Ron Beck © 2004 , Camp
Keewaydin, Lake Temagami Ontario.
August 5 2004: (photos, unless otherwise noted, © 2004 Camp
Christie, a sports physician who has worked with all levels of athletes,
has also spent his past 40 summers in various roles at the world's
preeminent canoe-tripping camp, Keewaydin,
on Lake Temagami Ontario.
into Don at Lake Temagami this summer, and we got into a conversation
about high performance squash and the value of Canoe Tripping as
a cross training exercise. Exhibit number one is my son, Nate Beck,
who is currently on the Keewaydin trip staff and has eschewed the
traditional summer squash training regimen for college squash players
in favor of canoe tripping. The result for him has been exemplary.
He has exhibited drastic improvements in his squash each year. According
to his coach, Bob Callahan of Princeton, "Nate has been our
most improved player each of the past two years."
example, perennial US age group champ John Frazier (a former Princeton
Squash Team member), spent years as a Keewaydin camper and staffman.
John achieved high national rankings in the years he spent his summers
canoe tripping, and there is a case to be made that the endurance
base he built then is still serving him today.
Don about this and other topics:
Don, what do you think about the idea of improving your squash by
canoe tripping in the off season?
Christie: Ron, this isn't just a hypothesis, this
is very much a proven fact. (We've spoken about your own son and
John Frazier, both Keewaydin alum's.) What's called "dryland
training," follows a significant rest period after the squash
season and may include a regimen of totally different, but related,
physical activities such as Keewaydin-style canoe tripping. Squash
practice, itself, can wait for a few weeks. Such a sequence of relative
rest, participation in alternative activities, and resumption of
formal sports training can give an edge to world class athletes.
skiers from Finland, Norway and Sweden are a case in point. When
studies were done to understand the successful development of Olympic
and World Cup champions, it was found that not only do they engage
in all sorts of playful sports as kids and young teenagers, they
continue to participate in variety of activities during their summer
they cycle, they play soccer, and they run among other things. Those
activities let their bodies rest and recover from the cross-country
skiing season; even as they add to the essential base of endurance
that they will employ in the upcoming competitive season. While
roller skiing is the principle sport-specific dryland training for
Nordic skiers, they introduce it in a very ordered fashion, and
by no means is it their only training activity. Thus they avoid
over-training the specific muscles that have been under constant
stress and overload during the competitive season.
What about the canoe-tripping angle?
of all let me be very clear about this. I am talking about Canoe
— six weeks with a section of campers and staff, paddling
and portaging countless miles through the lakes and forests of the
Ontario Northwoods. Paddling a canoe is great training for the upper
body and "core" muscles and for cardiorespiratory conditioning.
part adds in the key element of portaging, when you are carrying
the canoe plus camping gear and food supplies from lake to lake,
or around a rapid too unsafe to shoot, usually over hilly and uneven
terrain. You often make more than one trip over each portage. You
tend to assume a slightly squat position - great training for your
quads, gluts, "core" and postural balance muscles. You
are changing direction from side to side, balancing a heavy weight,
so you are building a very functional endurance and strength base
which happens to be ideal for the constant change of direction and
balancing required on a squash court. (Editor's note: a 17-foot
wood and canvas Chestnut Prospector canoe — the Keewaydin
"standard" for the older section of campers — weighs
75+ pounds "dry", and soaks up some water weight as the
season goes on.)
|An arduous portage (see canoes
being carried in foreground) in the wilds of far Northern Quebec.
Photo © 2004 Elliot Beck
get back from a summer of canoe tripping, and get back onto the
squash court, your cardiorespiratory conditioning is great. (Think
of those miles of paddling against headwinds and the long portages
with canoes or double packs!) Now all you do is spend a few days
reminding your body that you are back on a squash court, and you
are right back into it, at a higher level of overall fitness.
the most important thing is that you have given your body an extended
period to recover from an intense season of competition even as
you have begun to increase your baseline of endurance and work on
both upper and lower body functional strength. This lets you move
into the new season with an improved base of fitness.
Explain exactly what you are talking about with the recovery period.
we are trying to do with the developing athlete, at the high school
or college level, as well as those at the elite level, is avoid
the overuse syndrome — "staleness" and "burnout."
We see it all the time with high potential athletes. They come onto
the scene with great promise, and then all of a sudden at the age
of 20 or 21 they disappear from the scene. In many cases they have
flamed out physically and mentally because their coaches and parent
didn't understand appropriate developmental training.
are many things that need to be done to avoid this problem. The
first is to teach the athlete and his or her coach the importance
of rest and recovery. This includes several elements.
started out discussing is the need for a rest period at
the end of the competition season. I would add to
that the importance of taking time to monitor personal growth and
development during adolescence. (At the least, measure weight and
height every 3-4 months to properly monitor individual rates of
maturation.) In a junior or college competitive season, the competitions
come one after the other. In many cases, small injuries aren't rested
adequately before the next competition, and so on. (See below about
"just saying 'No!'")
