay cooler should help.
I don’t think it’s mental fatigue because I’m panting after longer rallies when my opponent aren’t
 

pencilcheck

Professional
I don’t think it’s mental fatigue because I’m panting after longer rallies when my opponent aren’t
Sometimes having mental fatigue might induce similar stress since your brain also require air and energy to operate, if you are panting sometimes it might just be that. Next time try run and swing without thinking where it will go and just do it mindlessly, see if that will last longer. I think it should be a lot easier that way.
 

Toronto11

New User
Sometimes having mental fatigue might induce similar stress since your brain also require air and energy to operate, if you are panting sometimes it might just be that. Next time try run and swing without thinking where it will go and just do it mindlessly, see if that will last longer. I think it should be a lot easier that way.
Sounds good. I will give it a try.
 

bertrevert

Hall of Fame
We are constantly trying to relax, to bring best power, I mean what else are we describing when we say "choke" than losing because too tense. I think your coaches words are wise. You should follow what they say.

Moreover, the day I learnt to breathe while surfing a wave was a revelation. All the intense exertion of modern maneuvers in big surf, given the brevity of the ride, meant that you had to give it your all in a small amount of time, and holding your breath for exertion while necessary and helpful still needed release and replenish. I mean I think that's the problem: we hold breath to build exertion and intensity and pressure, but then need to breathe afterwards :)

Plus upon any wipeout you'd better have some spare air!
 
It sounds like you may be holding your breath, probably during your strokes. I have a similar issue. How accurate are you with your shots? Do you lose points mostly because of errors? I ask because, If you are holding your breath while hitting the ball, it will affect other the other muscles responsible for hitting the ball I just realized, before the pandemic halted my play, that I inhaled on my ball toss, but held my breath until after I served. When I remember to exhale while swinging at the ball, speed goes up and way fewer wayward serves.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
I’m a 38 yr old 4.5 player who can run 5KM in 23 minutes but find I tire much quicker than all my opponents after an average 8 shot rally. This includes 50 yr olds who are far from skinny.

I’ve been told by coaches that I should not get that tired and that my breathing during the point must be incorrect. Has anyone had this? If so how can it be fixed? Thx
5 km in 23 minutes is respectable, I guess. But this could mean that you've only developed your aerobic endurance. Not enough. Even those who regularly run a 10K or more might not have the proper type of endurance for tennis.

Tennis endurance requires both the aerobic system and two types of anaerobic systems. To build up your anaerobic endurance, you need to do some sort of interval training. Something like HIIT. The anaerobic systems are required for burst mode -- high intensity for short or medium duration activity. 5 km is a long-duration activity. You DO need the aerobic system as a foundation for your training

You can alternate fast sprints (or jumping rope) with easy, moderately-paced walking. I know one top athlete that would use telephone poles for his interval training. He would sprint as fast as he could from one pole to the next pole. And then he would walk to the next pole. And sprint again to the pole after that. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Or you could use a tennis court for your high intensity, low intensity intervals. Along the length of the court, sprint as fast as you can. Start from one baseline and don't start to slow down until you reach the opposite back service line (or NML). From there walk easily across the back of the court. After you have walked along the baseline, start another sprint along the other side. Go around the full court at least three times in this manner.
 
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SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
As for breathing while you rally or play, it is important to exhale during your forward swing (or upward swing for the serve). Do not hold your breath. An inhale should happen just prior to your forward swing. So that inhale would likely start just after the incoming ball has crossed the net. Often this inhale will coincide with the bounce. But if the ball bounces very deep on your side, the inhale should start a bit earlier than the bounce.

Between points or between games, try some long deliberate breathing... 5 to 6 seconds for inhalation followed by 5 to 6 seconds for exhalation. For a more calming effect, your exhale should be somewhat longer than your inhale. For an energizing effect, it's the other way around -- the inhale phase should be longer than the exhale.

Look up James Nestor for more about breathing strategies. He wrote a book called, Breath: the New Science of a Lost Art
 

blablavla

Hall of Fame
5 km in 23 minutes is respectable, I guess. But this could mean that you've only developed your aerobic endurance. Not enough. Even those who regularly run a 10K or more might not have the proper type of endurance for tennis.

Tennis endurance requires both the aerobic system and two types of anaerobic systems. To build up your anaerobic endurance, you need to do some sort of interval training. Something like HIIT. The anaerobic systems are required for burst mode -- high intensity for short or medium duration activity. 5 km is a long-duration activity.

