Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Planning Your Comeback

Squash is one of, if not the best workouts in the world. Squash involves every athletic trait; from mobility, flexibility, strength, speed, stamina, the list of qualities you need to be a great squash player doesn't end. Because it's such a physically demanding sport it requires a lot of training and regular drill and gameplay to be able to play out a match at a peak level without your body breaking down. It's been almost 3 months since I've been on court and even as a coach I am planning on easing my way back into coaching. If on the first day back I gave 5 or 6 lessons it would take a lot out of me and I'd be at risk of injury and I would probably need a day of recovery afterwards.

Depending on what you've been doing while the courts have been closed you may have to gradually ease your way back into things. Today my agenda is to get everyone to begin to plan out their comeback and to set timeframes and goals for this. We don't need to wait for the squash clubs to be open to begin this. If you read last weeks post, this is basically a continuation on from that with more of an emphasis on the off court training portion of our preparation. I'm going to quickly go over some solo hitting issues and then get into the meat and potatoes.

When clubs open up (I'm aware some already have) you will have to start with only solo hitting. This is an ideal way to get your timing back before getting right back into a match. Even with solo hitting there's going to be some weak muscles and a lack of calluses so this will likely be an issue for most of us (including me). In your first few solo sessions I would avoid doing a lot of short hitting with pace. These types of short hitting drills could put a lot of strain on your entire arm and shoulder and it's something you will need to build back up in time.

Besides the arm and the missing calluses the biggest challenge for most of us is going to be the lack of strength and stamina. After a few months of sitting around and being less active we are going to have to be patient and disciplined about getting our body back in 'squash shape.' Let's go through these athletic traits independently and see how we can best build up our strength and stamina to get back into squash most effectively.

Our lower body is going to need some extra special attention. When is the last time you did a lunge? If you haven't been doing any away from the court expect as major case of 'squash butt' when you first do a set of lunges. The good thing is that we don't need any equipment to begin to work on our lunges. There are a few ways to build up your lunging ability. The first and likely the safest is by simply holding a lunge for a short period of time. Make sure you spend time on both legs, not just your dominant one. You can then build up to walking lunges, eventually to lunging forwards and backwards and at a later point some side lunges or even adding in some light weights. I suggest spreading out your leg workouts by at least 3 days as you start this type of training.

On top of lunging, it's also important to be able to squat properly. The ability to get low into a squatting position, especially in the back corners is an essential skill in squash. Again you can start with a simple bodyweight squat or a squat hold. You can build up to wall sits, squats with weights and maybe the split-squat, squat jumps or even the mighty pistol squat.

Doing lunges and squats will make a big difference in your game, but don't forget the posterior chain of your lower body. One leg deadlifts are an excellent way to focus on your hamstrings and glutes and again they require no weights for training. You can do this in a number of different ways as well. If you haven't' done them before you will need to start by simply trying to do this while balancing properly. As you improve you can add in twists, holds and eventually weights.

Above I listed the 3 main lower body strength exercises that I recommend for building up your lower body strength for squash. These are all exercises that I do regularly which should help with my transition back onto the court. If you would like to see the above mentioned exercises done at various stages check out my playlist from home workouts:

Below is the first video which simply explains 6 simple at home exercises you can do with no equipment, which also includes the above mentioned exercises.

Let's move on to the stamina/movement portion of squash. In this section I'm going to discuss not just the aerobic endurance required, but also the stop/start, fast paced movement that we need to play at a high level. Building up your aerobic endurance again isn't too difficult when the weather is nice. Simply doing some light jogging or biking will do the trick. Even though we've lost a bit of fitness recently, we still have a reserve from our years of training which will help us. If just getting started the 2 main areas of concern are starting slowly to avoid injury/burnout and taking that first step. Committing to a plan and a schedule and changing your routine into a more positive, squash focused lifestyle is what I'm looking my athletes to be doing now.

If you don't have access or the ability to bike or jog there are some other ways you can get some cardio in. If you've taken part in any of my recent home workouts you will see how I plan some of my workouts to provide a cross training benefit for improving endurance along with strength. You can do this by timing your sets and staying on a timer throughout you session.

