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Fitness - TIPS for SPORTS and FITNESS : 15 top tips for improving your swimming, tennis and strength training
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The sun may be finally setting on the summer, but that’s no excuse not to stay active. Find some inspiration with these tips from real swimming, tennis and general fitness coaches from David Lloyd Clubs – you’ve no excuse

  • Better together: the health benefits of being sociable
  • Swimming

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  • Forever blowing bubbles
    “The most important skill when swimming freestyle is to be able to exhale freely into the water … by blowing bubbles,” says former Great Britain swimmer Nuala Muir-Cochrane, now a David Lloyd Clubs swimming participation manager, based in Camden. “Most people instinctively hold their breath when their face is in the water, but being able to blow bubbles will improve the number of lengths you can swim because you won’t be starved of oxygen.”

    Master the art of floating and trust the water
    “Initially, most people think they have to frantically move everything in the water at once, otherwise they will sink,” says Nuala Muir-Cochrane. “Actually, if you relax and let the water support you, it will help you. You have to trust it to hold you. Practice simply floating on your front or on your back on the surface of the water to master this art, which will make each stroke more efficient.”

  • Short numbers of lengths keeps your technique sweet
    “If you have a target of, say, 20 lengths to swim in one session, it is more beneficial to have a break every two lengths or so, rather than just trying to plough on, becoming gradually slower and more rugged in terms of technique,” recommends Muir-Cochrane. “You improve your strength by stopping regularly, and won’t end up being so exhausted that your stroke breaks down. Bad habits creep in with fatigue.”

    Little and often rule for swimmers
    “Two or three short swims a week will develop your technique so much quicker than just one long one,” says Muir-Cochrane. “That regularity will improve endurance, and your ‘feel’ of the water, meaning you will understand how to float better.”

    Divide and conquer for a better swimming technique
    “Good, efficient swimming is created by a balance of effort,” suggests Muir-Cochrane. “Most pools have floats you can use to build on either your arm or leg technique by isolating one half of your body. For instance, occasionally working only your arms while using a ‘pull buoy’ between your straight legs will help your front crawl no end.”

    Tennis

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    Power comes last for top tennis technique
    “To improve at tennis, develop your consistency, build up your accuracy, and the final thing to add is your power,” says David Lloyd Clubs tennis participation manager Martin Fuller. “A lot of people will hit the ball too hard, and the accuracy and consistency never follows, because so many errors are being made.”

    Swing then you’re winning
    “On forehand and backhand shots, make sure you are hitting the ball out to the side of your body, so you have space to swing,” continues tennis expert Fuller. “Don’t become cramped with your swing, as you will lose power and accuracy, and give your opponent the advantage. To do that, however, you have to be nimble and ready to react.”

    The early bird catches the ball better
    “Whether you are returning a serve or playing a mid-rally shot, draw your tennis racquet back for a hit good and early,” says Fuller. “That way you give yourself the most time to return the ball on your terms and won’t feel rushed. Being prepared for the shot your opponent plays is at least as important as your technique playing the shot.”

    Forward thinking servers reap rewards
    “If you work on your serve it can soon become your most potent weapon; neglecting it, though, can mean it is your biggest weakness,” says Fuller. “With the throw, toss the ball slightly in front of you. It should be easy and comfortable to hit, so you strike it while stretching, at full-racquet length. Beginners tend to throw the ball in all different directions and hit the ball regardless. Having control, and forward momentum, is crucial for a decent service – and keep your eyes on the ball. Further, you can practice on your own without the need for a partner, so you have no excuse to not better your ace count.”

    Overplaying your drop shot is a poor ploy
    “When you play a drop shot it so often gives an attacking advantage to your opponent,” warns Fuller. “If you do play it, choose the right time, when your rival is out of position, or on the back foot, and use a little bit of backspin, so it dies on impact, or near enough.”

    Strength and fitness training

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    Squat your way to fitness
    “So many people use poor form for certain exercises in the gym, and they can do more harm that good,” says Elaine Denton, group health and fitness support manager at David Lloyd Clubs. “The squat, which is so good as it works most leg muscles and should be a go-to exercise, helps functionality tremendously, and is worth the time it takes to master. With the weight evenly balanced across your shoulders, you feet should be wider than your hips, but in a stance which is comfortable, and your toes should be pointed out slightly. Keep your chest lifted when squatting, and push the hips back and down, making such you don’t go further than your knees.

    Bench press to impress
    “For all-round fitness, the bench press – lying on a bench and raising a weight with both arms – is a superb exercise,” suggests Denton. “Have your feet planted wider than your shoulders. Keep the bar in line with the centre of your chest and never go lower than your body.”

    Eat within two hours of a workout – and shortly afterwards
    “Nutrition can really affect performance, so really think about what you eat both before and after your workouts to gain the most benefits,” says Denton. “Studies show that you should eat within between one to two hours before your training session, so you are not running on empty. And if you don’t take on board some protein following your workout then it will hamper your development, because the muscles won’t recover as quickly as they would with proper, careful nutrition.”

    Keeping well hydrated is vital for maximum workout gains
    “We should be aiming for a minimum of three litres of water a day to maintain hydration,” says Denton. “Activity performance can suffer if you are dehydrated, which can lead you to feeling unsuccessful or taking longer to achieve your goals – both of which are really demotivating.”

    Early morning workouts don’t work for everyone
    “To get the most out of your workout you need good hydration, decent nutrition and quality – rather than quantity of – sleep, and play around with the time you train,” adds Denton. “It has to be right for you. If you are not a morning person, and don’t sleep well, don’t force yourself to work out, because you will basically give up.”

    Source: The Guardian

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