the end of the season, it is extremely important to take a significant
period of rest, completely getting away from the specific training
regimen for the sport. This will be specific to the athlete and
his or her situation. If there is an injury, it is crucial to assess
it and give the rest period needed to completely heal that injury,
even — and this is often what the coaches and parents and
even the competitor, don't want to hear — if it's in the midst
of the season.
second element of the program is to design an complete
training program that extends for the full ten months
or so from the end of the rest period through the end of the competitive
|The endurance training and cardiorespiratory
benefits of canoe tripping can benefit many athletes.
where canoe-tripping, or other such endurance and strength and agility-building
training comes in, so that when the season begins, the appropriate
physical fitness is increased and the likelihood of injuries decreased.
get closer to your season, a specific set of training should be
followed to improve the body's ability to handle the intensity of
pressure in a match situation - interval training and the like.
element of the program is within-season rest.
Adequate sleep is absolutely essential. During sleep, your muscles
are recovering and rebuilding. Also, at times during the season,
when the athlete doesn't feel ready or "fresh", it is
completely wise and appropriate to sit that athlete out for a match
or competition to ensure the avoidance of burnout or breakdown as
the season wears on. This is the hardest part for the coach and
parent to get their heads around.
Do you have any other thoughts for recovery from a squash match?
am not an expert squash player by any means, but I did play quite
a bit during my medical school days in Rochester NY, and I understand
what the sport demands.
studies of how the body fuels the muscles during competition show
a progression of use of sources of energy as intensity varies and
the match progresses: fat and carbohydrate for low and mid-range
effort of any duration, and carbohydrate (in the form of stored
muscle glycogen, plus a small contribution from blood glucose from
absorbed "food" or "deconstructed" liver glycogen
stores) during higher-intensity effort. The body starts to "hit-the-wall"
for anything beyond low-level effort when the carbohydrate fuel
sources run out, and it simply grinds to a painful halt when lactic
acid formed during intense, prolonged effort achieves a point of
no return. The goal, then, is to extend the time before carbohydrate
supplies run out and the lactic acid level becomes too elevated.
A proper training and nutrition regimen accomplishes this.
NOTE: The topics of exercise metabolism and nutrition for maximal
performance are vastly more complicated than this might imply and
will be the subject of a future SquashTalk discussion with Dr. Christie)
to further this metabolic "education" is through the off-season
"dry land" training we talked about - canoe tripping being
one possible component.
key component is, first, to be well nourished in general, and second,
to replenish usable energy during competition. This will extend
the period before one "hits-the-wall," maybe from, let's
say, seventy minutes to eighty, which might be enough to give you
the edge in that critical end of the fifth game in the 75th minute.
where sports drinks like Gatorade come in. Extensive tests have
showed they have the formulation just about right, providing the
right percentage of sugar that the body can continue to uptake while
undergoing intense activity, so it doesn't just sit in your stomach,
plus sodium and potassium salts to replace sweat losses and facilitate
can't afford commercial sports drink, make your own version out
of half-strength orange juice and a pinch of salt per 8 ounces of
drink. Try to take in an average of 8 ounces every 15 minutes of
on-going exercise (which would be, therefore an average of an 8
ounce cup after each squash game in a match), to prevent the fatigue
and drop-off in performance that comes with dehydration.
the all-important AFTER MATCH "fuel" replenishment. You
have a window of 20 to 30 minutes right after exercise (practice
as well as competition) when the body should begin refueling for
muscle recovery, including glycogen replacement, and get you ready
for the next day's, or evening's competition. There's really nothing
better than a snack of real food, such as half a peanut-butter sandwich,
some milk or yogurt, and some fruit. (Commercial "recovery"
products such as Endurox R4 are convenient for many.) In contrast
with what you ingest during competition, you now need to add some
protein in with the carbohydrates. Of course a regular meal must
follow on schedule.
You mentioned earlier to me the all-importance of the ability to
"just say no" ?
athlete, depending on his or her training history and stage of growth
and development (keep track of this as I have mentioned earlier),
will need to sense when it is time to say "No!" to a training
and competition schedule that will leave one over trained and injured.
One should always feel "fresh" (recovered) before proceeding
to the next workout or match. When fresh, an athlete trains and
plays better. (Also, all sorts of technical flaws surface when the
who have recently experienced a major growth spurt often discover
that their recovery times are temporarily longer and performance
poorer, and they, especially, need to feel free to say "No!"
Such discipline, in the face of schedules fixed by administrators
and under pressure from parents, friends, team-mates and other athletes
to perform, no matter when or where, requires extraordinary resolve
and understanding on the part of both athletes and coaches.
the good coach's task to lay this matter out with parents, administrators,
and teammates before the season begins, making clear that what counts
most is the optimal development of each athlete. Serious squash
players(and their loyal followers) must take this long view.
more on where to engage in canoe tripping see http://temagami.keewaydin.org
You can reach Don Christie MD by email at dchristie
@adelphia.net. He is based in Lewiston Maine]