Today I'm going to talk about how to prepare for morning matches. Most of us don't play squash early in the morning, so when we get to a tournament and have an early match many of us have difficult waking up and playing at the same level. This can also be a major challenge when traveling and competing in different time zones. Not all of us are morning people so what can we do to play better in the morning? At the tournament I'm at this morning there were 8am matches each day and some of these were the semifinals. Early matches are not always for younger kids and lower levels so we all should be prepared to play in the morning.
I have a few suggestions that can help you get awake and play better regardless of the time of day. My first recommendation is to practice playing once a week in the morning. If you can't get on court or set up a game then have at least one day per week that you get in a good hard workout. Our body takes time wake up and get going. Most of us get better as we get into a routine of exercising early in the day. What, when and how much to eat are all important factors going with going to sleep at a decent time. If you can find time before school or work at least once per week to get in a workout or squash game you will have a huge advantage over your opponent the next time this happens at a tournament.
Besides practicing playing early in the morning, I have some other ideas on how to wake yourself up and get going. Before Nadal's matches he has a cold shower after his warmup. You don't necessarily have to have a cold shower, but some cold water in your face can help wake you up. If you're really tired a cold shower could help.
Sometime the hardest part is just getting out of bed when your alarm goes off. I always use my phone and place it far from my bed and make sure the volume is up. You can also ask for a wake up call if you want to make sure you don't sleep through your alarm. If you end up going to sleep late are you better to get an extra 30 minutes or hour of sleep and skip your breakfast? That depends on the person and the difficulty of the match. I always like having at least a small breakfast such as yogurt and a banana and some water so I have some fuel for my match.
So you have 30 minutes before your match and you're really tired. What else can you do? Having a tough warmup and getting the blood flowing helps wake you up. If you can get out and get some fresh air that is another way that helps. The last suggestion I have is to hold your breathe for 15 seconds. The lack of oxygen increases your hear rate and breathing rate which helps wake you up.
When you get out on court and you're still feeling flat or fatigued get up on your toes for the warm up. Fake it till you make it..which basically means to look the part and put on your game face even if you're not feeling great. It's easy to play well when you're feeling well..but we aren't always feeling our best. Here's a clip about the mental toughness we need when we aren't feeling our best https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNA-JaCkvQg
In the above clip the coach talks about why they train every day regardless of the weather. It isn't because if they missed a day they wouldn't be as good, but because of the mental strength they are building by pushing themselves and training day in and day out. Maybe when you get to the biggest tournament you aren't up to par, but if you're used to trying your best regardless of the situation you'll play well more consistently in variable conditions. As I've mentioned before when I'm feeling low on energy is when I push myself the hardest which isn't always easy to do. I find just getting on a treadmill and not getting off until I get my normal time and pace. There are times where you want to quit and don't think you can go any further, but you can. And the more often you do this the better able you will be able to when you are in tough matches, being from fatigue, sick, or slightly injured. Squash is a very mental game and this never quit attitude is essential for reaching your potential and becoming a top player.
How do you prepare for early morning matches? Do you eat a special breakfast? Avoid caffeine? How do you get yourself going? Do you think your ability to do this is more of a physical or mental skill?