Sometimes when playing squash it seems like you have covered miles when you’ve only been going for about five minutes! But in reality, how far do squash players run?
A squash player will run an average of 2.5km during a pro game. An amateur will normally run about 1.5km during a match. In longer matches, a pro player may cover 4 km. In training, pro squash players will often run up to 10km per day.
Running in squash is not as simple as going from A to B. It is a series of sprints, with lunges, shots and turns thrown in. Let’s see the facts about how far squash players run, and the fitness training and skills that are required to play this sport at a high level.
Squash, Healthiest Sport In The World
In an extraordinary study published by Forbes – almost two decades ago – it was established that squash was the healthiest sport in the world.
If you are a squash player, regardless of your skill level, this finding should not surprise you.
The physical demands of the sport are greater and the rewards are even greater than that. You will never make as much money as they do in say tennis or golf.
However, the personal achievement is worth so much more than money. Well, we guess that depends on your personality.
On its way to the top of that list, squash edged out some quality opponents.
Rowing came in a tight second, where it was tied with rock climbing.
Swimming came in fourth, ahead of cross-country skiing, basketball, cycling, running, modern pentathlon and boxing.
At the heart of this fascinating campaign was the contribution made by a group of fitness experts, who rated the sporting codes on a scale of 1-5. Five being excellent and one being seriously average – much like some of the content the author of this article has produced over the years.
Burning Squash Calories
The other fascinating calculation was done for calories burnt. Five meant more calories were burnt and one meant the sportsmen and women were essentially competing in a game of tiddlywinks.
The experts said – and you might not necessarily agree with this – that squash scored a 4.5 for cardio endurance, a 5 for muscle endurance and a whopping 5 for calories burnt. Those three elements proved the defining factors in this study.
Now, we know this study was a source of tremendous debate but we are RUNNING with it anyway, because the pun is intended and because we can.
What A Squash Player Needs
The one aspect of the game that needs to be understood, is that squash isn’t and never has been a game played to get fit.
You have to get fit, to play squash. We touched on this above.
Being fit enough to compete is one thing but being fit enough to avoid injury is more important.
The experts say – and this is obviously up for debate – that squash players record average heart rates of between 70-86 percent during the course of a match.
That range is obviously determined by the level of competitiveness and the length of the match.
It goes without saying, that the fitter you are the more likely you are to produce your best squash. So, stop being lazy.
Throughout this article, you will encounter countless points about fitness and endurance…and how crucial they are to achieving some of your technical goals. There are simple and cost effective ways to establish just how well you are doing and how much more you need to achieve.
There are several generic methods you can use to evaluate your progress. They range from timing a 5km run to a multi-stage fitness test.
One can argue that the multi-stage will likely be the most meaningful of the tests.
During your 5km run, the primary goal is to establish aerobic fitness and leg muscle endurance.
If you are playing squash for a laugh, you really just need to complete the run. Make it across the finish line and get your participation certificate.
What Do You Need?
It might be a good idea to have a stop watch – the whole exercise would be rather pointless without one really. Your best bet is a 400m track, as it easier to monitor performance on that, depending on how honest you are with yourself.
You can use a treadmill for this but that will be horrible, boring and there simply won’t be enough incentive to go through with this.
However, if you plan to compete against the sport’s elite, you should really be completing that run in fewer than 21 minutes – regardless of the circumstances.
In an age where women are just as competitive as men – a great time to be alive really – the standard should not vary too much. Women should be targeting a 23 minute finish, 25 minutes at most.
In most marathon events around the world, elite runners are expected to do 5km in at least 15 minutes.
It is really not asking a lot though, given the times that professional runners record over the same distance.
There is really no need to cheat this test either but there is a psychological element to this that cannot be ignored.
Running can be boring at the best of times. However, it can be worse when conducting a test like this on a regular 400m track.
It can be even more depressing when conducting it on a treadmill. If you can, at least make it interesting. Do the exercise in large groups if you have to. In fact, we suggest it.
Mental fortitude is just as important as physical fortitude in an exercise like this.
Squash Aerobic Fitness
Among the best ways to know you are ready to compete, is evaluating your maximum heart rate.
The most common testing method for this is recording beats per minute (BPM). Just to be clear, you are not doing this to show off. You are doing this to establish just how much of a beating your heart can take and for how long.
A stronger heart, means a better capacity to pump blood through the system. The more blood you have pumped through the system, the more oxygen supply you have to propel you on court.
In addition to this, measuring heart rate and capacity also helps better formulate your preparation.
This way, you know how much off court training your body can handle and just how much on court running your body can do. Not knowing what your body can and cannot do can produce a worst case scenario.
You don’t want to find yourself being rushed to the hospital because you ignored a set of glaring signs.
The reality is – and this could bore the life out of you – that this form of testing would need to be conducted on a treadmill. That is compounded by the fact that the workout can be a technical business. Wires, machines, the works.
