There's a saying in squash fit for squash or squash for fitness...I was reading Brett's MSRA blog about squash fitness and thought I'd write about the enormous difference in the two concepts. It is very difficult for someone not very fit to attain a level of play that will increase fitness. Most players play to their comfort zone. If you are 50 lbs overweight you can play squash 10 times a week and you probably won't get anymore fit or trim until you make other modications: diet and other fitness training. I was 50 lbs overweight and played lots of squash but it was always to the ability of someone 50 lbs overweight. I also did court sprints but again these were sprints of someone 50 lbs overweight. While I applauded my efforts, the results weren't that great. I tired easily, shy'ed away from longer rallies and played more in the back, since it's easier for someone not squash fit to cover the back of the court instead of the front. While I wasn't always overweight and used to play very fit and trim and strong, I didn't understand what was wrong.
It wasn't until my son, who endured the same problem throughout his junior development, became dedicated to fitness and diet off the court that he shed the pounds. And when he did his game leapt into high gear and changed how he played. While he was always smarter and better technically than anyone he played, he molded his game according to his fitness level. I followed suit, my biggest culprit was red wine, wow, did I love red wine, but I gave that up. I also went to a low carborhydrate diet: lean and green as we say. As I started loosing weight, I started doing strengthening exercises (push ups and dips and sit ups on the Swiss Ball), lots of start drills and some running. The running is difficult, because I'm on court training my son and coaching others and playing matches all in all 30-40 hours a week and it takes a toll on my knees, I prefer the old fashion stepper on high intensity or biking. For the first time in a long time I am starting to play the front court and sustaining rallies and getting that attacking style back. It is because I am more confident that I am fit to play this game with 20 shot or more rallies. It's hard to play back to back days of tough matches, that is my next goal. I should also add that I do a lot of stretching, as much as 45 minutes a day...this hopefully will ward off injuries. I will not step on the court and play a match unless I've thoroughly stretched and warmed up, this no doubt the result of a couple of tears in the knee and abductor in the past.
To become fit, and I don't mean at a touring professional level, and to derive the benefits of playing squash, get fit for squash. The difference in playing fit versus trying to get fit through squash is immense, the game is too hard as it is to play as if you're carrying around a knapsack filled with rocks...
Having said all that, there's nothing wrong with going out and playing and sustaining whatever fitness level you have -- it's better than not getting on that court. But when you wonder why you play and play and don't seem to get much fitter, think about are you in a comfort zone, do you play squash and burn 1,000 calories but then go off and have 3 beers and 3 slices of pizza afterwards? Get off the beer and pizza until you become fit and when you are fit and training and playing, hey 3 beers and 3 slices are nothing...check out what the pros in last month's TOC were eating in the food court of Grand Central...fit for squash.