As anybody who has played the sport for any length of time will know, the physical side of the game has a huge role in the level of squash you’re able to play at. Improving your game isn’t just about developing technique, it’s about improving your conditioning to allow you to player faster, harder, and for longer.
Getting into a physical training programme can be tough though, and a lot of players struggle to know what to do, when to do it, and – perhaps most importantly – how to maintain it.
SquashSkills members have got access to a huge range of sessions and programmes to help you with the what and the when, but for those struggling with the maintenance aspect of it check out our 3 top tips:
- Set yourself targets
Setting yourself small, manageable steps towards a bigger, more significant goal is a great way to keep yourself motivated in the early stages of any training regime.
It can be a bit daunting for some players undertaking a new programme, particularly if they’re coming from a pretty low base of conditioning. If your long-term goal from your training programme is to help get you in the shape necessary to get yourself into the top box league at your club for example, It’s a little overwhelming to think about going all the way to there from a start point of being in box 8, 3 stone overweight, and struggling to complete 20 court sprints.
Setting yourself small steps to meet along the way though, can really help break your task into more manageable pieces. Each of these smaller steps you reach, helps maintain motivation and encouragement that you’re moving in the right direction. This ‘Intrinsic motivation’, that which comes from within you and is fuelled by your personal goals and ambitions, has been shown to be the most effective kind of motivation that there is.
So from a physical perspective, it might be a case of first taking a few fitness tests to see where your scores fall currently, and resolve to move them all up by a level within the next 6 weeks. When you reach that small initial goal, reward yourself with a few days off, then set yourself a new target and move onto that one.
A training diary can be a really useful tool here as well, as it allows you to record and track your improvements over time. Glancing back a few months and seeing how much your weights in the gym have increased, or how much quicker your court sprint times have become, is a great way to keep you in a positive mindset to keep working and overcoming the challenges on your way.
- Make it a routine
With so many other responsibilities and commitments, training time is often the first thing that’s sacrificed when time becomes tight.
Whilst this is sometimes unavoidable, if you start thinking about your training sessions more as ‘appointments’, then you’re less likely to drop them in favour of something else that might come up.
For example, if you’d made an appointment for an MOT for your car, or if you’d arranged for someone to come to fix the boiler, you wouldn’t just cancel them at the drop of the hat because you had something else slightly more desirable present itself, such as a spontaneous few drinks with friends, or a blast with your mates on the PlayStation.
Another issue, is all too often players deciding that they want to train maybe 3 times in a week, but never actually pinning things down properly, and just taking it on a day by day basis resolving to just get to the gym or the squash club when they ‘get a chance’. Before they know it it’s Friday, and they still haven’t ticked off a single workout.
By being well-organised and plotting out your training sessions at the beginning of the week and having a set schedule in advance however, your workouts take on more of an importance, and thus in time become more of a standard routine. Barring unforeseen circumstances, these sessions are in your diary and treated the same as any other appointment.
Training programmes need routine, as getting into prime condition takes time. Particularly so the fitter you get – it’s far easier to go from ‘unfit’ to ‘quite fit’, than it is to go from ‘fit’ to ‘very fit’. The fitter you get, the more you need structure and routine to your training to keep pushing on to the next level.
It’s important also to stick to the SAME programme for sufficient time. A lot of trainers still follow the myth of having to ‘shock’ the body and keep changing things up. This isn’t really how a training stimulus works – working, gaining, and improving at an exercise or routine is what causes your body to adapt and develop, not throwing random different sessions at it every other day. Our 4-week training programmes here on the site are a perfect place to start for those needing a little guidance here.
- Enjoy it!
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, try to enjoy your workouts!
Nobody is going to pretend a tough track session, or a brutal court sprint routine, is going to be quite as much fun as sitting in your favourite armchair with a cold drink watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones, but you can certainly make things less of an ordeal with a little foresight and forward planning.
Getting a friend to join you is always a good place to start – sharing the challenge with a partner is a great way to help provide a little extra motivation (particularly if you’re the competitive type!), and you’ve got a training buddy of a similar level.
The support and motivation of a partner can be surprisingly strong, and can really help with adherence in respect to that feeling of not wanting to let your partner down by cancelling a session, or not going as hard as you could have.
Another element to consider in respect to trying to enjoy your training more, is the actual session content itself. Try and pick sessions that you actually find stimulating and challenging, and not just a slow boring slog. If you find court sprints a bore for example, then find another modality of training that will give you the same benefits – ghosting for example, or bike intervals.
While it can often be the case that the sessions you enjoy the least are the ones that you're the weakest at, it’s untrue to suggest that there’s any one type of physical session that every squash player MUST do, particularly so at an amateur level. So pick sessions you enjoy (or at least don’t hate!), include a little variety in your week, and try and train with a smile on your face whenever possible!
Gary Nisbet - B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
Squashskills Fitness & Performance Director
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