A Week of Workouts: Training After 5 Straight Tournaments

After arriving home in NYC last Saturday, I was more than ready for both a bit of rest, but also some hard training. Competing and traveling is exhausting, and more often than not, I return home feeling a little less fit than before. I took Saturday off as a travel day, and Sunday as a rest day as well. My back was still hurting from an injury I sustained in Calgary (turns out playing two more tournaments injured doesn’t help!), so I planned to focus on off-court strength and conditioning, and try to limit my on-court training.

(I didn’t include any on-court/off-court coaching in the list below)

Monday

AM: 60 min squash with Tarun. We mostly did games and some pressure drills. I had a pretty hard time moving to the front, thanks to my back.

PM: Modified strength workout at Body Space, followed by a 20 minute steady state treadmill run. My back felt much better during and after the workout, compared to squash in the morning.

Tuesday

AM: 60 min squash with Will. This session was very similar in quality to yesterday- slow and flat. It didn’t help that I slept really poorly Monday night (I woke up at 3:15 am and couldn’t get back to sleep). After discussing with Will, he agreed it would be best for me to take a few days off from on-court training completely, to let both my mind and my back recover.

PM: Given my restless night, I wasn’t feeling up to any sort of workout, but managed to get myself moving for a medium intensity circuit workout. I felt 100 times better afterwards!

Wednesday

AM: 45 minute spin at Flywheel. Thanks to my self-imposed cardio pledge and 3 classes that are about to expire, I signed up for a 10:30 am spin class. It was the first class I’d taken in a while, (and a new instructor) and it felt pretty good!

PM: League match for NY Pro league. I played Reyna Pacheco, and we played 3 good games. My back and movement felt better than the previous week!

Thursday

AM: Another 45 minute spin class, this time with master instructor, Kate Hickl! It was really tough, and she made us crank up the resistance more than the day instructor the day before. I couldn’t help but compare myself to some of the other riders on the Torq board, but tried to just let it go. I get enough competition in my day-to-day life!

PM: Lifting session at Body Space. My body felt much better than Monday’s lift, and I was able to do a lot of movements without pain or restrictions. Such a relief! Still, I had a physical therapy session scheduled at BASE, so I got Shawn, one of the therapists to check out my back. He worked on it, and also gave me some mobility drills to do, mostly for my upper back.

Friday

AM: Had a slow morning, blogging, responding to emails, etc. It was much needed!

PM: Around 2 pm I went to Body Space for a workout. Fran put me through a power/agility/speed cardio circuit, which I posted on Instagram. I wrapped it up with some Air Dyne intervals and core work. It was nice to only do one workout Friday. I’d pushed hard the couple days before, and wanted to be able to finish strong on Saturday!

Saturday

AM: The morning started out with 45 minutes of squash with Tarun at 11:30 am. We did pressure sessions interspersed with normal games to 7. After a short break, Will, Tarun, and I put a couple spin bikes together at the PCNY’s “studio” and I put on a Sufferfest cycling training video for us to follow. More on this later, but in high school and throughout college I would follow these online cycling videos for cross-training, and I cannot emphasize how punishing they are. It is called sufferfest for a reason!

PM: Although my legs were tired from the morning, I met up with Fran at Body Space around 3:30 pm to do some more off-court work. We were both pretty shot, and ended up doing a “movement” day. I ended up programming the workout, and included some sled work as well as sandbags. After about 40 minutes of focused but fatigued training, we called it quits.

All in all I’d say it was a pretty successful week. I trained really hard but didn’t experience any low-HRV days, which I found to be remarkable!

 

Bermuda Open 2018

The location of this tournament doesn’t need much of an introduction, does it?

Three days after returning from Chicago, I flew off to Hamilton for the Bermuda Open! Everyone I met was incredibly kind, and the family I stayed with could not have been more welcoming. Check out our morning views!

The first couple of days were really nice weather, but by the first day of the tournament, the sky had clouded over and it rained a bit. This was a bit of a blessing in disguise, as it would have been difficult to resist being outside all day before competing in the evening.

Matches

1st Round vs Sanne Veldkamp (NED)

My match with Sanne was fairly straight forward, and I tried my best to feel out the court and get rid of the first match nerves.

Aly and me at Aerial Sands! (And no, I’m not naked… strapless top!)

Quarterfinal vs Anna Kimberley (ENG)

For my second match, I was pitted against Anna Kimberley of England. I’d seen Anna play a bunch in college (she went to Trinity), but we never competed against each other. She has a typical English game, and hits good lines, and also retrieves a lot. She outplayed me in the first game, but I managed to step up my game in the second grab the second one. The third was close and physically challenging, and I narrowly missed out in a tie break. However, the damage seemed to have been done, and I think the tough rallies from the first three games took a toll on Anna, and I was able to put the pressure on to win the last two games. It was a long hard match, which certainly forced me to dig deep, and I was happy to pull it out against an underrated opponent!