You can alternate fast sprints (or jumping rope) with easy, moderately paced walking. I know one top athlete that would use telephone poles for his interval training. He would sprint as fast as he could from one pole to the next pole. And then he would walk to the pole. And sprint again to the pole after that. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Or you could use a tennis court for your high intensity, low intensity intervals. Along the length of the court, sprint as fast as you can. Start from one baseline and don't start to slow down until you reach the opposite back service line (or NML). From there walk easily across the back of the court. After you have walked along the baseline, start another sprint along the other side. Go around the full court at least three times in this manner.
or do the "spider" / "suicides" workout.

5km in 23 min is respectable.
but efficient running doesn't translate automatically into efficient footwork on the tennis court.
I have no issue to play 3 - 4 or even 5 hours tennis, but I wouldn't go run a marathon. In fact without a proper preparation I wouldn't even go for a half marathon. Last year, after being focused on tennis all summer long, without much other sport activity, not even the supporting exercises, I went to a half marathon and I had pretty bad knee pain from approx. km 13 onward. Time-wise that wouldn't equate to even 1 tennis match.
Max that I would go without preparation is 10km running. Everything else would be in incremental steps.

As others mentioned.
Try to follow the breathing guidelines.
Check your positioning on the court. What if your buddies are smarter at positioning themselves, and therefore sprint less than you do?
You need to prepare your breathing for many short sprints with often change of directions. Beyond this, it is not only sprinting, but as well hitting the ball, so other muscles involved as well. So very different from running.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
OP, do you employ split steps and try to keep active while you are playing? It sounds counterintuitive to some players. In a misguided effort to conserve energy, they don't SS and they rest too much between points. This tends to make players flat-footed and makes them very inefficient at producing needed energy.

The body produces energy much more efficiently when it is in the aerobic target zone. If you don't get into this zone, you will generate energy very inefficiently. So, even tho you probably haven't properly trained your anaerobic systems, you are relying too much on these systems while playing if you don't get into your aerobic target zone.

Before competition, I would often engage in 10-15 minutes of aerobic activity. I would follow this with a dynamic warm up where I was also doing some anaerobic activity. That way, when I started a match, I was already in my target zone and everything seemed effortless. If I didn't perform those pre-game activities, I would often feel lethargic. And I would run out of steam quickly.

During a competitive singles match, top players will stay in there target HR zone for much of a match. Some 40 to 60% of your total energy needs for a competitive tennis match could come from your aerobic system. This means that 40 to 60% of your total energy needs must come from your anaerobic systems.
 

hypercube

New User
OP, do you employ split steps and try to keep active while you are playing? It sounds counterintuitive to some players. In a misguided effort to conserve energy, they don't SS and they rest too much between points. This tends to make players flat-footed and makes them very inefficient at producing needed energy.

The body produces energy much more efficiently when it is in the aerobic target zone. If you don't get into this zone, you will generate energy very inefficiently. So, even tho you probably haven't properly trained your anaerobic systems, you are relying too much on these systems while playing if you don't get into your aerobic target zone.
You may be on something. I have the same issue as the OP, and I fit your description. I'm naturally lazy, always subconciously trying to conserve energy, and I become flat-footed sometimes (although interestingly, this tends to happen more often in pressure situations).
 

spaceman_spiff

Hall of Fame
A simple way to ensure that you don’t hold your breath during a point is to grunt when you hit the ball. You can’t produce sound without exhaling, and exhaling will trigger you to inhale.

Try playing some rally points with a practice partner and focus on grunting to see if it helps.
 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
I’m a 38 yr old 4.5 player who can run 5KM in 23 minutes but find I tire much quicker than all my opponents after an average 8 shot rally. This includes 50 yr olds who are far from skinny.

I’ve been told by coaches that I should not get that tired and that my breathing during the point must be incorrect. Has anyone had this? If so how can it be fixed? Thx
Exhale when you hit the ball. Every time. Inhale when the opponent does. Are you doing that every single time?

Second, are you moving as soon as you hit the ball or watching and then scrambling to the next shot?

You want to be fast to the ball and slow to strike it. It's not as easy as it sounds and I see guys at 4.5 who still don't employ this mentality.
 

1stVolley

Professional
As @ballmachineguy said in an earlier post, you might be holding your breath during your strokes. When I do short practice sprints I find I do the same thing. You can reduce this issue, if that's what it is, by forcibly exhaling when you hit the ball. This will get you to inhale right after this rather than continuing to hold your breath and then should reduce the length of time you are holding your breath.
 

Kalyx

New User
You want to be fast to the ball and slow to strike it.
This is such a great statement! So, so true. When you’re quick to get in position and then keep your eye focused perfectly on the ball, things seem to slow down. You find yourself not only setting up perfectly for the next shot, but with that extra second or two to be very intentional about your next shot selection.

