Life Update: From NYC to Stamford

Happy Tuesday! My week is off to a pretty good start. Despite a late start to the day, I managed to get some training in yesterday and coaching in the evening. I’ve got a few minutes this morning before I head off to practice, so I figured I’d try and finish write the life update blog post which has been in the making for a while. Until my new visa and job had been confirmed, I thought it would be best to keep them off the blog, but now that everything has been finalized, and I’m in the clear!

As you may know, I was working as a personal trainer/fitness coach at Body Space Fitness for most of my time in New York City. I also coached squash out of the Princeton Club of NY, which is where I did nearly all of my on court training. A little while ago, I quit BSF, and began coaching/playing pro full time. (This is partly how I racked up 17 tournaments last season…!).

In January, my coach, and then-head coach at the Princeton Club, John Musto, was offered a job as the Director of Squash at Chelsea Piers CT, located in Stamford. Having worked with me at PCNY for a couple years, he was able to put in a good word for me at CPCT, and offered me a coaching job starting this summer. So, in July, once my new visa came through, I became a full-time employee of Chelsea Piers Connecticut! Since my apartment lease wasn’t up until August, I stayed with a very kind family in Greenwich during the weekdays, and went back to Brooklyn on the weekends. This cut down my commute a ton, and it also meant I got to bike to/from work! I’ll take 26k of cycling/day over 4 hours of commuting any day!

Once my lease finished up at the end of August, I moved up to Stamford. I’m currently living with two other squash pros who work in the area, and so far it’s going well. The suburbs are certainly much quieter than the city, but it’s nice to have more space to move around… and for less rent!

As for the work/training up here, it’s going to be a very productive setup. There are lots of training partners in the area, my coach is here, and Chelsea Piers is a world-class facility. There are 11 singles courts, 1 doubles court, an enormous gym, plus a billion other sports arenas (hockey, skating, gymnastics, soccer, tennis…). One day during summer camp we took the kids upstairs to play soccer on the indoor turf and I was in heaven. My favourite sports all under one roof!

While the city was very fun and exciting, Stamford will likely prove to have fewer distractions, which will be good for the pro athlete lifestyle. I am pretty responsible when it comes to no late nights/drinking during the season, but I think I’ll be much less tempted to go out in Stamford than in the city (for obvious reasons!). Furthermore, having all the Chelsea Piers facilities at my fingertips will cut out the commute time of to/from the gym/courts.

Canada

One of the highlights of the summer was my two week visit to BC in August. Part of the reason I went home was to “activate” my visa, but also to celebrate my moms birthday! While I was there I also played a local tournament, Sun and Surf, in Vancouver, which I used to play when I was a junior in BC.

I came up against very tough competition, as I played in the Men’s Open, but had a great time and realized there were a few things I still needed to really focus on and sharpen up before the season. The guys play consistently at a faster pace, and since I hadn’t done quite enough on court fitness training or full matches yet, I found it difficult to keep up while playing well. When I stopped trying to outhit them, and play instead play smarter, I found I did better (surprise, surprise), but it took me a couple games to get that idea through my skull.

Upcoming season

My first tournament, Nash Cup, is in a week and a half’s time, in London, Ontario. I don’t really feel I’m fully ready for the season/tournament play yet, but am going to go into the tournament prepared to use what I have. For the most part, I plan to train through tournaments this fall, and probably not compete quite as frequently I did least season (17 tournaments was too many). In having more training blocks, I’m hoping that I can focus more on the process, and that that will lead to results, general enjoyment, and less stress about outcomes!

That being said, I’m off to go bike to Chelsea Piers for some training!

How I Trick Myself into Having a Good Workout (When I Would Rather Not)

As a professional athlete, it goes without saying that I work out quite a bit. If you enjoy exercise, this probably sounds like a dream. However, no matter how much you enjoy training, I’ve found there are always going to be days when you struggle to motivate yourself to work up a sweat.