Semifinal vs Alex Fuller (RSA)

My match against Alex was a bit all over the place. I felt that I was hitting the ball pretty well, and my body felt fine. However, my tactics were all off. I went short too early in the rally, when I should have pressured Alex to the back and used the short ball as a moving shot, to then attack to the back again. She is quite quick and fit, and I underestimated my own fitness. Not sure why I didn’t quite believe enough in myself, but I know for certain I wasn’t tuned in with respect to my tactics. Looking back on video, I see that a lot of the shot choices were a bit random and undisciplined. We had some hard rallies, which I should have fought through, but instead let the thoughts in my head get to me. The rallies were all close, but I went down in 3 straight games.

I ended up flying out first thing the next morning, as there was a storm approaching Bermuda. I didn’t want to risk getting stuck for the weekend, as I had a quick turnaround to Calgary shortly after!

Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with a picture of my Bermuda airport breakfast. It was very “Keto-friendly”! (Not that I’m on the keto diet, but it’s a nice way to justify having bacon and eggs!)

That’s all for now! Still have several tournament recaps to write, so I’ll continue to roll those out, as well as a few more current posts.

 

Windy City Open 2018

Hello from Houston!

I arrived late Monday night, after a long but relatively easy day of traveling. This is the last tournament in a long stretch of consecutive events, and although I’m about ready to be home in NYC, I’m also glad to be in summer weather as opposed to the Northeast snowstorm!

Since I’ve got 4 tournaments to recap, I’m going to attempt to make each of them concise (although that never happens…). Here goes… only a month late! (I don’t have any pictures from this tournament, but posted a couple videos on my Instagram, if you want to check them out!)

Windy City Open (Chicago)

Match vs Sarah Cardwell (AUS)

I was originally supposed to play fellow Canadian, Hollie Naughton but the draw changed at the last minute, and I drew Sarah Cardwell instead. It was nice to have someone new to play, especially because I recently played Hollie at ToC in January.

The first two games went by quickly…not in a good way. I did not play well and Sarah attacked a lot from the middle of the court. By now, I’ve had enough experiences on court where I’ve gone down 3-0, failing to settle into any kind o groove. I knew I didn’t want to do that again, and tried to let all thoughts and anxiety go, hoping to let myself just play. When I walked on to the court in the 3rd game, I felt instantly more confident, and from the moment I returned the serve, I felt like a whole new player! I took the 3rd game in a close 11-9. I began to find my stride, and won the 4th 11-6 and the 5th 11-7. My tactics felt effortless, and I did a good job of attacking short vs attacking long. In particular, I felt that on my backhand volley, I instinctively knew when to go deep and when to attack short. Holding and hitting really helped me get the ball by Sarah, to achieve a good position to attack.

Overall I was really pleased with how I turned the match around. It was the first time I’ve been able to let go and just play in competition, and it was both a relief and motivating!

Match vs Yathreb Adel

My body was tired after a long and hard fought match against Sarah, and in particular, my right quad was shot. I got a 30 minute massage later that day to try and flush out my legs, but I think the damage was already done!

Nevertheless, I gave it my best shot at the former top-30 player. The first game I was tentative, and let her rattle off point after point, mostly from the midcourt area. In the second game, I was able to extend and control the rallies a bit better, and tested her movement. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite keep the intent and focus right to the end, and lost 11-9. The third game was very similar to the first, as Yathreb came out firing once more, and I stepped back, making poor shot choices, some of which were poorly executed and right on her racquet.

Although I lost in three, I was happy with the second game, and wish I had believed a bit more in myself to actually win the game. It was good to see that I can play at that level, but need to be able to compete that way consistently, point after point.

All in all, Windy City was a good experience this year. I made some good money and scored some really good ranking points, which, along with those from the Philly tournament, helped bump me up from #68 (February) to #59 (March) on the world tour. Woo!

My next post will recap the Bermuda Open!

National Training Camp in Windsor

What a great February it was for squash! I started off the month with my first ever PSA title in Philly, then participated in a National squad camp in Windsor, followed by the Windy City Open in Chicago. To top it all off, I finished the month with a tournament in beautiful Bermuda! (I’m now currently finishing this post in Calgary, where I am surrounded by 3+ feet of snow in -19 degree Celsius weather. Eek!).

I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up here with blog posts, because there’s been an event nearly every week. Furthermore, I haven’t been making the time to sit down and hash out my thoughts, so I’m running a little bit behind. So without further adieu, let’s back up to mid-February, for a recap of my training trip to Windsor, Ontario!

