Is it good to enjoy your training?

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Is it good to enjoy training?

I love to hear it when people say things like “I’m really enjoying ghosting at the moment” or “I love drop-drive”. Surely it’s good to enjoy what you do because you’ll be more willing to train harder?

I even like this: “I much prefer intervals on the bike as opposed to running on the treadmill” because although there’s not a true love for the bike, at least there’s a preference, a choice of what they like the most.

If an athlete is going to have a long career (at any sport) surely they need to enjoy their training? Enjoyment must equal more effort and willingness to spend extra hours perfecting your trade, which constantly give improved results.

I am a big advocate of basically working as hard as physically possible (with scheduled rest days of course). Effort (in the right areas) = reward. You must improve.

But can enjoyment mean you become too ‘comfort zone’ or complacent?

Does an athlete need to constantly change their routine? This could serve several purposes. To keep you interested and to constantly strive to add ‘strings to your bow’. You can never have too many skills, so then maybe variety could be the key:

Training quote

But then are you trying too hard to be a ‘Jack of all trades’? It’s better to recognise what you’re best at and train around that. For example it would be foolish for Mohamed ElShorbagy to one day try to play like James Willstrop, or for Rafael Nadal to copy Roger Federer’s style of play or vice versa.

To constantly change your training patterns probably doesn’t give you anywhere near enough time to perfect the methods and skills you are concentrating on, before moving to the next thing. Repetition is essential.

Training quote Bruce Lee

But that doesn’t mean you can’t change. Maybe change is essential but it’s knowing when to change your routines. I’m guessing a gradual change of adding and replacing single things at a time is best.

Also, as opposed to training the way you enjoy to train, could it possibly make you mentally tougher to train in a less fun way – to endure your training? Select methods which you do not enjoy.

I am naturally an attacking squash player who would generally be looking to be pro-active and make things happen in a rally, but you can’t do this every rally to reach the top level, it becomes too risky.

I used to do some treadmill work because I hated it – not to improve my physical endurance, I already did more than enough ghosting and bike work for this, but to give me mental discipline. Twice a week I used to do a 1 hour non-stop treadmill run. Nothing super-fast or ground-breaking, but it was simply to push through the boredom. I felt if I could handle this boredom then a boring squash rally that lasted over a minute (which are essential from time-to-time, even for a ‘shot player’) would be no problem to deal with. In theory this sounds like a reasonable mental training exercise, but did it work? Looking back, I honestly can’t say if it did or not, but I felt it was worth doing, especially as I wasn’t replacing any of my regular routine, it was simply extra.

Conclusion:

I’ve asked a lot of questions about training methods, but what do I conclude… Now I’m in my later years it is easier to look back and say ‘I wish I’d done….’. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Knowing how Nick Matthew has adapted his training schedule since being a dad and also being older, it must prove change is a good thing because he’s still fairly awesome!

Between the ages of 17 and 27, I definitely believe more is better. As long as you schedule rest days, I’m of the opinion you literally can’t do too much. Brutal is better. Once approaching 30, or becoming a parent, things have to change. Your time commitments change, either around family, what your body can handle, or both.

Rest becomes more important as you get older. With this faith in yourself must increase. Faith that over the last decade or so you have done so much training that it doesn’t just go away if you stop training three times a day, or have an extra rest day. As long as you keep it topped up it says with you, without having to do quite as much as you once did to get to that supreme level. I think skill and recovery becomes more of a factor the older you get. You also become wiser from experience, and this makes applying your skills easier. You definitely live and learn. Squash is a game of physical chess, and this becomes more and more the case as you age.

One thing is for sure, repetition is key. You cannot perfect any skill without massive repetition. Training the fitness aspect of any sport, must adapt with age, but certainly when you start out, push yourself as hard as you can. Make a commitment and stay with it. You’ll mentally ‘work out’ many things as you go along, but you must expose yourself to pain and punishment first!