If you've been managing to maintain a decent aerobic fitness base you are probably more concerned with the speed, sprinting, anaerobic portion of your squash training. There are a number of ways you can improve this even before getting back on court. Doing this type of training can mean a few different things. You could be focusing on working near your VO2max/heart rate by pushing yourself in a really tough session like running stairs, hills or doing some windsprints. For me this type of training is much more taxing on the body and the recovery will take much longer. So if you haven't' done any aerobic base training or strength work I would focus on those areas first. After building this up for 6-8 weeks you will be ready to get into this more strenuous type of cross training. Below is this weeks episode of Squash Shots where I talk about stairs and hill training. I didn't actually do the training in this video myself as I'm still working my way through building up an aerobic base before jumping right into sets of sprints.

Squash Shots Episode 54: Stairs + Hill Training

If you aren't into running hills, stairs or doing windsprints you could do some ghosting. Again, you can do ghosting at your own speed and you don't need a squash court to do it. If you can get in 1 or 2 weekly ghosting sessions prior to playing a game your transition will be much easier and your performance will be far greater. I often get my students to use practice swings and ghosting in lessons because without the ball the concern for contact and the shot result, it's easier to make swing or movement changes. When you do this enough you will eventually build up the muscle memory to make these adjustments permanent.

How much of each of these training types should you do? Doing some strength and aerobic base training during the same time is fine. Depending on your ability and training experience you should be able to do 2-3 session of each per week. After a specified period of time (6-8 weeks) you will feel stronger and fitter and at that point you will likely be ready to transition into the anaerobic/lactic acid producing phase of your training. Because this type of training is so taxing on the body you will need some lighter sessions, possibly mobility focused and of course core is fine too. I believe it would be too tough for most people to do a max sprint session and then do a leg strength session the day after or even before. Doing this would lead to overtraining for most and quite likely an injury at some point. If you are at this stage of your training you should be working with a highly skilled professional strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer.

As your squash club opens up and you can get in to solo hit once or twice per week you will be feeling better and better week after week. If you've been doing nothing the past 3 months you should be eyeing August/September for the resemblance of a decent squash match (assuming we're allowed). If you do the above mentioned training there is no reason you won't be able to jump back into things and playing at a pretty good level in a short period of time. Not everyone likes the training part of squash, but there's no better feeling than knowing you are fitter and stronger than your opponent.

After such a long break just hitting a ball or playing a rally will be enjoyable. But as you can tell from a coaches perspective I believe there is a lot we can do to play better squash and transition back into it more seamlessly by planning ahead and setting some short term goals. I know from previous experience that when I jumped into overdoing an activity too quickly without spacing out the sessions and building up to them I got injured. As we age this is even more important for us to consider; we can't always do what we once have done. I supposed the following phrase is also appropriate, squash really isn't like riding bike. So please think about concentrating on small adaptations which in time will do what they are meant to do and help you get back to where you want to be.

If what I've mentioned above doesn't interest you there are plenty of other ways to get active and fit. There is boxing, yoga, swimming, crossfit, trx, spin classes, skipping, etc. Find what works for your body and start planning out your comeback. Be prepared for it and you will not only play better squash, but enjoy your squash that much more too!

Hopefully I've at least given a few of you some motivation to get back into a training and active lifestyle mindset. I feel like most squash players use squash as their only source of exercise. I've heard many club members over the years say how much they dislike the gym and running, etc and that squash is an enjoyable way for them to exercise. These are the people I'm most concerned about, but they are also less likely to do what is necessary off-court or in fact read a blog article like this.