It would probably be prudent to have this kind of research and testing conducted by a professional – probably at a gym. Key to this is that the testing will be done in increments.
Suffice it to say, longevity is a key component of this regimen.
Start your regimen with the treadmill set at 5mph. Each level completed should take you in the region of one minute. Once you have completed each level, you increase the workload by 0.5 miles per hour.
When you are motoring at about 10mph, you switch from workload to grade. The more you progress with this the steeper the grade. At each level, you should be increasing the grade by about two degrees.
If you are not exhausted after 10mph on a four degree incline, then we must concede that you are somewhat of a beast. Remember that you should not go beyond what your body will allow. That can do more harm than good in the end.
Squash Beep Test
There is something about the beep test that brings excitement to an athlete – that idea of being against the clock and there being nothing you can say or do to negotiate your way out of it.
Ideally you should conduct this test on a softer surface that is not too slippery either. Depending on the level of the workload that you complete, your joints and other parts of your body can take somewhat of an beating.
We recommend doing a beep test on grass.
At a very basic level, the beep test is about placing two cones – or something like that – 20m apart. If you are doing the beep test on a rugby field, for example, that 20m is quite easy to calculate and you don’t need cones for it.
You could just conduct the beep test between the try line and the 22m line. The idea being that you run between the two points in a set time, before a beep (on a beep test CD) goes off.
The longer you run, the less time you have to make the 20m crossing. In essence, the intensity of the workout increases, the longer it continues. The test is completed after 21 levels.
Ordinarily, you are allowed to give yourself a 2m leeway between crossings but not more than that because you would be defeating the objective. In addition to this, don’t count uncompleted levels among those 21.
6 Point Test
This test puts the fun back into fitness. For one, it is conducted on a squash court and takes into account the movement that a player would make on a squash court.
In essence, this test requires that you put two markers on the front two corners of the court, the back two corners of the court and the two sidewalls of the court.
The sequence of the sprint routine is likely to vary and there is no harm in you changing it up, so to speak. However, your starting point is always the T-line of the squash court. There is also a CD available to conduct a 6 Point Test.
Again, the idea is to make it to a certain corner of the court and back to the T-line before the beep goes off.
Even if you don’t have a beep machine, we suppose you could have an objective friend time and prompt you.
Now, the sequence often suggested is right wall, T-line, front corner, T-line, right wall three consecutive times and then finally back right wall and back to the T-line.
Once you have completed the right-hand side of the court, you can repeat the routine on the left-hand side of the court. Depending on your level, you should be giving yourself about 17 seconds to complete one side at every given time.
Both sides would equate to what will be a lap of the court. The experts suggest going at this for ten laps at a time. If you can complete ten laps in under five and a half minutes, then you are pretty good.
This test is also done incrementally. If you can’t make it to a certain level, you simply aren’t ready to compete.
Speed V Speed Endurance in Squash
Squash is not just about finishing the game standing, it is about competing at the peak of your powers throughout. So, as important as speed is in this sport, speed endurance takes you a lot further.
Let us think of this in practical terms, shall we. If you are running from a criminal, it does not help you much to out sprint him for the first 100m of the chase, if he ends up catching you after 400m.
You can come out blazing during the first half of your squash encounter but you will ultimately be judged on how hot the fire burns during the second half of the campaign. You want to be Michael Johnson and not Maurice Greene.
The better you endure during a squash match, the better your technical skills production will be. The longer you endure, the more efficient your tactical approach to the game. The longer you endure, the clearer your thought process is.
The longer you endure, the longer you concentrate.
If we operate on the assumption that the bulk of squash training should be done in a game-like situation, then ghosting drills conducted on court and for a protracted period will help you achieve some of your performance targets.
Ghosting drills go a considerable way to enhancing your endurance. The longer you can do them, the better.
The harsh reality though, is that you will likely need to cover the same distance – and at the same intensity – while running off the court. There is no room for tourists on this job.
In the spirit of Greene, we now shift our attention to sprinting. It is a part of the squash running equation that just cannot be ignored – and must also be addressed in conjunction with the endurance training.
The key thing to remember here, is that they both have to be done. There is no one without the other.
Squash Strength Demands
Running on a squash court is not running in the conventional sense. It is not about getting from Point A to Point B. First and foremost, squash is a stop-start affair. You are also required to change direction regularly and in quick bursts.
Much like a Formula 1 driver, squash players find themselves decelerating quickly, lunging and then accelerating quickly. Beyond just having a strong core, you require considerable stability in your legs and tremendous capacity in your lungs.
If you have not done the required level of running in your preparation, you will struggle to meet some of these demands in a match situation.
More often than not, this can be more physically demanding than competing in regular track and field or even road running.
Ultimately, the less running you do off the court will have a detrimental impact on your body’s capacity to negotiate the physical demands that come with this when you are on court.