I usually train twice a day (sometimes less, sometimes more), and am on my feet coaching a good bit as well. My daily life basically consists of a lot of eating, training, and motivating. However, after I’ve trained in the morning, then coached clients, I occasionally hit a little slump (for me it usually occurs after lunch). I am grateful that my afternoon workout is a habit and a part of my daily routine, but I also know that simply going through the motions is not the best that I can do. Furthermore, 98% of the time I love training. So why not find a way to enjoy the process?

I love fitness, but there are some days where mentally, I am not jumping into the gym with 110% enthusiasm. Fortunately, I’ve worked out a few tricks to get myself into a good workout mood, so that I can try to make the best of my session. Whether you’re an athlete, ex-athlete, or just someone who likes (or needs) to exercise, hopefully you can put these tips to good use. We all have days where we need that extra bit of oomph, and while it’s much easier to say “no” to a workout, or to back down on that last set, you’ll always be glad you said yes!

1. Get Some Tunes

I’m convinced music is the ultimate motivator. On several occasions, I’ve switched the music in the gym to an upbeat playlist, or put on some tunes to solo hit, and it has completely changed my attitude. Same exercise/drill, new me!

If I am dreading or procrastinating a workout (and if I’m not already at the gym) I create a new playlist to get me excited to move. I’ve found this works especially well with running and indoor cycling. Plus, if you make a playlist consisting all of songs you’re really pumped about, it’ll give you that extra motivation to push hard throughout the entire workout.

2. Get Moving

A body at rest wants to stay at rest. A body in motion wants to stay in motion. For me, this statement is so true! If I am feeling mentally “blah”, I hop on a piece of cardio equipment for at least 10 minutes to get my heart rate up and sweat a bit. Unless I am truly exhausted (in which case I should just take a day off), this method works every single time. Once my blood gets flowing, my mind snaps into gear, and I am ready to start training.

I’ll usually hop on the bike for 10 minutes for a low impact cardio warm up

3. Get Some Company

Playing an individual sport like squash has its pros and cons. On the upside, you only need one other person to hit with to have a good session. The downside is that in unlike a team sport such as soccer, there is seldom a larger peer/training group to serve as a constant motivator.

When I have a tough or particularly monotonous workout planned, I coerce a friend to do it with me. (I have a handful of trusty friends who will willingly suffer with me). If possible, I schedule the session ahead of time, so that I don’t have the chance to back out last minute. Having someone else there not only gives you some accountability to start the workout on time, but also incentivizes you to stay focused through the entire workout.

Next time you’re feeling indifferent about your workout, try out one (or all) of these tips to get the most out of your training session. Good luck!

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!

 

Baking, NYC Marathon, and a Headband

This weekend went by very quickly. After a hard week of training, I was prepared to take the weekend off of training if necessary, and I did just that. However, I didn’t spend the entire weekend resting, as I spent Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday coaching. I’ve recently started loading up my Sundays with lessons and clinics, which I’ve started to enjoy as it gives me the flexibility to focus on training and work a bit less during the weekdays.

Despite a lack of training, there were some fun and exciting things that happened, so today’s post is going to be a little catch-up of my weekend!

Baking Muffins

Friday night I wasn’t in the mood to do much other than bake and chill out. I made two batches of grainless (almond flour) zucchini banana muffins.

With some chocolate chips, of course!

I have nearly perfected my recipe now, which is turning into a bad thing, since it means I can easily put away 6 muffins in one sitting and feel absolutely fine. Granted, they’re lighter than normal muffins and healthy (no sugar/syrup), but still… it’s Monday and one batch is already entirely gone. I’m obsessed!

NYC Marathon

Yesterday, some of my friends and I went to Clinton Hill (Brooklyn), to watch some of the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. Apparently, it’s the largest marathon in the world, attracting ~50 000 participants!

Todd held a little “marathon party” at his place starting around 9:30 am, where we made signs to cheer on our (few) marathon-ing friends. It was so fun to get together and track the athletes online, while thinking of punny sayings for our posters.