I agree with others that your issue seems to be one of privileging endurance-related resining ovee high-intensity interval training. The latter is so key for tennis! If you can get 3-4 HIIT workouts in per week in addition to your tennis—and they don’t have to take long, only 15-20 minutes—I think you’ll see a huge improvement.

And then when you’re able to do more on the tennis court, you can really push yourself to run after EVERY ball, and the next thing you know you’ll be conditioning more effectively while you play tennis and then also growing your shot repertoire.
 

sredna42

Hall of Fame
We are constantly trying to relax, to bring best power, I mean what else are we describing when we say "choke" than losing because too tense. I think your coaches words are wise. You should follow what they say.

Moreover, the day I learnt to breathe while surfing a wave was a revelation. All the intense exertion of modern maneuvers in big surf, given the brevity of the ride, meant that you had to give it your all in a small amount of time, and holding your breath for exertion while necessary and helpful still needed release and replenish. I mean I think that's the problem: we hold breath to build exertion and intensity and pressure, but then need to breathe afterwards :)

Plus upon any wipeout you'd better have some spare air!
Good post, and on the money imo. I remember i overcame this plateau on drums by realizinghow much easier and faster it was when i remembered to keep breathing and override the instinct to hold my breath because the brain perceives it as effort like weightlifting
 

Toronto11

New User
I tried skipping yesterday and was gassing out within the first five minutes. From that point on I concentrated on my breathing and finished the next ten minutes without tiring. Im hitting with a 5.0 tomorrow and will be focusing on breathing the entire time. Looking forward to it.
 

Arak

Rookie
I suffer from the exact same issue, and agree with all who mentioned holding the breath. I realize that I’m overly exhausted after long points because I simply forget to breath. When I become conscious of this fact during a match, I try to concentrate on my breathing during rallies. Easier said than done.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Good post, and on the money imo. I remember i overcame this plateau on drums by realizinghow much easier and faster it was when i remembered to keep breathing and override the instinct to hold my breath because the brain perceives it as effort like weightlifting
Even with weightlifting, if done properly, you should be exhaling on the exertion phase of the lift. Often a forceful exhalation. Should not be holding your breath at all.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
@Power Player
A simple way to ensure that you don’t hold your breath during a point is to grunt when you hit the ball. You can’t produce sound without exhaling, and exhaling will trigger you to inhale.

Try playing some rally points with a practice partner and focus on grunting to see if it helps.
"Silent" or subdued grunting is actually a very good idea. If you closely watch and listen to Azarenka, she's definitely too loud but she has a very regular pattern to her vocalisations. It's a two-parter. You intially hear a softer, more subdued, sound -- an inhale sound, usually at the instant the ball is bouncing. And then you hear a louder forceful exhalation sound as she executes her forward swing (the exertion phase of her stroke).

Many young players are now taught a much quieter version of that sequence. A softer Ah-Ha. The 'Ah' is the inhale while the 'Ha' is the release (the exhale). This breathing pattern, with a very subdued vocalization, should have been taught three decades ago when players like Monica Seles and others from Nick Bollettieri's Academy started to become very noisy. Even before then, Jimmy Connors was almost as noisy.
 

sredna42

Hall of Fame
Even with weightlifting, if done properly, you should be exhaling on the exertion phase of the lift. Often a forceful exhalation. Should not be holding your breath at all.
Yeah i know, just poorly worded, the avg persons instinct is to hold their breath on exertion, i just meant weights as an easily relatable comparison
 

sredna42

Hall of Fame
@Power Player


"Silent" or subdued grunting is actually a very good idea. If you closely watch and listen to Azarenka, she's definitely too loud but she has a very regular pattern to her vocalisations. It's a two-parter. You intially hear a softer, more subdued, sound -- an inhale sound, usually at the instant the ball is bouncing. And then you hear a louder forceful exhalation sound as she executes her forward swing (the exertion phase of her stroke).

Many young players are now taught a much quieter version of that sequence. A softer Ah-Ha. The 'Ah' is the inhale while the 'Ha' is the release (the exhale). This breathing pattern, with a very subdued vocalization, should have been taught three decades ago when players like Monica Seles and others from Nick Bollettieri's Academy started to become very noisy. Even before then, Jimmy Connors was almost as noisy.
Grunting should be banned or phased out. Eg Sharapova. Effort exhalation like wawrinka is fine because it is legitimate and you kinda don'tnotice it.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Grunting should be banned or phased out. Eg Sharapova. Effort exhalation like wawrinka is fine because it is legitimate and you kinda don'tnotice it.
Putting the toothpaste back in the tube is a bit challenging. High-dB grunting should definitely be phased out. It should have already been phased out in the past three decades. Breathing / exertion education is sorely needed.

