Sloane Stephens is a force. ICYMI, she has seven Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour singles titles, a 2017 US Open champ title, and her own Sloane Stephens Foundation, which has helped 15,000 kids play tennis in Compton, California. Playing tennis since she was 9 years old, Sloane has learned how to balance the physical and mental challenges that come with the sport.
Sloane definitely knows how to work hard to be ready for anything—a ball landing on the opposite end of the court or a last minute match change. “At tournaments, every day is different,” Sloane tells WH. “You could be playing at 11 a.m., you can be playing at 11 p.m. It’s just a lot of different variables.”
She says the best way to prep is to “stay ready.” Here’s exactly how Sloane does that through consistent training on and off the court and a new focus on recovery.
More From Women’s Health
Sloane’s training has evolved to become efficient and specific to her body.
It has changed a lot over the years. “When you’re younger, there is a lot of pressure to always be grinding, always be training—the whole ‘I’m working while you’re sleeping’ sort of mentality,” she says. “I’ve adapted my training over the years to be incredibly efficient and effective so my body has time to rest.”
These days, the 29-year-old is focusing more on her training now than in the past, with help of her two-in-one trainer and physiotherapist who travels with her.
In addition to shifting her mentality, she also uses her Whoop fitness tracker to monitor any strains. That allows her coach and trainer to know what they have to adjust for her body in each session.
Her training is organized in blocks with season-specific goals.
For example, “now it’s the off-season, so I’m making sure I’m not gaining weight, I’m not eating crazy, things like that—just monitoring,” she says.
Next up, she has a few training blocks so she’s not “rusty” when competition resumes in January. (Her words, not mine!) “So that when I start playing tennis, I’m not, like, literally dying,” she says. Right now, she’s in a pre-training fitness block, so she’s doing a lot of pure cardio—sprints, intervals, and steady state.
This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
Then when the tournaments ramp up, she doesn’t do as much cardio—she gets plenty naturally when she’s practicing or playing matches. Sloane also includes strength training. “The strength work is all focused on dynamic movement and incorporates a lot of bodyweight [moves] and resistance bands,” she says.
Sloane’s tournament training schedule includes intense 10-hour days.
When she’s prepping for tournaments, she’ll wake up in the morning and start training around 8 a.m. Beginning with a 30-minute warmup, she’ll then play tennis for the next hour and a half, ending around 10 a.m. Next comes a break for lunch.
Her mid-day meal includes lean proteins, veggies, and a complex carb, which is similar to her go-to, pre-match fuel. If she’s lagging before her afternoon tennis sesh, she’ll have a Quantum Energy Square.
“I’m all about balance and eating intuitively,” Sloane says. “I also won’t deprive myself of an occasional bubble tea or Frappuccino. A lot of it comes down to convenience and what is readily available nearby since I don’t have a lot of time to cook.”
By 1 p.m., she’s back on the court, playing for another hour and a half. Then, she hits the gym for conditioning from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Her fitness training is super cardio- and aerobics-focused—I’m talking about treadmill and bike sprints. She also works on dynamic movement and loading and transferring power. “These movements directly correlate to tennis and best positioning myself on the court to hit the most powerful shot and run down balls,” she adds.
Last but not least, she gets a well-deserved recovery massage to wrap up her day. It’s usually a 90-minute massage, so Sloane finishes her day by 6 p.m.
Recovery is just as important as workouts for Sloane.
She has to have Icy Hot (she’s partnered with the brand) at all times. It’s an absolute non-negotiable when she’s warming up for tournaments. She loves having the cream massaged into her muscles before she goes out to play—that’s when she feels it’s the most effective on her muscles.
“I sometimes need a manual warmup before my physical warmup,” she says. “My trainer is always able to do the cream and if I’m just going for a run or something on my own, I can use the spray.”
Another big goal for her training is preventing injuries. “I’ve had a ton of focus on my body lately just because, I am getting older, I’m starting to feel things a little bit differently,” she explains. So these days, her warm ups before practicing are longer and she’s getting more massages. It’s all about pivoting to what her body needs.
Sloane’s self-care routine is dialed in as well.
She adjusts exactly what she does depending on which stage of training she’s in. If she’s in a training block, her self-care is more athletic-focused. “It’s more intense and I’d say it’s more sports-based,” she says. “It’s more taking the time to relax, turn my phone off, and focus on myself.”
Sloane replenishes her muscles with her daily body treatments, for instance. While she gets a type of treatment done every day, the specifics (deep tissue massages, cupping, scraping) depend on what her body needs in the moment. “Some days will be a massage to flush out the lactic acid buildup, other days will be specific treatment on an area that needs extra attention,” she explains. She also makes sure she’s drinking enough fluids, getting in her post-practice protein shakes, and following a regular sleep routine.
While she’s traveling, Sloane will often do a face mask, light a candle in her hotel when she travels, or wear blue light glasses. That all helps keep her nervous system and circadian rhythm balanced to prep for playing at any time of the day.
But she doesn’t stray too far from the tennis court for off-season fun. For example, she plays pickleball for fun.
Naturally, she’s able to devote more time to self-care in the off-season. “I’m going to the spa with my mom and we’re getting boba and walking in the park and we’re listening to meditation videos,” she says. “It’s just a totally different vibe.”
Addison Aloian (she/her) is an editorial assistant at Women’s Health. When she’s not writing about all things pop culture, health, beauty, and fashion, she loves hitting leg day at the gym, shopping at Trader Joe’s, and watching whichever hockey game is on TV. Her work has also appeared in Allure, StyleCaster, L’Officiel USA, V Magazine, and Modern Luxury Media.
Leave a Reply