Sunday, January 31, 2010

Training for Squash versus Training to win

If you want peak levels of performance, mastering your squash skillz will take you very far, but if you want your performances to translate into W's, you must shift the focus of your training program.

Get physical. Intensity must be the driving factor of your workouts. Push yourself to see improvements in speed, strength and endurance with every workout. In order to run faster for longer, you must practice running faster for longer. Sounds easy!? This is the only way to raise your lactic threshold so that intense efforts can be maintained with a minimal fatigue. Try training continuously at above 85% max heart rate for 20- to 25-minutes, short intense workouts have a profound effect on lactic threshold.

Keep going. Maximise aerobic capacity (V02max) so that more energy is available to sustain your exercise. This is as simple as playing squash for extended periods of time. Don't just go thru the motions, push yourself to the point of exhaustion and once that point is reached, keep going, thats when the intensity of training becomes the key factor to maximizing V02max. If you want to improve your V02max, you need 85 per cent of maximal heart rate throughout the entire game for four-to-five minute stretches several times, which means pushing hard to every ball, on every point from start to finish of every game. Learn to empty the tank!

Use your head. Superior performers can concentrate entirely on their body during training and match play without interruption from extraneous thoughts or negative information which attenuates performance. Top athletes are self-critical, engaging in positive self-talk and encouragement during training and in their lives in general. Bad performances roll off their backs and they regard poor outings as opportunities to learn more about themselves and to develop both physical and mental preparations for competitions. Visualization is key, forming mental images of moving powerfully and quickly, and tuning into these images before major competitions.

Make it easy. Efficiency in exact squash movements prevents wasting precious energy during competition, making hard exertions less stressful. Each muscle in your body is composed of collections of individual muscle cells. Strengthen your muscles so the muscle required can easily sustain a certain level of effort. Simple put, make the muscles you use strong muscles. Activating fewer individual muscle cells lowers your overall energy demand and increases efficiency. Then you can step up to higher intensity squash or conserve large quantities of precious muscle fuel. Training at levels of effort higher than your usual competitive intensity allows you to keep going at the lower intensity of match play. Obviously training at such exertions can't be sustained for long, so employ 30 to 90 second intervals at close to top capacity. During competition, realize that it is not just a muscular event, an athlete's nervous system must learn to control muscular activity at the precise exertion level required to play squash. Specific training allows the nervous and muscular systems to come together in a coordinated way.

Stop. Learn to balance intense training with recovery, so that you can do it all over again. Severely intense workouts are necessary to get to the top and rest is equally important and often missing from a potentially great athlete's schedule. Highly intense workouts produce winning performances but the majority of athletes go overboard, pushing themselves to the brink of fatigue, overtraining and even injury. Learn that optimal training involves exercising and resting; to reach supreme performance levels that include fierce exertions, you must balance them with restoration and recovery. Our bodies need to take a rest, so that we can train hard. So avoid the temptation to carry out too many high-intensity workouts during the training year and learn how to identify overtraining syndrome.

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