Book Review: Jimmy Connors, The Outsider, My Autobiography

When I’m not personal training my London clients, I’m either in the gym working out myself, or on the tennis court. I’ve loved tennis practically all my life, and if you’re as keen on tennis as me, I urge you to buy a copy of Jimmy Connors’ autobiography.

Practice on the tennis court

Connors had an incredible work ethic. He would practice drills for 2-3 hours in the morning, and play a couple of sets in the afternoon, putting into practice what he had been working on in the mornings.

His practice sessions emphasized aggression. Connors would always force the pace, put his opponent under pressure as much as possible, giving them less time to react. “I made my reputation on my all-out aggressive style of play,” he says. He contrasts his style with Bjorn Borg, who waited until the other player made a mistake. “It really comes down to three words,” Connors says, “confidence, aggression, and strategy.” If you’ve ever seen footage of Jimmy Connors playing matches, and there’s plenty on YouTube, you’ll see what the phrase “killer instinct” really means.

The same goes for a successful personal training clients. They need the self-confidence to believe that they will achieve their goals. They need to aggression to attack their workouts both with me and between our sessions. And they need a strategy which fits their medical conditions and goals. I can help with all three, but the client has to fully commit.

Tennis strategy

Connors stresses the need to do the basic things well: take the ball early, keep your eye on the ball, and reach up on your serve, move across the court fast and smoothly, vary the pace of your shots to upset the opponent’s rhythm, always expect the ball to come back, use the whole court to your advantage.

Overcoming adversity

As a personal trainer I’ve met many London clients who have had to overcome major challenges, particularly obese clients who have a lot of weight to lose. Jimmy Connors had many challenges to overcome: childhood poverty, seeing his mother getting beaten up, his obsessive compulsive disorder, and winning ¬†matches from a losing position.

He says, “I’ve always gauged the mettle of someone’s character by the way they figure out how to continue a losing fight… stay in there and battle to the end.”

One of the most epic comebacks in all tennis history was Connors v Mikael Penfors, in the 4th round of Wimbledon 1987. Connors was down 6-1, 6-1, 4-1, and came back to win the match. I tell this story to my personal training clients in London as an example of how you can overcome any obstacle if you want something badly enough.

This is what my obese personal training clients have to do to succeed, and it’s as much a mental battle as physical.

Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London and founder of Fitness Buddy, a fitness network which includes tennis as one of the options.