It seems I am fighting the world with this. Even expert, well-respected fitness trainers continue to use the phrase “warm-up”. They argue that everybody knows what it means. They are wrong. You only need to visit any squash club around the world, to see people trying to push one arm around their back and taking 5 jumps in the air and saying they “warmed up”.
The words we use matter. They can make a huge difference to what a communicator is trying to say and what the learner understands. Let me press the point just a little more. If somebody said to you “I like you” or if they said “I love you“, that’s an important difference, right? Maybe they mean the same thing to them, but they might mean very different things to you!
Right, let’s get specific
You should be sweating BEFORE you even hit the ball!
I can’t believe the number of times I have heard the phrase “I’ll warm up in the first game” or a similar sentiment. This aspect is one of the differences between an amateur and a professional. A professional heats up before a match or training session. You might argue, that they have all the time in the world to do that and you have to rush from your job or other commitment, and there just isn’t time to do it. As you hit the ball in the knock up, you”l do a few of those stereotypical stretches and that will be enough.
And let’s be honest, when you are young, and by young I mean under 25, that might be enough, but as anybody who is older knows, often it is not. You don’t have time for that extra 10 to 15 minutes to heat up before a match, but you’ll have a weeks off because you get injured or because you lost the first game “warming up”.
To perform at your best, right from the first point, you need to be hot. Not warm. Not tepid. HOT! Too often the intensity of the first few points causes the player to get seriously out of breath and be in oxygen debt – that’s when the body can’t get enough oxygen to the muscles quickly enough. This normally only happens in activities like sprinting. When that happens you make terrible choices – shot selection in the case of squash.
Time To Change Your Approach
It’s a habit for me now. I don’t even think about – I just do it. Even if I am just making a video, I go through my heat up routine without fail. I would rather let my opponent wait for me than go on court cold. You might be one of those people who spend time looking at all the latest rackets and kit, but with just a little effort redirected to heating up, you’ll play better than having a new racket.
Make a commitment to yourself: Every time I go on court I will heat up properly!
What *Is* A Good Heat up?
A good heat up comprises 4 elements:
- General Movement – This is designed to increase your body temperature and heart rate. Jogging on the stop, on court, spinning bikes, rowers, anything that moves your body. Do this for about 5-10 minutes depending on the air temperature and your preference. I always sue a sweatshirt and jogging pants to improve the process. Start slowly and increase the intensity over time.
- General Stretching and Mobility – NEVER EVER EVER stretch cold muscles. NEVER! At least not int he way you see people do outside of courts. Stretching a cold muscles is just asking for trouble. At this point you are getting hot and you need to do some stretches that begin to get you body for squash.
- Specific Squash Movement – You will now begin to “ghost” a little and swing the racket. As you do this increase the tempo and amount your pretend to reach for the ball.
- Mental Preparation – I have listed this last, but actually you begin this as you start the General Movement. Exactly what you do is up to you. Some listen to music, some speeches from their coaches, others (me) think about their gameplan and even try to get a little angry (but not too much!). The point is to stop thinking about your non-squash-life and begin to think about the battle ahead. One quick tip: As you walk onto the court, touch the outside of the wall in a symbolic gesture of leaving all your worries behind. They will be waiting for you when you finish the match, but thinking about them now, won’t change anything.
As I have already said, this is a matter of habit. Get to the court early, so you have time to perform your heat up. Over time, you will learn what works for you and what feels comfortable, so try different routines and movements. At some point, you will have a very specific routine that you know exactly how long it takes – well done.
Stay strong – don’t go on court until you are ready, even at the cost of missing a little court time or angering your opponent. Their anger won’t mean shit, when you get injured and have to take 3 weeks off from squash. Who’s angry now?!
The final thing to remind you is my quote from near the beginning: You should be sweating before you even hit the ball in the knock up. If you are not sweating, then you haven’t heated up properly.