How athletes train: Madison Keys

The 2017 U.S. Open runner-up talks hot yoga, on-court fuel, and more.

Madison Keys is ready to make some noise. Last year, the tennis player made it to her first Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open before coming up short against Sloane Stephens. It was more of the same earlier this year: Stephens defeated her again at the French Open semifinals.

At this year’s U.S. Open, 23-year-old Keys hopes to earn her first Grand Slam win. Even though she’s been nursing a wrist injury since Wimbledon, she’s off to a good start, having won her first two matches in straight sets.

“Playing this tournament is always exciting,” she says. “The fans are great and it can be loud, but I’ve gotten better at managing my energy over the years, and after last year I’m excited to be back.” The No. 14 seed spoke with Furthermore ahead of the tournament about how she improves her reaction times, what she eats on court, and how hot yoga helped her through the Australian Open.

The Training Regimen:
I have a pretty straightforward routine. I usually alternate days of lifting and cardio to keep myself in the best shape. With tennis, I don’t need to do much long-distance or endurance work. I focus on short bursts of effort, sprints, and explosive movements four or five times per week. Once a week I’ll do a cardio-focused circuit, which will also have some type of power aspect.

I also do a lot of hand-eye coordination and speed drills. I’ll face one direction, then spin around and run in the direction of the ball, wherever my trainer throws it. The exercise improves my reaction time and helps me cut and move in different directions.

Sometimes I’ll do a couple sets of core work before practice, grab a snack, hit or work out some more, and then do another set of core work after being fatigued. That helps me build strength and stamina. Matches can go really long and I need to be ready for that.

In the offseason, my workouts revolve around building a better base and strong foundation. That’s when I do most of my heavy lifting and lower-body moves. One thing I like to do when I train is back squats straight into box jumps. That combo links together power and explosion, and it really works for me.

The Nutrition Regimen:
You need energy to get through practices, matches, and tournaments. I make sure I get enough protein, like chicken or fish, and always some vegetables. Before I go on the court I’ll eat something small instead of a big meal so I don’t feel heavy out there. Sometimes I’ll have a banana or energy bar mid-match for a little boost.

The Regeneration Regimen:
For recovery, I like to use the NormaTec boots to bounce back. I travel with a full-time physical therapist when I’m on tour. Because of my recent left wrist injury, I have to make sure I’m staying on top of it and monitoring how it feels. I’ve done a lot of strengthening exercises in rehab two or three times a week to get it back to full strength.

I used to do a lot of yoga and really enjoyed it. Hot yoga actually helped me get used to the temperature for the Australian Open. I had to put that practice on hold because of my wrist, but it’s something I’ve slowly started to introduce again as I’ve gotten healthier. It helps me stay loose and recover.

What’s Next:
I’m partnered with IBM and I’m excited to start using more of their video and data analysis in my training. I can learn by watching myself on the court in the video reviews. I’m going to use it more in the offseason and I think it’ll be helpful for me for not just the U.S. Open, but in the bigger picture.

Photo: Getty Images