Tuesday December 22nd, 2009

New from Hasbro! Just in time for Christmas! It's the game the whole family can play! Match the off-season pursuit with the Sony Ericsson WTA player.

After a long hard season, where the new calendar meant that the top players were playing against each other consistently, my priority was to take some rest. I wanted to take advantage of the longer off-season that the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's new roadmap structure allows. Rest is one of the most important parts of training, after all.

I am continuing to manage my training closely, and have not been over committing with endorsement appearances and sponsorship photo shoots -- though I did play one exhibition in Belgium with Kim Clijsters.

So, after two weeks rest in Palm Beach, I got back in the gym, striving to get up early and start my two-hour strength and conditioning workouts in the gym.

I am gradually working my way back into practice on court. The most important thing for me in my training is consistency, keeping it regimented, not doing anything too radical. I leave on December 30th to play against Maria Sharapova in Thailand before an exhibition tournament in Hong Kong.

Fitness guru Howard Waldstreicher has designed a new workout program that [I have] incorporated as her off-season fitness routine. It's called Half Hour Power, a 30-miniute core intensive workout program that is designed to give pros an edge on the competition. It uses large rubber bands -- or power bands -- and a 30-minute routine that allows [me] to focus on four key areas:

Multi-directional total body movements

High-intensity resistance training intervals

Isometric core stabilization

Core reactive training

Howard says, "Tennis is a new game now. It demands more physical fitness from players. They need to be faster to the ball, recover quickly and have strength and endurance. They also need to remain relatively free of injuries. It's the difference between winning and losing."

It's impossible to overstate the importance of off-season training: it really does set you up for the year ahead. Two years ago I had my best ever preparation period, in Australia, and I don't think it was a coincidence that I then had my best season so far. On the other hand, my training before the 2009 season wasn't as good, and I struggled. You can definitely see the benefits of your training when you're on the court early in the year, especially in Australia where it's so hot, and you have to be very fit.

After the Sony Ericsson Championships in Qatar I went to see my grandparents in Riga, Latvia. I haven't seen them the whole year. They are very nice people and I love them very much. But unfortunately they are not young any more and are frequently ill. I like coming to Riga to see my grandma and my grandfather. And traditionally I plan such trips at the end of the season, so for me it means that the season is over and I can have several days of rest.

At the moment I have resumed the training process and preparation for 2010 with my first start in Perth where I will participate in the Hopman Cup. I wouldn't say that there's something exotic, extraordinary or exceptional in my practice, everything is rather customary and typical.

My pre-season sessions began this year after the great victory of our Fed Cup team and after a very good year for me. This is why I'm very motivated to train the best and work hard in order to do next year hopefully as well as this past season. To tell you the truth my training is quite simply, hard work and putting in the hours, but I really try to have a 'normal' life as well.

This means I wake in the morning at around 8 o'clock, I have a good breakfast, consisting of an Italian cappuccino and either bread or biscuits. After that, instead of going to an office, like most people and friends my age, I go to gym where I meet Gapi, my coach. And there we start with my indoor training based mostly on stretching, exercise bike, gymnastic, wall bar, weightlifting, and exercises in general that involve all my structure and muscle tissue. After a session of about two hours, we move outdoor on court and there we play until lunch time. I have a lunch break of two hours and after that I hit some more balls. In the evening, after my on court training session, I finish my day with an hour of jogging. I put on my music and there I run ... it's relaxing and it makes me feel good being close to nature.

I have been on my pre-season training program at Saddlebrook, Florida since the end of November. I'm really happy with my program and enjoying simple workouts, which comprise a big morning warm-up, an on-court tennis session and then gym work in the afternoon. For the first couple of weeks I did a lot of endurance training. I have also been doing sessions in the pool, which makes it a lot of fun and keeps it interesting. On top of all this, I have been lifting weights -- upper and lower body on alternating days. Once a week I like to incorporate yoga into my program to add more variety, plus I am enjoying have one day off a week as well.

I am doing my off-season training here in Bradenton, Florida at IMG Academies. It is warm and sunny, which is ideal preparation for the Australian heat. I am doing a lot of work in the gym this month with Scott Byrnes and he is helping me get back in shape after my ankle surgery as well as get fitter and stronger. Since I had my ankle surgery in Amsterdam just a month ago, I am still doing quite a lot of physical therapy mixed in with my off-season training. I have been working with the therapists here at Bollettieri Sports Medicine and every week or so the physios from Physio Med in Amsterdam will come check on me and make sure my progress is staying on track. It is really helpful to have them monitor my progress since they saw my ankle before and the day after surgery.

Giselle Martin, the physical trainer of this player says: [Her] preseason training consists of swimming, sand dune running, stairs/hill sprints, boxing/kickboxing, sprints using resistant bands/parachutes, core strengthening using bossu/fitball, strength sessions using weights/straps/kettle bells/vibroplate. With only one weeks rest, from a grueling year on the women's tennis circuit, [she] was back into her pre-season training. We started with cross training (doing exercises she doesn't normally do e.g sand dune running, swimming etc) it's refreshing and she responds well to training diversity. The variety in her training ensures each session is new and exciting. ... As we get closer to the Aussie circuit we introduce more tennis specific exercises. It's a building process, each week the training changes, it's all calculated and everything we aim to do, is for a reason, purpose. It's imperative that we use pre-season training in Australia to our advantage. Whilst other players around the world are training in cold climates, we have the advantage of training in the heat etc, we become acclimatized to these harsh conditions (35-to-40-degree Celsius heat) prior to the Australian Open.

Check Twitter.com/JonsTennisTweet on Wednesday for the answers.

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