We have a brand new edition of our popular ’11 Points on Fitness’ Q&A, this time featuring English international and world number 24, Tom Richards.
Tom had a very good start to the 2019/20 season in the China Open, overcoming Egyptian world junior champion Mostafa Asal with an excellent 3/0 victory, before falling to a very narrow 3/2 loss against world no. 1 Ali Farag in the quarter-finals.
Q1) How important do you think fitness/conditioning is to the game? In your opinion, have the fitness requirements changed at all in the transition to the modern era?
A – I think it’s extremely important in the modern game. Squash is so dynamic now that you need to be able to call upon many different energy systems, and some of these can only be improved in off court sessions. Even in my time as a pro I’ve noticed a change to a more dynamic, shorter, but more explosive style of squash. Power is therefore required but equally strength/endurance is vital, so you really need a well rounded fitness to be able to compete.
Q2) How many dedicated fitness/conditioning sessions do you complete in a standard training week?
This depends on the stage of the season. Typically in the summer I will do 5 court sessions and 6 fitness sessions per week. These vary greatly in terms of the outcome I’m looking for, but will always be relevant to Squash. During the season the amount of tough off court sessions decrease but tend to become shorter and sharper.
Q3) How long do you spend warming up before an on-court practice session and/or match? Do you pay special attention to any certain areas and if so, why?
Typically before an on court session I would warm up for around 20-30 mins depending on the session. These warm ups can become part of the session as they incorporate speed and agility elements as well as standard activation. Before a match I will start my warm up 45 mins before, and have a very similar routine ever time which involves activation, dynamic stretching, heart raising and finally Squash specific movements.
Q4) What is your all-time hardest off-court training session? How often do you perform this session?
A – I’d say the sessions that make me feel the worst are track sessions. In the summer I do 3 running sessions a week, 1 of which is track but the hardest ones I’ve done would have been in my early 20s, I’m a bit smarter nowadays!
Q5) In the aforementioned session, how do you keep up your motivation to not only finish but perform well? Do you use any particular mental strategies?
A – I’ve never really struggled with motivation in the physical sessions, strangely I quite enjoy the pain. It’s a trait that’s quite common amongst squash players as it’s such a brutal sport, having said that if I ever need that extra push I just imagine being 9-9 in the 5th.
Q6) Do you use any particular type of training session as a ‘test’ to measure your fitness levels?
A – There’s one interval treadmill running session that gives me a good gauge of where I am fitness wise, I know exactly what speeds and where my heart rate gets to at certain points so it will be a good indicator. As I’ve got older I’m much more aware of how I feel though, whereas I once would have pushed every session I can now ease off without feeling guilty that I haven’t had to peel myself off the floor at the end of the session!
Q7) Do you incorporate any gym-based weights/resistance sessions into your training programme? If so, what are your main goals from this type of training? (i.e. endurance, power, injury resistance etc.)
A – I’ve gone through many different cycles of weight training. When I was 20 1 tore my ACL so did a lot of heavy leg weights to rebuild strength. Then at 25 1 tore my hamstring in two so had to spend a lot of time working on hamstring mobility and strength. Now I tend to do 1 main weights session and several bolt-ons during the week. The main session works on strength in range and explosiveness and the bolt ons are more focused on activation, maintenance and bursts of speed.
Q8) Are there any particular items of training equipment you incorporate into your sessions that you feel especially benefit you as a squash player? (i.e. bungee cords, agility ladders, weighted vests etc.)
A – There’s nothing major. I’ve worked with all the mentioned and still use an agility ladder but I find you can get the benefits you need without these if you can be creative. Quite often they can be seen as a shortcut if not used properly, and I tend to think that the more squash specific you can get (i.e. ghosting) then the greater the
benefit will be.
Q9) Do you follow any type of nutrition plan? If not, how have you learned to fuel your body best for your sport’s demands?
A – I try and eat as healthily as possible. I don’t eat red meat and so have to be aware of getting iron in to my diet, but other than that I try to eat a wide variety of foods. I’ve got a pretty sweet tooth so I have to use a lot of will power during the season! During tournaments I’ll always be aware of refuelling properly after matches and if that means a recovery shake or protein bar, then that’s what I’ll do. I hate to feel full on court so will always eat around 4 hours before I play and then have a gel during the match.
Q10) Do you use any supplements/vitamins etc as part of your diet/nutrition?
A – I take a few supplements. As mentioned before I take iron but as well as that I take vitamin D and a probiotic tablet. I also use REGO recovery from science in sport after a heavy session or tough match.
Q11) Do you utilize any recovery techniques in between tournament matches? (i.e. specific foods, drink, treatments, ice bath, etc.)
A – After a particularly tough match I will have a recovery shake. Apart from that I just try and eat something healthy soon after I’ve played. I also have an electrolyte drink and gel when I’m playing. I’ve dabbled with ice baths in the past and actually don’t mind them too much, but I find I get just as much benefit from a hot bath and it tends to be more convenient to do that.
Big thanks to Tom for taking the time out to answer our questions. Tom is sponsored by Karakal – you can check out their full range of squash rackets and equipment at www.karakal.com