Below is an article by Harvard senior Julie Monrad.
At the end of each season, a collective sigh emits from our team. For the first time since September, we control our schedules. We control when we nap, when we work out – if we work out – when we get to see the sun. A sense of liberation is upon us, because although we love our sport and our team practices, team training involves strict regimen and exhausting hours.
Spring and summer months are when we allow our bodies to rest, relax, and recover. It is the time we stop ignoring the aches and twinges, give them rehab they need, or even just sit back and let them heal. Off season is when we soak in the sun – since we see so much sun playing squash. Then suddenly, September hits us, and we find ourselves struggling through preseason. We suddenly go from 0% (or 50% if we’ve been good) to 110%. We are, at this moment, more prone to injury than at any other time during the season.
Evidently, staying fit during off season is just as important as being fit during season. If for nothing else, having a high baseline makes our peaks even better. That being said, the off season is still our time. It is our time to heal, get back to sports we’ve forsaken, try new sports, keep fitness fun and fresh. Summer is the time to get outside and enjoy the air. For that reason, I’m suggesting some workouts, from low to high impact, for indoor and outdoor settings, city and country, that can keep us entertained and also fit. Try fitting in three cardio workouts and two strength-building workouts weekly. A good cardio workout will include 15-20 total minutes with your pulse at 170 BPM – think of your pulse after your toughest points. When working on strength, prioritize form over weight to ensure you get the most out of each movement and avoid injury.
Cycling: I’m a huge fan of biking. When biking outside there is nothing like the air whipping in your face, the scenery rushing by, and the rewarding exhaustion in your legs without the pain of impact. When in the country it’s great to give yourself a large chunk of time to go exploring. When on a spin bike indoors, it’s best to create a playlist full of slow and fast songs. A good EDM song gets me through a low-resistance sprint, and a slow hiphop or rap song pushes me through high-resistance slow pace. Make sure to stand as well as sit to get the most out of your workout. For outdoor trail ideas, check out websites, such as Bike New England.
Yoga: Bikram is never cheaper then when practicing alone in your aircondition-less apartment (that intern life, am I right?). Vinyasa Flow is great for building muscle and coordination. Yoga offers more than flexibility. It requires a good amount of strength and a large amount of coordination. While reputed as a feminine, delicate practice, yoga can be very challenging. You will very quickly feel the benefits of yoga on court, from strength, flexibility, an expanded range of motion, and more controlled breathing. If you can’t find a yoga studio near you, check out YouTube for free videos.
Hiking/Trail Running: Hiking and trail running are great cardiovascular and leg workouts. Both will help build endurance, while running on less manicured trails works your footwork similar to ladders. On the East Coast there are plenty of hiking trails, such as in the Adirondacks or one of the National Parks.
Kayaking/Standup Paddle Boarding: If you need to clear your head, hit the water. The scenery and the physical exertion wipe your mind of stress. Sea or river kayaking/paddle boarding is a great core work out. The paddle stroke used in kayaking uses the same muscles used in your squash swing. A squash ball will never feel lighter than after a hard session out on the water.
Rock Climbing: Whether bouldering or rock climbing, your forearms will be in for a surprise. The intense finger and forearm strength necessary to suspend and stabilize your body will make solo-volleying feel like a breeze.
Swimming: Heralded as the sport to give you a great bod, this sport is never better than in the summer when the water offers a reprieve from intense heat. Like strength training, the better your form in this sport, the more you will get out of it. Like yoga it will increase your breathing control, the benefits of which are most noticeable after a tough point on court. To really push yourself, try interval training in the pool. If you don’t like swimming, try water jogging to get a good cardio workout void of impact.
Pick up games: Get back into sports you loved as a kid such as volleyball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, ultimate disk, etc! While a pick-up game may not always challenge you like a hard hit session, the change of scenery will give you a huge mental break and leave you fresh and excited to hit the courts come September. If working or interning, try asking your workplace if they have company teams.
Always remember that the off-season is really your season. If you don’t like something, you truly do not have to do it. Enjoy every work out you do, stretch diligently, and eat right. If you treat your body and mind with kind motivation, you will reap the rewards come September.