Professional tennis player Sloane Stephens is a Grand Slam Champion and Olympian best known for her jaw-dropping 2017 comeback following a devastating foot injury: In just two months, she rose from being ranked number 957 entering Wimbledon to becoming the US Open Champion.
One of the biggest developments in her career that she says has been key to her success is prioritizing recovery. “Our batteries don’t stay charged forever, so the same way you would prioritize charging your electronic devices and preserving their battery, you need to do the same for your body,” says Stephens.
Using lessons she’s learned over the years to improve how she takes care of her body, Stephens continues to dominate the professional tennis scene. Yet that success has her traveling up to 40 weeks every year, which can take a serious toll when combined with so many hours of intense training. We spoke with the tennis champ to get her top tips for how she takes care of herself on the road to make sure she’s staying healthy and feeling her best.
Sloane Stephens’ top 5 self-care tips
Stephens has had a lot of practice honing her strategies for staying healthy and preventing her body from becoming overly tight, achy, or tired during all that traveling. Here are her top five pieces of advice.
1. Only work as hard as you need to—and then recover
Rather than going all out all the time, Stephens and her team carefully manage her output. “I’ve learned to focus on very intentional and efficient training,” she notes. “We block the time out, go hard, achieve the goals we’ve set out, and then take ample time to allow my body to recover and replenish from that activity.”
To help her do that, Stephens wears a WHOOP band all day every day. “I monitor my strain, heart rate, etc. during the day, and in the morning, I get a report on my sleep quality,” she shares. This helps her and her team strategize on how to adapt her training based on where she’s at each day.
She also makes sure to give her body what it needs, like Normatec compression boots to help her muscles recover after tough sessions.
2. Drink enough water
“Hydration is the key to everything in life—skin, recovery, and overall health,” Stephens shares. “With so many variables and changes each week in a different city, different plane, different hotel room, I know I can rely on myself to consistently hydrate and help my body function at its best.”
Remembering to drink enough water can be tough, but Stephens swears by a couple tricks: “I highly recommend getting a refillable water bottle and marking it with different levels and times you want to drink that much by,” she suggests. And if you get bored with plain water, she shares that she loves Lemon Perfect so much that she invested in the company. “It’s a cold-pressed lemon water with zero sugar,” she says.
Stephens uses stretching not only to keep her body loose and limber, but also to combat muscle soreness from training—and everyday life.
“I do a lot of stretches focused on hip mobility and spine mobility to counteract the effects of sitting on planes or in my hotel room for hours on end—things like lumbar twists, pigeon poses, and hip flexor stretches,” she says.
She says she spends a lot of time hunched over her laptop, so she’s also careful to work on opening up her chest. “A great way to do this is by standing in the doorway, putting my arm up at a 90-degree angle and gently pressing my forearm—you’ll feel this in your pecs,” she says.
4. Stay organized
When Stephens is on the road for competitions or other engagements, she makes a point to stay organized. “I keep my hotel rooms super tidy and am very organized with my luggage, laundry, and toiletry kits,” she says. “Not only does it help me keep track of all my belongings, but I’ve found it really helps my mind stay clutter-free and focused on the job I’m there to do.”
She also streamlines her daily routines to optimize her time and mental energy. For instance, she takes advantage of online tools like Slack and Google Drive to easily keep in touch with her team and keep tabs on everything she has going on, she shares. “Taking the time to intentionally set up these structures and systems in all aspects of my life helps reduce the noise.”
5. Make healthy eating easy
Keeping healthy food on hand helps Stephens stay energized for her workouts. “I keep Quantum Energy Squares in my tennis bag for an easy snack at all times,” she says. The plant-based energy bar helps her avoid the dreaded afternoon crash.
She also relies on tried-and-true food options that she knows fuel her well. “I’ve been traveling to the same cities for tournaments each year for almost 15 years at this point, so I have my usual routines and restaurants where I feel comfortable and can keep a consistent, predictable schedule.”
Sloane Stephens’ takeaway for feeling your best
Self-care isn’t just competitive athletes: We all deserve to feel our best, Stephens emphasizes.
“My advice is to simplify and stick to what you know is achievable consistently,” she says. “With travel picking up and our lives seemingly getting busier by the minute, think of your self-care routine as an opportunity to treat yourself with kindness and spend those 5, 10, 15 minutes checking in with your mind and your body.”