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How to keep your head in the game

How do the best keep focused? When it comes to tennis pro Madison Keys, it’s mental strength that helps her conquer challenges and be at the top of her game.

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No matter the obstacle, she has a tactical approach that not only helps her overcome but also become stronger in the process. Here are just a few of her favorite tips and tricks:

1. Injuries

There’s no denying an injury can hold you back—but it can also push you forward. For Keys, she was able to take advantage of a wrist injury: “In a lot of ways, it was really good for me … I had three months, four months to really just focus on my fitness. I would say I'm for sure in the best shape that I have ever been in … we definitely took a negative, and turned it into a really great positive.”

2. Challenging workouts

Everyone has an enemy when it comes to workouts. It doesn’t take too many sprints to make almost anyone weak in the knees. For Keys, it’s about remembering the last time you bested those tough sessions: “When you finish a really tough workout, you feel so good about yourself. You feel like you're on top of the world, and anything you put your mind to you can finish. I think the biggest thing for me is remembering all of those emotions, and feelings, and thoughts that I was having during the workout, where I just thought I couldn't do it, I was going to die, and then being able to finish that. It just makes you feel really, really good about yourself.”

3. Staying motivated

Sometimes goals feel so far off from accomplishing, it’s easy to get deterred by your progress (or lack thereof). Keys doesn’t just take it one day at a time, but one moment at a time: “The thing that I've always thought has helped me is just focusing on just the one that's right in front of you, not getting too occupied and just focusing on exactly what's in front of you. Not thinking about what's next week, what's happening even tomorrow. What am I doing right now? How do I achieve it at the absolute highest level? Then I can focus on what I have next.”

4. Chilling out

Looking at poor reps and missed PRs, it can feel like you have to constantly train to catch up to your vision of success. It’s important to remember that success invariably includes recovery. Keys agrees: “Recovery is almost as important as pushing yourself. I think a lot of the time if you take that day off, or two days off, you come back and you're able to push yourself even harder because you've had time to not only physically recover, but mentally.” Any number of setbacks can literally set you back, but finding the bright side, visualizing your best, having defined goals, and taking the time to recover can help keep you on track. This piece was produced in partnership with Nike Training Club. To get started on your fitness journey, download the NTC app here.

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