Lessons From A Tennis Superstar

"The cathedral hush of the Centre Court is good for my game. Because what I battle hardest to do in a tennis match is to quiet the voices in my head, to shut everything out of my mind but the contest itself and concentrate every atom of my being on the point I am playing"

The above extract is taken from Rafael Nadal’s autobiography Rafa, which provides a fascinating insight into the mind of a ruthless champion. In this article I want to try and pull some of the lessons I learnt from reading this book and apply them to the world of fitness training.

"Playing sports is a good thing for ordinary people; sport played at the professional level is not good for your health. It pushes your body to limits that human beings are not naturally equipped to handle"

Performance vs Health - Nadal admits that in his quest for elite performance on the tennis court he takes his body well beyond a healthy dose of physical exercise. This should not come as a surprise, a quick look at injury rates among top level sportsmen will confirm how close they are pushing their body to the limit of its capabilities. However, this trade-off between performance and health is certainly not confined to elite level athletes. I see people all the time who think the more exercise they do the better. Each day they beat the crap out of their body with tough gruelling workouts all in the pursuit of health and fitness. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with trying to maximise your physical potential in a certain discipline, just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons not on the misguided assumption that it is the healthiest pursuit for your body. More is not always better when it comes to high-intensity exercise.

"I saw more clearly than ever before that the key to the game resides in the mind. If the mind is clear and strong you can overcome almost any obstacle including pain. Mind can triumph over matter"

Power Of The Mind - Rafael Nadal is one of the toughest competitors the world of sport has ever seen and as he admits in the book it is this mental strength which separates him from many of his rivals. The importance of mental strength is of course not confined to elite athletes alone. In my own line of work I see the same pattern repeating itself. Those with the most desire, focus and inner steel are the ones who achieve the most impressive fat loss results and fitness performance increases. Why? Workouts are hard, resisting addictive processed food is tough, getting lots of good quality sleep requires some sacrifices. Those with the strongest minds and most determination are able to embrace these struggles, be consistent with their habits and attain the best results.

"One lesson I have learnt is that if the job were easy I wouldn't derive so much satisfaction from it. The thrill of winning is in direct proportion to the effort I put in beforehand"

Effort Precedes Reward - This particular paragraph really struck a chord with me. Like many others, I myself have been guilty in the past of seeking shortcuts or easier routes from A to B only to be dissatisfied with the outcome. To achieve anything meaningful in life requires some hard work and dedication and this absolutely includes fitness training. Think big with your body composition and fitness goals, then set about getting there one small step at a time.


  • Rafa by Rafael Nadal and John Carlin