To Properly Warm Up:
The warm-up is one of the most overlooked parts of squash in my opinion.
Views on how to properly warm up the body have changed over the years, and it is now thought that a warm up based mainly on dynamic stretches and movements is best. I could talk about what warm-up exercises are best and what works for me in terms of warming up my body, but what I find much more interesting is explaining how and why you need to warm up your mind so your are mentally prepared for a squash match.
Entire books have been written on the subject of being mentally prepared for sports, but as I am neither a psychologist nor a psychic so I won’t pretend to know what works for other people. Instead I will simply relay what I know works for me.
Personally, I begin preparing mentally for big events which I care about weeks in advance. As I am lying in bed or walking along the street or whenever my mind is blank or bored I find myself thinking about the event I will be playing. I visualize playing big points and winning them, visualize myself hitting “awesome” shots, and therefore when it happens in real life it is almost like you have been in the situation before. My subconscious takes over and it seems very natural and commonplace even while it should be a high tension or nervous situation.
Now all this may sound kind of ridiculous to people, but its honestly true. I actually get excited when I am hitting solo practice and I think about the playing in the final of the tournament I am playing in a month’s time. As I hit the ball up and hit it into the nick I imagine what it will feel like to be in the finals of the tournament and play against my opponent. Sometimes my heart starts racing as I get an adrenaline rush purely from imagining you’re actually in that big situation. This is sort of like when you’re a kid playing basketball and you practice the last second shot 100 times. Then when you get into that situation in the game your instincts take over and your body is trained for that situation.
With all this thought and effort going into getting ready for a tournament, you can easily get too nervous when you’re nearing a match.
That’s why I chill out when I’m actually at a tournament. I’m not really one to stress much about anything, but on the day of a match, I try not to think about the match too much until I actually start my warm up about 40 minutes before the match. Then once I am actually beginning to warm up I do think about the match and what I need to do. I generally don’t think many specific thoughts; instead I focus only on the basics that everyone needs to remind themselves of all the time. Don’t go short too soon (big problem of mine), step up and volley etc. Only if I have discussed and worked on a specific tactic or strategy for a specific player will I try and think about playing away from my normal game plan.
I have found that when I think too much about how I should play, I don’t play well. Just go out there and play squash, don’t make a simple game too complicated.
Hope this helps,
PS: for everyone who knows me well…I know it’s ridiculous that I am writing a column on warming up when in the past I have had some of the most suspect warm up routines ever….I’m very professional now however! (I keep telling myself that)
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