Stairs HIIT Circuit

In college, I would look forward to the stair climbing portion of our conditioning workouts. No matter how tired I was from the ghosting or other exercises, I could always keep going on the stairs. In hindsight, it was probably because there were only 3 flights to climb before we would run down and start again, giving our quads a bit of a break. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an exercise I dreaded (unlike court sprints…blah!)

A few months ago, I was coerced into running a set of stairs with my coach, John after our session. After one set of 9 flights, my quads were on fire. I don’t mean a slight burn in the legs- I mean such an intense feeling that my legs physically couldn’t accelerate anymore. The hardest part? Once the legs started burning, I had to keep going, which made the last couple of flights a huge feat of mental strength.

A little while ago, I decided to dip back into the dreadful stairs pain cave, and drew up this stairs conditioning workout to test the lactic capacity of the legs, as well as muscular endurance. I had Jello legs by the end of the session!

Stairs Conditioning Workout

Complete 3-4 rounds of each circuit, taking little to no rest as needed between exercises. Between rounds, take ~45-60 seconds rest.

Circuit 1

1)  Stairs. I did 9 flights, because that’s how many are in the building, but depending on your current level of fitness, that may be too many (or perhaps too little!) for you.

2) Bent over row (15 reps) 

3) Walking lunges (12 reps / leg)

4) Jump rope (60 seconds)

Rest 45-60 seconds, then repeat 3-4x

Circuit 2

1) Stairs

2) Bear crawl (30 seconds)

3) Kettlebell squat to OH press (15 reps)

4) Jump rope (60 seconds)

Rest 45-60 seconds, then repeat 3-4x

If you do end up trying the workout, drop me a comment and tell me what you thought!

Disclaimer: While I am a certified personal trainer, please make sure to consult with your doctor before trying this (or any) workout regimen, especially if you are new to exercise. 

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!

 

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!

 

Why Not or Why NOT?

Hello from Laguardia airport! I’m currently settled in a chair by my gate with a $13 bag of Blue Diamond roasted almonds by my side (so worth it!), waiting to board. (Update: I’m almost done this post and have probably had about 5 servings. Why are almonds so addicting?!). I took public transit (subway + free bus connection) to the airport , and was really pleased with how smooth of a ride I had. From the time I left the club in midtown to the moment I sat down at my gate, it was about an hour. You can’t beat that! Maybe I’ll start trying to fly mid afternoon on Mondays more often…

Breakfast

After a solid 9-hour sleep, I woke up to a grumbling stomach and a craving for coffee. I quickly put on a pot of coffee, while simultaneously fixing breakfast and throwing a few last minute items in my suitcase. I did my absolute best to not overpack, since 90% of my bag is filled with training clothes, and I know that I’ll have several chances to do laundry over the next 10 days. Plus, I’m hoping to be able to fit my Salming duffel into the overhead bin and not sky check it. All about saving doll-ahs and being efficient over here!

Although breakfast this morning was influenced by clearing out all perishables from the fridge, it was quite tasty!

Today’s scramble mix included:

  • 3 eggs + 1 egg white
  • raw spinach
  • a bucketload of chopped chives
  • Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning (<– love this stuff!)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • sweet potato spirals sautéed in coconut oil that were on the verge of death (not pictured)

I heated up some coconut oil, scrambled it all up, and deemed it very edible! Coconut oil just may be my new favourite sautéing buddy. A little bit goes a long way, and it gives the food a slightly sweet taste, which I love.

Workout

After breakfast/packing, I headed into Manhattan to teach a lesson and sneak a quick workout in. The 45-minute lesson flew by, and after sorting out a couple billing tasks, I debated for about 2 minutes whether or not I should do a little bike workout. I was feeling indecisive, and formed a mental pros vs cons list:

Pros:

  1. I’m well-rested (HRV was also green this morning)
  2. It will energize me
  3. I said I would, and it’s part of the training schedule I set out to do
  4. It’ll only take 20 minutes

Cons:

  1. I’m a little short on time and don’t want to be late/stressed for my flight
  2. I’m ever so slightly hungry, but not really that hungry

Honestly, all this thinking just confused me. In the end, I thought to myself: “Why NOT?“. When you’re motivated, it’s easy to accomplish a given task. Similarly, when you’re unmotivated, it’s quite convenient to go with any number of excuses. But what happens when you’re ambivalent? At this point, the battle becomes mental, rather than physical. For example, I was well-rested today. My body felt good, and my mind was up for it. I had finished the other tasks that needed to be done, and really did have 20 minutes to spare. When I realized I had zero legitimate excuses, I figured I’d better shut my mind up and get on with it.

… I wish this was my setup today! This was taken over winter break.

20-something minutes later, I hopped off the bike, sweaty and out of breath. One of the benefits of being constrained for time, is that I made sure to make every single minute count. The workout looked something like this:

  • 0-5 min: warm up (alternating 1 min seated, 1 min standing, with the beat)
  • 5-10 min: 5 minute “climb”: one 10-25 second sprint every minute, and in between, pedalling out of the saddle with the beat
  • 11-20 min:
    • 20s on/40s off (3x)
    • 30s on/30s off (3x)
    • 40s on/20s off (2x)

After cooling down for a minute, it took me no more than 10 minutes to shower, dress, pack, and head out!

Anywho, now I’m chilling at my gate, munching on almonds, and wondering whether or not I should take a $500 travel voucher for a flight that leaves 3 hours from now…

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! 😀