Once you get back on court I would also suggest starting with some static drills and slowly building your way up to rallies. If you're looking for some simple, static drills keep an eye on the Serious Squash Instagram, Facebook or Youtube accounts where I will be posting many examples. Also remember you don't have to play a full match the first time you are able to. I urge all of you, from beginner, to experienced pro and regardless of age to be sensible and focus on your comeback 1 step at a time. - Video analysis, Signature Racquet and the new Canadian version tees! - still going strong 1+ year in! There's a new episode every Monday. - I've been trying to post more regularly here. Will be able to post some longer clips here once the club opens back up.
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My interview on the 'In Squash Podcast':

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Solo Hitting And Easing Back Into Squash

Now that some squash clubs have reopened and the rumour of this happening sometime soon here in Ontario I thought it would be prevalent to discuss solo hitting. In most of the phase 1's of reopening it's being recommended that people can only solo hit or practice with people from the same household. I'm lucky in the fact that I'm currently living with my brother so we can have some good sessions when the club opens, but not everyone is in this same situation so let's see how can best ease our way back into squash.

Start With Some Easy Mid-court Shots

A few weeks ago I posted the instructional video, 'The Secrets Of Solo Hitting' on the Serious Squash Youtube channel. I've posted the link here below if you're looking for some solo drills to do when your local club opens up. To maximize the limited time you get on court I recommend going in with a plan about what you want to practice. The simpler the drill at the beginning the better. If the drills in the below film are too advanced try some sidewall drives or even a bit of short hitting.

The Secrets Of Solo Hitting

I know for me it's been over 2 months since I've been on court and my calluses are slowly disappearing. When I get back on court it may actually hurt to hold the racquet again. This happened to me once when I travel for 5 weeks and then got back on court. Luckily now I've been using kettlebells a lot for training so I still have a few calluses which will make my transition a little easier than it would have otherwise been. 

If you haven't been doing any training you will also want to make sure you do at least a light warmup before solo hitting. Think about trying to warmup your arm before solo hitting. Doing some arm swings or throwing a ball nice and easy or using a workout band can ensure you don't injure anything when you first get back on court. You don't see pitchers come out of the bullpen with no warmup and you shouldn't either. 

When you get back on court I also suggest adding in some physical training. If our goal is to get back to drills end eventually matches we have to be working on our strength, mobility and cardio. As I mentioned in my interview on The In Squash Podcast last week, most people need to improve their core and lower body strength so they can get into the correct hitting posture. Fyi the episode is set to come out later this week (episode 143 I believe) so make sure to subscribe to the podcast and you should find it there soon. 

When you're on court doing your solo hitting try adding in some lunges and possibly even some ghosting. You don't need to be on court to do some of the other important exercises like planks, squats or 1 leg deadlifts. If you make the time to implement these types of exercises into your training you will see a benefit when we can get finally get back into regular matches. Not only will your game improve, but you will be less likely to get injured during this transition phase. I too will have to ease my way back into. Remember that squash is a very explosive and intense sport therefore our risks of injury after a long layoff will be substantially elevated. 

If you're looking for a video on some of the exercises mentioned above you can find them here: 

6 Squash Specific Home Exercises

If you have already been keeping up with your basic movement exercises and you'd like to have some workout ideas checkout the Serious Squash Youtube playlist which I have been updating with a new session each week: These are all exercises that will help you get fitter, stronger and play better squash. I record them live each Friday at 1pm eastern time on the London Squash Instagram account (come join in on the sessions!).

It's clearly evident that as a coach I'm concerned on reducing the risk of injury when we get back on court. I know most squash players only want to play matches and almost never do a proper warmup, so I'm worried that those people will be at a high risk of injury. If you're taking the time to read a blog post like this you're probably more conscientious about your squash and I believe you are more likely to follow my general precautions. 

On a final note on this topic I'd also like to suggest easing your way into it, yes even for solo hitting. Don't go in and hit the ball as hard as you can for an hour and expect not to do some damage. Especially if you're a middle aged or older squash player you have to be more patient easing your way back to where you were pre club closure.

