Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prevent and Cure Low Energy

Today I'm going to talk about what you can do if you're low on energy before or during a match or training. Obviously squash is a sport that we expend a lot of energy and burn a lot of calories playing. Once in awhile we all have those groggy days where we can't get out feet moving. If this is happening on a regular basis you will have to ask yourself if you're getting enough sleep and if you are eating the right type of fuel for playing squash. But for most of us this low energy just happens irregularly and I have a few tricks that you can try to get you going to feel and play better.

Prevention: the first part I want to talk about is prevention. This is clearly better than waiting to feel low on energy and then dealing with it. So what are some common reasons and cures for feeling tired and low on energy. The first is obvious. We didn't get enough sleep. It sounds like a simple fix, just get more sleep. But often this is more difficult than it sounds. Some people get nervous while they are in competition and have difficulty sleeping. If this is the case you may benefit from breathing, meditation, or muscles relaxation techniques. Sometimes some relaxing music can help. Even if you don't fall asleep, just lying down and relaxing can help you feel rejuvenated.

If you're tired I always recommend finding time for a short power nap. Even just 30 minutes of sleep at some point during the day can make a big difference. A lot of professional athletes do this after their morning training and before their night game. If we are training and playing a to of squash we likely need  more sleep than we're getting. So try getting into a routine of taking a nap, at least during competitions or tough training days.

Another reasons people get low on energy is their diet. If you eat pretty healthy and stay avoid things like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol you will stay on a more even energy platform. This will also improve your sleeping and therefore your squash. It can be challenging to eat similar and healthy when on trips for competition, but this is when it's most important. Have a look at this previous post if you want to know more about squash nutrition http://www.serioussquash.com/2014/08/squash-nutrition.html. This may seem obvious, but when people are worried about shedding a few pounds this can become an issue; it's important to eat more food when you've increased your training and expending more energy. Eating a big within 30 minutes of exercise also helps your body to refuel faster which again is essential to performing well in tournament play.

I should also mention here that sometimes when your energy level is abnormally low it can be a sign of getting sick or stress. So getting some extra sleep and eating well is very important. But what happens when it's just because you've had a long day? If you're at a tournament, I always try and get out for some fresh air and not spend the entire day sitting inside watching other matches. It's good to separate yourself from the squash club for a while and get your mind off of squash.

Cures: so far I've talked about preventative measures. But what can you do once you're at training or a tournament and you've been hit by a low spell of energy? The first tip I have is something I heard that Rafa Nadal does before every match. Rafa has a cold shower. This shocks the body and wakes up the mind. If you don't want to do the whole cold shower you can always try splashing some cold water on your face. Another tip is to have a more rigorous warmup than normal. Often the toughest part is just getting going, but once you get the hear rate up you will start waking up and feeling better. So if you're feeling tired and low on energy get your hear rate up and work up a sweat before you go out on court.

As I mentioned above, sometimes low energy has to do with our nutrition. I always keep some snacks in my bag. Everyone is different, but I suggest keeping something that has some carbs, electrolytes, and protein in your bag. You can also keep some power gels in your bag as they are easily digested. You'll see some of the pros use these between games. It's a quick way to replenish electrolytes and carbs. Mostly long distance runners use these and shouldn't have to rely on them, but if you're feeling low on energy before or during a match a quick gel pack could help give you a boost.

The last suggestion I have for you is only something you can do at practice. Whenever I felt low on energy I would push myself harder physically. I liked using a treadmill so I could set the speed and make sure I worked harder than normal. I think the psychology behind this really worked for me. Some people don't want to snap out of feeling low on energy because it's quite difficult. I would punish my body and challenge my mind when this happened. I know how long and how fast I would run and it would always be tough, but I wouldn't stop until I couldn't take another step. After a really tough run I always felt much better.

There is one more area that needs to be discussed. Although I liked to physically push myself when I felt really low on energy, sometimes you need to listen to your body and take a day off. Maybe you need to change your rest day to today. Obviously you can't do that at a tournament. Going through the motions in drills or in the gym isn't going to help you. If you go on court or to work out, only do it when you're going to give it your best effort. If you're low on energy maybe you're better watching some squash, taking a nap, doing a solo hit, or even taking the day off.

What works for you when you're feeling low on energy? Do you have any tricks to get you up for a match or for training?

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