Around 11:15 am we headed out to cheer on the runners. Although I’ve now lived through 3 NYC marathons, this is the first one I’ve ever witnessed. Part of me wished I was running it, and the rest of me wished I could travel to different spots in the city and watch it all day long! My friends and I had a blast cheering on friends and also random people. Tip: if you ever run a marathon, write your name on your shirt so that strangers on the sidelines can cheer for you by name!

Halo Headbands

For the past year, I’ve been struggling with my hair up-do for squash. I’ve got a lot of hair which I need to keep out of my face, and the simple ponytail doesn’t quite work anymore. My hair is too long, and a ponytail will whip me in the face if I turn suddenly (which happens a lot in squash!).

After a lot of experimenting, I’ve finally found a way to secure my hair in a bun, which doesn’t annoy me or fall out mid-match. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to tame the little fly-away pieces of hair around the fringe of my face. Previously, cloth headbands/sweatbands have never, ever stayed on my head (I have a weird shaped head, it seems), so bobby pins, barrettes, and plastic headbands litter my bags and pockets.

White, Blue, and Black Halo Tie-headbands

Lately, the bobby pins haven’t been cutting it. My fly-away situation has gotten out of control, so I decided to try out a couple of cloth headbands I’d received for free as a sample. They worked out pretty well, so I expanded my horizons.  I stumbled upon Halo Headbands on Amazon, and after doing some research online and talking to a friend who is a loyal Halo user, I was sold! I bought a couple on sale on Amazon, and tried it out in practice this morning. Practice didn’t go so well, but I was relieved that the headband stayed put, and I had no issues with it.

Monaco…!?

As I was about to book my flight home from London for the beginning of next month, I logged on to the PSA website to look up some of the tournaments. Last time I’d checked, I was a reserve for the 25k in Monte Carlo, Monaco, immediately following the London tournament. Looks like some people pulled out, because when I looked at the entry list, I had magically been bumped up to #5 in Qualifying! I’m pretty excited, as not only do I get to go visit Monte Carlo, but now I will be traveling to Europe for two tournaments, not solely the London event.

That’s it for now! Time to go coach, before heading home for the evening.

July Happenings

Happy Monday, and hello from sunny Victoria, B.C!

I got home late Friday night and have been busy biking, playing squash, and spending time with family since the moment I arrived! The weather is so beautiful right now, it’s hard not to want to go bike, run, and walk outside. I actually have to restrict myself from spending too much time outside, or I’m worried I will get too worn out to do my actual training.

Saturday

I had the best first morning back I could have asked for. I biked to the squash club, taught the spin class, played squash with Giselle, and then biked home!

Heart rate summary for all of the training. I kept it on the Indoor Cycling setting so it wouldn’t use up data.

It was a bit of a marathon, and I loved it! I was especially surprised at how good I felt despite only 5 hours of sleep… Also, check out that calorie count… nearly 1700 calories- whaaaaat?!?!

Sunday

Yesterday started out on an active note as well!

My cycling mentor, Ken, has been riding at the Velodrome for a couple of months now, and insisted that I try it out. There are some very important rules and also skills to be learned (mostly for safety but also etiquette), so I participated in a 2-hour Intro to Track Riding class to get hold of the basics.

Took this picture once we were about to leave, which is why I don’t have a helmet or cycling shoes on…

The bike was the first thing to get used to. It’s even twitchier than a normal road bike, and doesn’t have any breaks or gears. To stop, you simply pedal slowly and eventually come “down track” to clip out of your cleats and get off the bike. To go faster, you increase your cadence!

In the two hour lesson, I learned:

  • how to get on and off the bike
  • what all the different lines on the track mean
  • …and how/why to ride along which lines
  • to yell “STICK!” when passing a rider
  • how to accelerate down the bank

I couldn’t get the hang of riding in the drops (the low handlebars) or riding out of the saddle, so that will have to wait until next time. Still, it was a great first time out on the track, and I’m really glad I went!

Breaking out the cycling gear!