I was originally debating whether or not to participate in the National camp, since it was being held right before the national team championships, which I would not be playing in. (My province didn’t send a team). Furthermore, I knew I had a lot of traveling on the horizon, and thought an extra week at home could be nice. However, when I mentioned the camp to John, my primary squash coach, he insisted I go.

Whenever I’ve done a training stint in Windsor with Graeme (the national coach), it’s always been hugely beneficial. He has a slightly different perspective on the game from John, and the two don’t conflict at all. In fact, I would say that Graeme’s coaching helps me technically (and somewhat tactically) execute the overall game structure that John and I have been working on.

In the past, John and I have also worked a lot on the technical aspect of the game- which has been absolutely essential- but recently our focus has shifted more towards the tactical side. A few months ago, after the last national camp held by Graeme, John remarked upon how inspired I seemed on court. He was right! It can be easy to get “tunnel vision” when you’re training in the same setup day in day out. Going up to Windsor and having a change of scenery was like a breath of fresh air.

Chicken, quinoa salad, kale/cabbage slaw, and green beans. One of the delicious dinners our billets prepared during the week!

All that to say, that is why I went up to Windsor for a 6 day training stint. And it was worth every single minute.

Nikki, Danielle, Sam, and I were the 3 “campers” for the week. During the 3 days with Graeme, we focused on the following themes:

  • Taking the ball early (mostly on the volley), and actively stepping forward. It can be tempting to let the ball come to you, but by going to get it, you can a) inject pace from your movement onto the ball, and b) mess with the timing of your opponents movement.
  • Getting on to the ball quickly/early, and being deceptive. We worked on holding the ball until the last possible moment, using the momentum from your last step as a “backswing”.
  • After taking the ball in short, closing down the court. We focused on hitting counter drops and boasts, and then pouncing on a weak cross court.
  • Using an open racquet face, whether to hit down on the ball and inject some pace at the same time, or to get underneath the ball (volleys).

Graeme and I also worked on counter drops, since I have never really worked on them. It is much harder to cover the court with the 17″ tin, making the counter drop all that much more effective. We focused on the movement and racquet prep, reaching out to keep hold of the T as much as possible, while using the momentum from the movement to push the drop into the corner. Previously, I was trying to do too much with my racquet, which would make the ball pop up or not even reach the front wall. After a couple hour-long sessions, my right leg was feeling it!

Sam and me resting (we fell asleep during a movie) after a long day of training! (This picture was actually taken during the summer camp, but I’d say the tiredness level was along the same lines!)

My week of training looked something like this:

Tuesday:

  • Squash camp 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
  • Squash camp 2:30 pm – 4 pm
  • light lift 4:15- 5 pm

Wednesday:

  • Squash camp 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
  • Squash camp 2:30 pm – 4 pm
  • Steady bike 4:30 pm – 5 pm

Thursday:

  • Squash camp 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
  • Lift 4 pm – 5 pm

Friday: 

  • Squash with Graeme 10:30 am – 12 pm (worked on counters)
  • Squash with Nikki and Danielle 2:30 pm – 4 pm (queen of the court)

Saturday:

  • Squash with Graeme 10 am – 11 am
  • Squash game with Matt 4-5 pm

Sunday: Rest day!

  • Acupuncture/massage/cupping session

Monday:

  • Drive to Chicago for the Windy City Open
  • light hit 6:30 – 7:15 pm

Tuesday: 

  • Match vs Sarah Cardwell (AUS) 1-2 pm (Recap to come in following post!)

All in all, it was a solid week of training, and I really enjoyed every single moment. It was so refreshing to be with a group of like-minded athletes that were all so motivated both on and off court! Our sessions passed by in a flash, yet were extremely productive. I can’t wait for the next camp!

 

Recovery Methods: Floating at Floathouse Victoria

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about balance, as well as the mental side of training. While I’m currently focusing on improving my mental state, my physical recovery (aside from sleeping) could really use some attention. Throughout the week, I mainly rely on foam rolling/mobility, a massage, and adequate sleep to keep my body healthy. However, after an intense or prolonged training week, travel, or even bouts of mental stress, additional methods can be beneficial and improve recovery.

Needing Some Recovery

One of the few recovery methods I’ve tried is floating. My most recent floating session was over the Christmas holidays, after experiencing a delay-filled trek from NYC to Victoria. My body was completely shot. Turns out that getting to sleep at 2:30 am local time (but 5:30 am EST), and being squished in germ people filled airports wreaks havoc on your nervous system. I slept until a respectable time of 7 am, and had great plans to train twice that day, first at 11 am and then again at 3:45 pm. I figured I could shake off the minimal hours of sleep and jet lag, push through the training, and then call it an early night.

You can probably guess how well that plan worked out. During my first session with Erik, I felt truly unfit. I could hit the ball just fine, but as a rally progressed past 8-10 shots, my legs felt as though they had been injected with burning liquid. The more tired I got, the later I got on the ball, reducing my options. Talk about a downward spiral!

