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Eat, Stretch, Love

Whether you play tournament pickleball or just go to the court to practice, your diet and stretching are extremely important to your success on the court. Time and again, I have watched players who do not eat or stretch before or during competition. They get weaker as the day goes on until they can hardly raise their arms or move their feet. Here is some advice to get you through your next tournament.

So, what do the tournament players eat? Many of us come equipped with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
or chicken sandwiches sectioned into bite-sized pieces. Every 45 minutes we eat a section of those sandwiches.

What do tournament players eat? They eat foods that keep their blood sugar even and energy high enough to stay in the competition. Some amateurs try burgers or candy bars to fill their stomachs. Hamburgers or hot dogs will ultimately make them lethargic. Candy bars and other high-sugar foods make their blood sugar peak – only to crash soon after. Sometimes afternoon play is difficult for those who have eaten poorly or not at all. Eating small bites continuously all day helps you to finish strong at the end of play.

Stretching. Stretching before and after you play is very important. It’s easy to pull muscles when you don’t warm up and easy for muscles to tighten when you don’t stretch during your cool-down phase.

Doing simple stretches like marching in place and side stepping down and back on the baseline while you swing the paddle forehand and backhand helps to warm your muscles up before you play. After you have played, doing your slow hamstring and hip muscle stretches are key to your flexibility and mobility for future play.

Let’s face it, many players just do not stretch because it’s not fun and it’s painful. No one likes to stretch until it becomes too late. Pain becomes a factor after years of not stretching. All of a sudden body parts begin to ache and then they don’t work right. Then they hurt all the time. Eventually, dealing with those issues is inevitable. I highly suggest safety in numbers. Find a beginning yoga class, a stretch class, or find a stretch specialist to help out. Pickleball is rough on the body, so you need to incorporate stretching into your repertoire.

For the love of pickleball, you need to focus on your health. Walking onto the court without proper diet and stretching will only lead to long-term problems. The body can only take so much before issues get in the way of playing well. Eat and stretch like the pickleball athlete you want to become, not like the one you are now. Take your health seriously or you might be plagued with injuries or lack of energy on the pickleball court.

Striving to be better or the best requires work on your part so don’t let yourself down. Keep up the good work and thrive.

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Playing pickleball for nine years, Barbara Wintroub is a ranked player, winning medals in Huntsman, the National Senior Games, the State Games and The National Championships. She organized and runs a 3.0/3.5/4.0 intra-club event in Palm Desert, CA, every winter where 13 pickleball facilities compete against each other. Barbara is a USAPA Ambassador helping to start pickleball at 10 desert facilities.

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