I'd like to finish off by going over some of the safety protocols I'm looking at implementing as a coach. When my club opens again it will be in phases. At the beginning it will likely only be same household or solo court bookings. We will also probably only use some of the courts and spread out the time between bookings. I won't offer any group sessions, at least for the first few phases. When I give lessons I will be the only 1 handling the ball and opening and closing the court door. In my lessons we will always be on opposite sides of the court, which is fine for coaching, especially when easing someone back into squash. I believe our club is going to order some of the iMask's + full face shields so I will probably have to wear one as I will be in contact with a lot of people. This will likely make it more difficult to communicate and provide instruction. 

As we move along in the phases of reopening our clubs there will be a stage where people will have a bubble of 2-3 players they can play with so if anyone does ever have have Covid-19 it will be easy to narrow down who has to be quarantined. I know our club is also doing a comprehensive overhaul to make the club as safe as possible and reduce the risk of any cross-contamination. Everything from how to open and close the front door, having automated paper towel dispensers, no towel service plus having masks and hand sanitizer available for all. This is how clubs have to change to avoid being a potential hotbed for future outbreaks. 

Squash is considered a high risk sport, but there are a lot of ways we can make squash safe. For awhile I was worried about the future of my career. It would be impossible to imagine changing careers at this point. Squash is all I've known and all I've done for so long now I don't even know where I'd start. Thankfully it looks like the light at the end of tunnel is starting to appear and squash can again be a part of all of our lives. 

Next week on episode 54 of Squash Shots ( I'm going to discuss both the pain and beauty of stairs and hill sprints. I did a lot of this training in my university days and now that the weather is getting better it's an excellent way to combine cardio and strength training. 

The 'Monster' Hill That I Trained On While At University

On a final note, I've decided to take down my instructional films in the Serious Squash Shop for the time being. With the clubs being closed now there isn't as much demand as there has been in the past. But I do want to thank everyone who has purchased a copy over the years. I've probably sold over 1,000 copies of the various films and most noticeably was The Secrets Of Solo Hitting, which I have posted for free up above. The online store is still active and at the moment only has video analysis, my final master's project, Serious Squash Signature Racquets and the new tees. If you want to check them out you can do so That's all for this week. I hope all of you are safe, healthy and doing your best to stay active. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Western University Head Coach Appointment

This week there's a few exciting things to announce. Let's start off with the biggest one! It was officially announced today that I am the new head coach of the Western Ontario's mens varsity  squash team. I played on the team from 2006-2009 and it was one of the best times of my squash career. I played and trained with some great friends and I really enjoyed collegiate squash.

Jack Fairs was my coach and he's such a great man and a legend in squash, so I'm excited about the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. Western is the only Canadian team that competes in the US in the College Squash Association (CSA). Last year the team had a strong season and finished 11th overall and I'm looking forward to helping the team get back up into the top 8.

 Pic and old school UWO shirt credit to my brother

When I was at Western we finished 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th over my 4 years. We only had 1 home match in those 4 seasons and I was also a driver for most of our away matches. There were and still are a lot of challenges being the only Canadian team, but now having a full time coach we are 1 step closer to the top teams in the CSA.

Since the alumni have raised enough money to bring me onboard we can support that the team needs to compete with the US schools who have much larger budgets and more resources available to them. Recently I've been working on the teams training schedule and some fitness and technical testing measures for next season.

Western has been the top Canadian squash team for years

If you'd like to find out more out Western you can do so here: Also if you have any questions about the men's variety team you are welcome to contact me at There's a large UWO Squash email database where I will be sending out team updates and if you're an alumni or simply a squash supporter and you'd like to be included on the distribution list please send your email address.

After winning another OUA title at White Oaks

Believe it or not this isn't the only exciting news this week. Two days ago I was interviewed for the In Squash Podcast by Gerry Gibson. We had a good chat and talked about a lot things which I hope the squash world will find interesting. It should be published soon and I'll add the link to a later post or you can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. I will also be doing another interview for an Australian sports company called Sportageous who are looking to highlight a variety of sports, including squash. Stay tuned for that piece as well.