I got home from the Velodrome around noon, and after hovering down some lunch, was quickly out the door about 30 minutes later to play squash with Gavin and Rob. The ball was really bouncy, and I had difficulty holding my own out there, but had fun nevertheless.

Lunch! Slightly crispy egg + egg white omelette with broccoli, squash, and parmesan. Plus a (sadly) rotten avocado on the side which I didn’t eat.

On the way home, I stopped by my grandparents’ house to say hi and catch up for a bit. I’m sure I’ll be back around to see them soon!

Catching Up…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so today’s write-up is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge as I recount events from the past month and a half or so.

Being Sick

I’m pretty convinced that almost everything happens for a reason. As I talked about in my earlier posts, I needed a break from squash once the season ended. I had planned on “coming back” to squash around June 16th, which would have given me a solid 4-week break, but my body rebelled. Mentally, I still wasn’t quite ready to jump back on court, and my body seemed to know that. I was sick off and on for about a month (mid-June to mid-July), mostly with a pretty gross cough. I was able to work out for the better part of that month, because energy-wise, I felt okay, however, as soon as my body temperature increased, I would sound like I was hacking up a lung. After about a month of this, my body completely rebelled, and knocked me out with a fever for a couple of days, which forced me to take some medicine and rest. Only then did my cough begin to subside.

Snapshot from one of my Instagram stories. Track intervals are a love/hate thing!

Anyway, I know this isn’t the most exciting or lovely thing to write about, but being under the weather for so long certainly gave me an appreciation for my health, which can sometimes be taken for granted. I’m happy to report that I’m back to full-strength now, and am really enjoying my workouts and squash!

Off-Court Training

Although I was banned from the courts for a little over a month (okay, banned might be a strong word), I kept my off-court workouts strong. I used this as a chance to assess the weaknesses from this past season season and reset, in order to recover and build my base back up. Pushing through at least 2 workouts a day during the season definitely took a toll on me both physically and mentally. During this early off-season/reset phase, I enjoyed working out once a day, not worrying in the back of my mind if I was working hard enough to get ready for an upcoming tournament. I was able to re-appreciate exercise, without so much self-imposed “pressure”.

My workouts varied from track sessions, to strength sessions, to a mixture of both. I spent a lot of quality time on the sled, AlterG treadmill, and Air Dyne bike. I also spent a lot of time researching the training methods I wanted to include into my next phase of training, which would also transfer into my in-season regime. (There’s no way I can describe in depth the methods in a single post, but in case you’d like to check it out, go to www.8weeksout.com. Joel Jamieson, the founder of the site and Endzone Athletics, has a bunch of articles online that cover topics related to strength, conditioning, sports-specific training, and even nutrition).

Keto Diet (and food in general)

In early May, I sought professional help for my nutrition. I understand the principles of “healthy eating” just fine, however I didn’t feel that I was optimizing my performance. Sure, I wanted to lean out a bit, but I also wanted to feel and perform better.

A delicious and typical “keto” meal: Spinach w Olive oil and lemon dressing, avocado, and salmon.

My nutritionist recommended I try a keto-esque diet, where I would decrease my carbs (and calories) depending on the intensity of my training day. Within a week I lost about 6 pounds, which I’m convinced most of was water weight due to the minimal amount of carbs. However, based on the plan I was given, my calories were also decreased significantly compared to what I was used to, so this also helped me shed some weight. For the first 3 weeks or so, I felt amazing, with the exception of about two days where I felt like I’d “bonked”. I’ve since increased my calories (consistent 2x a day training on 1500-1800 calories is not possible for me…), but have remained pretty low carb. Sometimes I eat blueberries and dark chocolate :).

Volleyball

I joined a ZogSports beach volleyball league this summer with a couple clients/coworkers from Body Space and some of their friends. It’s been so much fun to get out and play a team sport, especially outdoors! Tanning + fun combined!

Oof! That was a lengthy catch up. Time to work get ready for a big training day today! 😀