“On an abstract level, balance has been really, really important for me.
Kind of my secret weapon.”
Nicole Gibbs describes her road to professional tennis as “unconventional.”
Unlike many elite junior prospects, she chose not to be homeschooled and make tennis her life.
“That wasn’t authentic to who I was. I was always juggling, trying to be successful on the court while also trying to be successful in the classroom.“
And while most world-class players turn pro straight from high school, Nicole attended Stanford for three years before making the jump.
“I needed more time to develop and become a fuller person and athlete. I definitely pride myself in trying to pave my own path.”
NAGGING INJURIES, NEW OUTLOOK
Early in 2017, Nicole struggled with injuries to her knee and wrist. The result was a new perspective in how she approaches the game.
“I’d been limping through a couple months of matches, not feeling my best and getting really frustrated. I wasn’t performing well and sometimes I physically couldn’t even play. That got me thinking differently about the sport. I decided to make health my No. 1 priority moving forward. Now I’m focused on how I can make my career a long and sustainable one.”
STRAINING SMARTER, RECOVERING HARDER
Nicole has a full-time fitness trainer who monitors her WHOOP data and incorporates it into their workout regimen.
“For the most part it’s great, the fact that he’s reading through my data each day helps me stay disciplined and responsible. Although sometimes I’m like ‘No, don’t look today, you don’t want to see that!’ “We devise programs that are appropriate to my Recovery levels. If I’m in the green and we’re at a big training week, I’ll put in a ton of work that day and really go after it, make sure that I’m building my base. But if I wake up in the yellow, or worst case the red, I’ll pull back and he’ll encourage me to spend less time on the court. That kind of push-pull is really important for us, to be able to put as much strain on my body as possible to build muscle mass without being destructive to what we’re doing.”
Avoiding overtraining is key.
“WHOOP ALLOWS ME TO FIND THE BALANCE BETWEEN PUSHING MYSELF TO THE NEXT LEVEL, AND PROTECTING MYSELF TO BE ABLE TO COMPETE AT THAT LEVEL.”
"MY RECOVERY MAPS TO MY EMOTIONS"
Many athletes prioritize recovery–but few emphasize the mental aspect of it the way Nicole does.
“It’s really encouraging for me when I wake up and I see my Recovery in the green prior to a tournament. That means I’ve checked all of the boxes that I can to be prepared. As a tennis player, your mental state profoundly affects your ability to compete. From losing a disappointing point and having to rebound and play another 30 seconds later, to having the fortitude to play match after match, your emotional stability is really paramount.”
“One of the things I’ve found extremely valuable about my WHOOP data is that it maps pretty perfectly not only to my physical well being, but also to how I’m feeling mentally and emotionally. You have days when you wake up and you’re not at your best physically, and so you might tailor your workout to that, but what you don’t necessarily account for are the changes in your mood that come from taking on too much strain.”
On low-Recovery days, Nicole often tries to incorporate mindfulness, yoga or meditation into her routine.
“Those things can allow me to have a positive practice instead of getting out there and feeling groggy, maybe being moody and impatient with my coach.”