Another cool thing happened this week. I celebrated my 1 year anniversary of Squash Shots! I've now published 52 episodes and the topics are wide ranging. Recently I've focused more on the off court training side of squash, but I do have a neat post set for next week looking at what breaks down in your posture and swing under pressure. I used some old footage of me to demonstrate and explain this. If you're interested in subscribing you can do so at for as little as $3/month

I've also had some excellent feedback on the limited edition Serious Squash Canadian tees. In the first week I sold over 25% of the incoming stock. Thanks to everyone who preordered a tee or has supported Serious Squash in anyway over the years! The shirts will be arriving shortly and I will mail them out asap. If you'd like to preorder one you can still do so here:

The New Serious Squash Canadian Tee

Don't forget I'm still doing a weekly live workout on the @LondonSquash Instagram account. So far they've all been on Friday at 1pm eastern standard time, but with how wild the weather is recently that could change week by week. These workouts are focused on mostly improving your core and lower body strength. This week I'm going to introduce the split squat and side lunge and I also have another challenging circuit mapped out. After recording I will post them to a home workout playlist on the Serious Squash Youtube channel. You can find the playlist here:

I'd also like to bring up Squash Canada's 'Return To Play Recommendations.' This is a pretty comprehensive guide for coaches, players, club managers and owners about how we can safely get back into the squash clubs prior to a vaccine being produced. I can already imagine how squash is going to change for the next while and therefore so will my job. No matter the precautions we have to implement I'm excited about this announcement and the fact that squash is getting closer to returning. If you'd like to read the recommendations you can do so here:

I should also mention I just finished a 3 day fast on Wednesday. I've heard there are lots of health benefits from doing so and my brother was already planning on doing it so I decided to join him. He normally does it once per month and I'm still on the fence about if I'll be joining him next month or not. All I had was coffee and water for almost 72 hours. I don't think I would be able to do this while I'm coaching, but it was nice to be able to try something different during this time off. Any of you have any experience with fasting? Or fasting and sport?

With no squash I thought I would do a week of posting some of my old skill challenges. I'm going to post 1 each of the next 7 days. Here are days 1, 2 and 3:

Throwback Skill Challenge #1: Half Butterfly And Switch

Throwback Skill Challenge #2: Butterfly Twist - Forehand To Front Corners, Backhand To Back Corners 

Throwback Skill Challenge #3: Sitting Down Backward Figure 8 Volleys

Follow Serious Squash on Youtube, Instagram or Facebook for the next 4 skill challenge releases! I hope all of you are staying safe and healthy. If your squash club is back open I'd be interested to hear how it's going so far and what you're allowed to do and not do.

If you're looking to purchase some kettlebells for home check out Kettlebell Kings. They have a great Instagram account where they demonstrate lots of new exercises. I'm registered as an ambassador for their products iso f you're thinking of picking up a kb check them out:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

How Squash Is Going To Change And More

Another week of social distancing and waiting patiently for squash to get going again. I'm still managing to keep busy trying to prepare for next season and also doing some fun Serious Squash stuff. I thought for this week I would share what I've been up to and finish off by talking about how important it will be to ease back into squash and what exactly that might look like once we get the green light.

Earlier this week I ordered a small batch of Canadian themed Serious Squash tees. I ordered 3 colours and just 40 in total. I thought it was fitting to do a Canadian version since I'm now back in Canada.

The New Serious Squash Tees

Since I got back to London it's been quite cold. We've had lots of snow and I've only left the house about 4 times in the past 6 weeks. On Sunday we finally got a nice day, the sun was out and it was around 20 degrees. I wasn't sure what exactly I was going to do with my racquet, but I brought it and a squash ball with me. It resulted in the following collaboration of skill challenges and fun trick shots.

Sunday Fun Day With A Squash Racquet + Ball

What else have I been up to this past week? I filmed home workout #3 and it was a doozy. It was a lot tougher than I had anticipated. If you want a challenging squash specific workout you can find the video below. After the warmup the circuit consisted of lunging forwards and backwards 2x per leg and then 6 squats. I did these with weights and for 13 sets. I started each new set on the minute so its a 13 minute workout and the rest time was usually only about 20 seconds. This coming Friday I have another challenging circuit planned. If you want to join along live check out @LondonSquash on Instagram. You can also find the workouts posted at a later date on the Serious Squash Youtube channel. If you don't have any kettlebells at home I highly recommend picking some up! 