But it's not like Sharapova, Azarenka, the Williams sisters or anyone else can eliminate it overnight, during times of stress or high exertion, if they developed the habit as a Junior player. Monica Seles had succumbed to pressure for the Wimbledon final in 1992. Martina Navratilova and others had vehemently complained about her grunting during the previous rounds at that Wimbledon.

She was uncharacteristically quiet for that final against Steffi Graf. It did not play out well for her at all. She was extremely tight and suffered her worst ever defeat in a late-round match against Steffi. Graf prevailed 6-2, 6-1. Monica vowed never to let her grunting habit ever be stifled again.
 

sredna42

Hall of Fame
Putting the toothpaste back in the tube is a bit challenging. High-dB grunting should definitely be phased out. It should have already been phased out in the past three decades. Breathing / exertion education is sorely needed.

But it's not like Sharapova, Azarenka, the Williams sisters or anyone else can eliminate it overnight, during times of stress or high exertion, if they developed the habit as a Junior player. Monica Seles had succumbed to pressure for the Wimbledon final in 1992. Martina Navratilova and others had vehemently complained about her grunting during the previous rounds at that Wimbledon.

She was uncharacteristically quiet for that final against Steffi Graf. It did not play out well for her at all. She was extremely tight and suffered her worst ever defeat in a late-round match against Steffi. Graf prevailed 6-2, 6-1. Monica vowed never to let her grunting habit ever be stifled again.
Agreed. Only issue is, did seles play worse? Or was graf just able to play unobstructed? Those shrieks and screams that persist well after impact/exertion are nothing but gamesmanship imo. It might just be strange tv acoustics but some players even seem to not make noise until AFTER contact
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Agreed. Only issue is, did seles play worse? Or was graf just able to play unobstructed? Those shrieks and screams that persist well after impact/exertion are nothing but gamesmanship imo. It might just be strange tv acoustics but some players even seem to not make noise until AFTER contact
Seles appeared noticeably tight & out of sorts. She vowed that she'd never be stifled again. So it undoubtedly unnerved her; threw her off her game.

Steffi hadn't beaten her that badly since 1989, when Monica was only 15.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Agreed. Only issue is, did seles play worse? Or was graf just able to play unobstructed? Those shrieks and screams that persist well after impact/exertion are nothing but gamesmanship imo. It might just be strange tv acoustics but some players even seem to not make noise until AFTER contact
Grunting players usually make their sounds prior to contact. Some are grunting during the contact phase. That makes it more difficult to hear their contact. The opposing player loses a lot of valuable information if they can't hear the contact of the other player.

If the player grunts or shrieks after contact, it could be a sign that they're holding their breath on the forward swing. Or they are exhaling slowly before contact and then more forcefully after contact.

In most cases, however, grunting sounds subsides by the time that the ball crosses the net and bounces on the other side.

I've seen both Sharapova & Azarenka, up close, playing at Stanford several times. I could hear the sounds that they made but they were nowhere as loud & obnoxious as it comes off on TV. It would seem that the miking and volume levels used for TV broadcasts enhances the court sounds. That is, sounds seem to be more amplified on TV than they are in person.
 

sredna42

Hall of Fame
Grunting players usually make their sounds prior to contact. Some are grunting during the contact phase. That makes it more difficult to hear their contact. The opposing player loses a lot of valuable information if they can't hear the contact of the other player.

If the player grunts or shrieks after contact, it could be a sign that they're holding their breath on the forward swing. Or they are exhaling slowly before contact and then more forcefully after contact.

In most cases, however, grunting sounds subsides by the time that the ball crosses the net and bounces on the other side.

I've seen both Sharapova & Azarenka, up close, playing at Stanford several times. I could hear the sounds that they made but they were nowhere as loud & obnoxious as it comes off on TV. It would seem that the miking and volume levels used for TV broadcasts enhances the court sounds. That is, sounds seem to be more amplified on TV than they are in person.
I just find it interesting how many players who scream suddenly STFU when things really get serious and they have to concentrate hard
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
I just find it interesting how many players who scream suddenly STFU when things really get serious and they have to concentrate hard
Kinda the opposite from what I've often seen happen. Some, like Maria & Serena, have been relatively quiet when they were relaxed or just warming up or practicing. But, when they are stressed or pressured, they become vocal. I've seen Maria quiet for most of a first set. But then become vocal when she exerts herself more. Or is less relaxed.

Simona is vocal when hitting with a generous amount of topspin on groundstrokes. Also vocal on serves. But when she drops, volleys, or hits slice g'stokes, she is quiet. More exertion with topspin drives and serves it would seem. Since she is much smaller than most other top players, she feels the need to put more effort in her shots in order to keep up with the power of her competitors.
 
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