I Tried Serena Williams' Workout Routine And Almost Sweat To Death

by Emily Arata
Kylah Benes-Trapp

I want to love anything the way Serena Williams worships at the altar of tennis. Watching the champion play is like hearing a particularly spectacular aria at the Met or sitting under the Sistine Chapel's intricate, grandiose ceiling, appreciating art I'm not capable of making.

But, there's nothing to stop me from trying. If there's one thing I'm not, it's afraid of a challenge.

As a part of Nike's Training Club app, Williams recently released a version of the workout regimen that's built her carved-from-rock body. In a partner workout completed with the help of comedian and fitness nerd Kevin Hart, Williams dares her fans to sprint, squat and leap like an Olympian. The 15-minute workout is available as a downloadable pack within the Nike Training Club app and is perfect for quick workouts at the gym. It'll even play video clips and time each move, so you can't go wrong.

The message is clear: You might be a good runner or have a nastily heavy bench press, but being a tennis player takes more work than that. Speaking as someone who once plodded through a half marathon at an admirably adequate pace (but finished nonetheless), I'm always looking for a new way to prove I'm no longer the chubby kid who preferred spinning in circles in the outfield to actual game play.

When Nike offered me a chance to try the workout with the help of Coach Joe Holder in the brand's private Soho gym, I said "yes" without hesitation. Then, I spent the next 40 minutes mentally comparing each of my body parts to Serena's and quaking internally.

When the day came for my partner workout, I pulled on my sneakers and imagined this was Wimbledon. Just kidding, I groggily pulled myself out of bed and downed several mugs of coffee in a feeble attempt to get my brain cells firing.

At Nike's gym, I paired up with the brand's publicist (thankfully, she also happens to be a friend who's seen me act in embarrassing ways) — the Hart to my Williams, if you will. She'd already kickboxed that morning, so I just assumed it was all downhill from there because both the people in the studio were tougher than me.

Kylah Benes-Trapp

Holder walked us through a lengthy warmup that included foam rolling out our sore bits. Truly, there has never been anything that feels as dumb in this short life as pushing yourself around a log made of plastic, but it did loosen up my sore spots. Then, the trainer led us through a series of full-body flexibility intervals: fast feet, sprints that became skips and high knees.

Serena, he explained, has to be able to move her body in any direction without a second thought. The average person (aka me) has the reflexes of the sloth in that "Zootopia" trailer no one would stop playing. We're basically useless.

Kylah Benes-Trapp

By the time I felt the itch of sweat beading along my scalp and my face turning a little purple, it was time to actually begin the workout. Launching the Nike Training Club app on the studio's oversized TV screen, Holder walked us through the intervals.

Rachael and I huffed, puffed and pushed through 30-second intervals of burpees and partner pushups, wherein you high five the other person every time you come up. I only made it out alive thanks to a superb speaker system blaring my pretend-husband Drake, who does not take kindly to quitters.

Do I look like I'm dying? I felt like I was dying.

Kylah Benes-Trapp

At one point, during a particularly grueling set of side planks with knee drives, my abs just decided it was time for their lunch and quit working entirely. This, then, is the real reason people fork over hundreds of dollars for professional trainers: Holder quite literally held me up with his leg until the interval was over. What else are fitness pros for?

Finally, when I was soaked with perspiration and wishing I could handle my girl crushes in a manner that didn't involve actually copying their workouts, the timer ran out. I collapsed to the floor, where I lay practically comatose until receiving formal orders to stretch from Holder.

That afternoon, I managed to shower and successfully walk out of the gym on my own two legs (albeit wobbly ones, like a newborn fawn), but the full impact of the workout didn't hit until the next day. When alarm went off, I was totally unable to move. Every small shift shot fire down my back muscles, and my quads were out of service, to put it politely.

I texted Rachael, “Officially cannot move a muscle."

She replied, “Physically couldn't bend my legs to get out of bed."

Have you reached this point still wondering if Serena is a superior human to the rest of us? The answer is undoubtedly yes. But can you survive a quickie version of her fitness regimen? Of course — just make sure you don't have to go anywhere afterward. The best part is that you don't have to pay a trainer or leave the comfort of your own living room.

If you're reading this, Serena, I still love you. Now can you please take up something less strenuous, like yoga? Better yet, just the part where you lie on your back and stare at the ceiling. I like that part.