In Chill Chat, Bustle sits down with stars to chat about all things wellness, from their favorite workout to their hacks for getting a good night’s sleep. Here, tennis pro Sloane Stephens reveals her key to wellness, tricks for staying hydrated, and how she winds down at the end of the day.
It takes a massive amount of strength and stamina to be a professional tennis player (obviously). For Sloane Stephens, who’s been competing on the court for more than a decade — including her recent run at the 2021 U.S. Open, where the 28-year-old made it through three rounds — wellness is about much more than having the physical strength necessary to be one of the top tennis pros in the world.
“I find wellness to be not only physical but mental, especially with being on the road, traveling, and all that comes with being an athlete,” she tells Bustle. “The only way to take care of myself is to pay attention to what my body needs, what I’m putting into it, and what makes me feel good mentally.”
Stephens says this realization came later in her career. The tennis pro has been playing professionally since 2007, with a 2017 U.S. Open title, five Women's Tennis Association titles, and multiple appearances at other top tournaments like the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon among her impressive resume — so figuring out how to balance training with self-care has been essential. “Sometimes I just keep going and going and never take a minute to chill out, so I think day-to-day awareness is super helpful to take care of myself,” she says.
When it comes to her wellness routine, it’s not all tennis, all the time. Stephens says that some of the key elements of solid performance on the court — like hydration and listening to your body — also translate to better wellbeing overall. Read on for her favorite self-care rituals, what’s on her workout playlist, and her go-to bedtime relaxation routine.
What’s your go-to self-care practice?
When I’m at a tournament, I get a massage on my off day. I always fall asleep during them, so it’s a way to turn off my brain and prepare for the next day or just get my thoughts together and de-stress. And after a match, I get a mini-massage through my legs and low back to get out the lactic acid, get the blood flowing, and knock out the stiffness.
What are your secrets for staying hydrated, especially when you’re always on the go?
I used to be really bad with hydration, so I try to drink different things by adding in a Hydrant [electrolyte packet], lemon, or cucumbers. I started slowly by drinking one bottle of water, then one bottle of something else. Obviously, hydration is a huge part of being a high-level athlete, but drinking a ton of water has also been really good for my skin.
What do you listen to when you’re working out?
I’m a really odd person to work out with because I listen to love ballads — Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Selena, and all this old-school R&B stuff. I sing my heart out during the entire workout, and it’s the best.
What’s your favorite kind of workout to do while you’re listening to those love ballads?
Cardio circuits. You can do intervals and do them quickly, get your heart rate up, and be done with it.
After your workouts, which do you prefer: baths or saunas?
Saunas. I cannot sit in my dirty water.
How do you wind down at the end of the day?
I come home after practice and shower, eat dinner, and hydrate more. I’m one of those annoying people who gets up in the middle of the night like seven times if I drink anything after 7 p.m., so I try to get in all my hydration during the day. I’ll have some fruit or a light snack before bed so I don’t wake up starving, and then I put my lavender essential oils into my diffusers, unwind, and read a book before bed.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.