After the match, Erik suggested I go to Floathouse for a 90-minute float instead of training again later that day. I jumped -lethargically- at the chance, and he set it up right then and there. (Erik owns Floathouse, and was kind enough to comp me a float).

Have you ever done 90 minutes of absolutely nothing? No, I don’t mean sleeping. I’m talking about actively taking time to shut your brain off, and relax so deeply that you enter into almost a hypnotic-like state.

What is “floating”?

Floatation therapy, or simply “floating” is a form of sensory deprivation, where you lie in a tank filled with 1000 L of water + over 1200 pounds of Epsom Salts, all heated to skin temperature. This saturated solution allows you to float, unable to distinguish between the air (which is also heated to body temp) and water, giving you the illusion of being in midair. When the lights are dimmed/shut off, your ears are submerged in the tank (your face is above the water, so you breathe normally), and you have zero bodily contact with any hard surface, you feel deprived of virtually any senses.

A float tank! The neon lights change colours every couple of minutes (it’s not green water!)

What are the benefits of floating?

In addition to stress relief, there are lots of benefits to floating. Some of the additional benefits include:

  • Engages Parasympathetic System

    This is a fancy way of saying that it helps you relax. Suppressing your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) allows for your parasympathetic system to engage, which helps decrease muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones, and increase endorphins.

  • Pain Management

    Floating can relieve back and neck pain, by alleviating compression on the spine. Conditions such as arthritis, bursitis and tendinitis can be improved simply by lying in the float tank.

  • Magnesium Absorption

    Most people are magnesium deficient without even knowing. The concentration of Epsom salts, (aka magnesium sulfate), is so concentrated in the float tank, that some of the minerals are absorbed into the skin and hair. This can prevent cardiovascular disease, regulate blood pressure, help prevent osteoporosis, and provide PMS relief.

  • Muscle Healing

    Athletes can benefit from the deep healing effects of the epsom salts, as well as the experience of weightlessness. It also improves circulation, flushes lactic acid, and detoxifies muscles.

  • Meditation and Visualization

    The float tank is truly a unique experience, as it allows you to reach a deeper and quicker level of meditation. (Personally, I found that I reached a mental state similar to what I imagine hypnosis to be like. I wasn’t sleeping, but I was not fully awake and thinking, which was incredibly peaceful). Some find that the combination of extreme relaxation and heightened awareness can induce a level of calmness needed to perform at ones best.

  • Stress Relief

    A 90 minute session in the float tank can promote the production of feel good neurotransmitters (dopamine and endorphins), while relieving stress hormones.

My Experience at Floathouse Victoria

When I walked into Floathouse, I couldn’t help but immediately feel calm. It is modern and simplistic, and feels a lot like a spa. I especially love the indoor greenery!

Real live plants growing out of the wall

I was greeted by a friendly front desk person, and headed to my float room. Each room has a tank and a shower. The float itself lasts for 75 minutes, but you are given an extra 15 minutes to shower (before and after) and get settled in the tank.

En route to the float tank. To the right, check out the housemade Kombucha on tap!

The first thing I noticed when I climbed into the tank was the water thickness and temperature. The feel of the water was remarkable. Thousands of pounds of dissolved epsom salts creates a very heavy solution, which is so saturated that it allows your body to float evenly in the water. Furthermore, because the water and air are heated to the same temperature, they are virtually indistinguishable from one another, so you never feel chilled.

I chose to keep both the neon lights and the music on during the float, and also kept the lid of the tank cracked open slightly. While I do love the isolated experience, I’m a bit claustrophobic, and simply felt more comfortable feeling as though I had some “contact” with the outside world!

This particular time, it took me a good 20-30 minutes to settle into the float, and once I did, it passed by in a flash. While I didn’t find myself in a hypnotic state like I did during my first experience,  I was able to relax and completely let my mind go.

After the float, I immediately noticed the difference in my state of mind. I felt less stressed, and much more equipped and ready to handle any crap that might be thrown my way. Although I couldn’t feel a noticeable difference in my body right away, I know that the epsom salts (paired with a good night of sleep), would help me recovery immensely for the following day’s session(s).

Would I Float Again?

If I had access to an affordable place like Floathouse in NYC, I would absolutely incorporate it into my recovery routine more often. (This is why I take advantage of my friends/family/member discount when I’m home in Victoria!). Prices aside, I think floating is both physically and mentally beneficial. It doesn’t feel like a waste of time (if you’re highly anxious, I could see this being a problem!), and the state of relaxation is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

If you live in Victoria or Vancouver BC, check out Floathouse (they have locations in both cities)! I cannot recommend them enough. Once I find somewhere in NYC I’ll be sure to post about my experience there as well!