I got a call from Patrick Foster (Bermuda Director of Squash) to see if I would be interested in playing the Legends event here in Bermuda again. Legends events are where some of the best ex professionals compete against each other – Palmer, Power, Lincou, Shabana, White are only a few of the names who regularly play the events. My first response was that I definitely wanted to play because, as most squash players the world over, I still LOVE playing the sport. My second thought was, this is going to really hurt and I could potentially do myself some real physical damage.
Having declined the offer the previous year because of a deteriorating hip, I wanted to find a way to be able to make it happen. Using all the resources at my disposal, I set about trying to get in the best possible physical shape so as to enjoy my experience and also not to finish the week of squash hurting or worse, with some of my more problematic areas enflamed and in need of care or surgery. This may sound dramatic but after a long period of waking up 3 times in the night with hip pain, my lower back seizing up when doing silly little movements or hobbling down the stairs first thing in the morning, it was a legitimate concern.
However, at the same time I was only ever going to go to the gym 2 or 3 times a week and spend no more than an hour working out then also only play a game of squash maybe every or every other week. I have done the hard hours of training and work so changing my lifestyle like not being with my family or less socialising was never going to happen. As a regular working person, I have the same lifestyle as most amateur players trying to play better squash.
Stage 1 – get great advice!
My first discussion was with my wife, Jessica Winstanley – who SquashSkills members will know from all the fitness videos prior to Gary taking over. Having also worked with our squash program in New York as the physical trainer and being a certified yoga instructor, Jess was perfectly placed to help me formulate training that would most specifically repair, strengthen and promote a healthier body. This was the starting point to being able to work towards being able to play squash at the level I wanted to and would enjoy.
After discussing a schedule of maintenance work, Jess then trawled NYC to find someone who had the ability to diagnose and care for my current conditions. I wanted to see someone who was a Physiotherapist, Osteopath, Masseur & Coach/Player of any sport to a high level – fairly difficult combination of qualities. The reason to seek someone with all these 4 traits was to make sure the person was not thinking from one singular perspective and could also simply put, get my body functioning again to be able to play squash, not just treat injuries or issues in isolation.
This person was Noel Lozares of BK Physio. He had all the qualifications and was working with high-level athletes in the New York area. Having been a sprinter and running coach, he also had a wonderful understanding of what an athlete would go through and the practicalities of working with and around physical issues.
Remarkably, Noel spent the sessions we worked together teaching me to walk in the correct way. Through years of squash and moving a certain way I had began to use my quads, hip flexors and back in almost every movement I made. This, according to Noel, meant that my hip flexors in particular were hugely overused and basically screaming all the time, hence my hip pain. Now, my hip has issues and will no doubt require specific treatment in the future but the issue was being exacerbated by how I was recruiting my muscles for some thing as simple as walking.
After a month or so of sessions and workouts on my own, which included stationary bike, leg extension and wobble board work, I was ready to both get into harder physical work and also play some squash!
I’m in Bermuda right now preparing to play David Palmer in the last match of the tournament. I feel good, hurting a little but no more than should be expected from playing 3 games of squash in 3 days. In the next blog I’ll share the next stage of training and preparation leading up to the event, giving some practical sessions any long term squash players can benefit from doing.
As ever, good luck and enjoy your squash – I certainly am and even after 36 years of playing, will have a huge smile on my face tonight walking onto court, feeling grateful for everything the game has given and continues to give me!
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