Squash Specific Home Workout #3

Next Monday is episode 52 of Squash Shots makes it 1 year of publishing weekly coaching videos on Patreon. I've learned a lot from filming them and I'm starting to get better at editing video and filming. Here is episode 51 which was on tracking hard movements. Hopefully we can get back into the squash courts soon so I can begin filming some new on court footage. 

Squash Shots Episode 51: Tracking Hard Movements

I've had quite a few meetings over the past week. I've had meetings about the Nash Cup (a pro tournament here in London), Squash Ontario junior committee and a few club board meetings. I'm not as busy as I will be when I actually start work again, but I do have lots on the go plus I'm trying to get in at least 5 workouts per week. Last week I started up a monthly newsletter at my club and the first edition was sent out on May 1st. There were surprisingly a lot of updates for a closed club. 

I have a feeling we are all underestimating how difficult it's going to be to get back into a hard match. Even if you are exercising at home and staying active a hard match is much more explosive and tougher on the body than anything we are currently doing. This means we will all be susceptible to injury when we first get back. This is why I believe it's super important to ease our way back into squash when are allowed to do so. This means that we should build our way up to matches by doing some simple set drills and eventually progressing to rotating drives and length games. Solo hitting and ghosting will be really effective too and of course we will benefit from actually warming up and cooling down properly. I also recommend spreading out our first few sessions. 

When I was younger I had a rule that for how long I had taken off squash (say 1 month) it would take 2x that amount of time to get back to where I was. Now that I'm getting older this rule could be even a little longer. Seeing that it's going to be at a minimum 2 months, more likely 3 or 4, give yourself at least double that amount of time to get back to where you last were. 

A number of years ago I went on a trip to Asia for 5 weeks and I remember when I came back and went on court my hand hurt. Five weeks was all it took for my calluses to almost completely disappear. Now I should be in better shape because I'm regularly using kettlebells which are helping me maintain my calluses. 

Lastly, I thought it would be interesting to discuss some of the ways squash will change. I'm on a subcommittee at my club on how to safely reopen and play squash again. I read an article on tennis and they had some ideas that I will transfer to our squash club. There are a number of areas which we will have to consider. One idea the tennis article discussed was having different sets of balls for each player so they never have to touch the same ball. In squash this is something we will have to do as well, but it will be more difficult because our ball has to stay warm and not every ball bounces the same. I believe this will be a protocol though. Another difficult area to overcome will be not touching the walls. I often wiped my hand on the sidewall as part of a focusing routine and to keep my hand dry. When we get back to competition we won't be allowed to do this (or we shouldn't be allowed). 

Another tough question is wow do you open and close the court doors? Will we have a glove in our pocket we put on? Will there be a way to use a foot pedal of some sort to open it? Will just 1 person her be able to open the door and it must be sanitized after each use? Will we be forced to wear masks, or what I hear they've been working on for hockey is a full face shield (see image below). Maybe this is something the iMask can adopt and extend further over ones face. I can't imagine playing squash with a paper mask or even a cloth mask covering my mouth. 

The Bauer Hockey Full Face Shield To Protect Against The Spread Of Covid-19

Another major area of concern is how close we are to our opponent in squash. In tennis it is easier to socially distance. In squash we often get close to them. This could mean that you are only allowed to play with a partner you are quarantined with or perhaps 2 people who have already had Covid-19. Maybe we will have to stick to crosscourt games and short versus deep so we can stay as far away from one another as possible. Maybe we will have to start off just with solo hitting? There's lots to consider here about how to safely reopen and get back on court. 

How group programs, leagues and tournaments are going to operate is whole other discussion and I certainly don't have all of the information yet. So let's wrap things up for this week. If you'd like to preorder a Serious Squash tee you can do so at They are expected to be in stock within the next 3 weeks and I will be shipping them out shortly after. 

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