It’s a familiar feeling, and pretty much every squash player has been there at some point or another – turning up at the club for a scheduled match or training session with a brain tired and fatigued from a long day at work, legs feeling like they’re made out of lead, and a general desire to be anywhere else in the world rather than about to step on court for a game of squash!
While the prospect of a miracle reversal of these feelings of lethargy may be a little unrealistic, and holding out the belief that there may be some way to flip things around so that you’re all of a sudden in position to be able to go on court at peak sharpness and enthusiasm is likely a little over-optimistic, there are certainly some things you can do to help boost your drive and get your head back in the game. Check out our top 3 tips for boosting pre-match energy levels below.
We’ve looked at caffeine in-depth on the blog before, and it remains the most powerful legal stimulant that is available. An early cup of coffee is a fixture in many people’s morning routine, with the constituent caffeine buzz providing a kickstart to energy levels ready for the day ahead.
Caffeine can be used strategically prior to your on-court sessions as well if you’re lacking in get-up-and-go. To get the best results however, you’ll need to discover what dose and timing is most effective for you.
The amount of caffeine in a standard cup of coffee will vary but is typically around 100mg. Other popular sources of caffeine are Red Bull (or similar ‘energy’ drinks) which contain approx 80mg of caffeine in a standard-sized can, Pro Plus tablets which contain 50mg, and 5 Hour Energy Shots which contain a whopping caffeine content of around 200mg. There’s a more exhaustive list here for those wishing to read through the caffeine content of a range of popular beverages in more detail.
Standard recommendations for optimal caffeine dosage for enhancing physical performance is anywhere in the range of 1mg to 5mg per kilogram of bodyweight. So for a standard 70kg person, their ideal dose is likely to fall between 70mg and 350mg – so somewhere between one small cup of coffee, or three and a half standard cups!
Start low, and experiment first in non-competitive situations – gradually build the amount of caffeine you ingest until you find what amount gives you the best buzz. Try also testing out different timings with your caffeine intake – different reports suggest an optimal time period of anything between 15mins and 60mins before physical activity for best results.
As with any stimulant or supplement, if you have any queries or concerns you should always check with your doctor before experimenting with higher dosages.
Warm-Up Thoroughly (and Blast Some Music)
The warm-up is something we frequently promote the benefits of here on SquashSkills, due to the role it plays in preparing your body to perform. It’s something that is easy to skim over when you’re not feeling your best, but this is actually the time when it’s most important.
A properly constructed warm-up protocol is one of the best ways to shake yourself out of a funk and get yourself into an enhanced state of mental and physical preparedness. Pushing yourself into your warm-up routine might be a bit of a wrench, but it is undoubtedly the best way to get yourself into a better state to perform. Particularly if it’s an important game that you’re meant to be playing, remind yourself that the mental effort it takes to motivate yourself to properly warm-up will, in turn, put you in the best possible position to be able to play your best.
Incorporating music into your warm-up can be a big help here as well. Typically the recommendation made is to listen to music that takes you into the optimal state of arousal you need to be in to perform at your best – so if you’re someone who can be a slow and lethargic starter then you would listen to something faster and louder, whereas if you’re someone typically more tense and nervous before a game you would listen to something slower and calmer.
Coming in for a scheduled match/training session feeling sluggish and weary, means you’ll probably want to lean towards listening to something a little more upbeat and motivational! Try experimenting with different tracks and playlists for different circumstances, and see what works best for you.
Take a Shower
While showering down after the match is nothing unusual, showering BEFORE the match is rather less typical! It can, however, be an excellent way to potentiate the body and galvanise the mind.
We’ve looked at standard ‘active’ warm-ups above, but a pre-session shower can operate as a great ‘passive’ warm-up – particularly when coming into the squash club on a cold January evening. Spending a few minutes under a hot stream in the changing room before you head to the court can help raise core temperature, and aid in easing any tightness within the joints.
For the brave amongst you looking for an extra boost of stimulation, try finishing your warm shower with a 20secs cold blast at the lowest temperature you can sustain, to provide an additional burst of mind and body invigoration ready for the on-court exertions ahead!
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
Perfect your warm-up with the help of Gary!
Check out this series where Gary teaches you his 3 stage warm-up to be physically prepped and ready for the game.Learn more