My job demands long hours sitting in meeting rooms and offices – often 10-12 hours per day. This situation has evolved over many years, and although I have long considered the possible ill effects on my health, the long hours demanded from the role made it difficult for me to see how I could balance this work regime with adequate healthy activity. I tried to cycle at week-ends when and where possible and the job demands a great deal of travel which does introduce some physical activity to my life, so I wasn’t exactly a couch potato. But I had not pushed myself physically for a few years and was starting to feel ‘sluggish’.
When I was young, I loved martial arts and practiced from my mid-teens until my late thirties, but as my working career progressed and the responsibilities and work hours extended, the commitment required to maintain the necessary standard in terms of hours in class was too much. I eventually stopped. I did learn tai-chi a few years ago as this was something I could practice alone once learnt. Tai-chi however although very good for body balance, coordination and gentle stretching does not push or stress the cardio vascular system. Indeed this is it’s strength! But I felt my sedentary life-style demanded more.
A few months ago I was sitting in a meeting room in Europe with several colleagues – one of which struck me as looking particularly healthy. This may seem like a strange observation, but he looked positively alive and glowing with health. I asked him what he did to keep fit and he replied that he played regular squash. He explained that in his busy life this provided the perfect balance. A game usually lasted approx. 40 minutes and he could fit this in sometimes several times per week.
I had never considered squash before for myself – although I knew it was supposed to be extremely physically challenging, and many of my working colleagues played.
I was now 52 years old and really felt that if I didn’t take some kind of action, my good health and therefore life would start to decline. I genuinely couldn’t remember the last time I had exerted myself to the point of breaking sweat! It must have been several years!
Immediately on my return from that business trip, I googled squash coaches in the Cambridge area and discovered Bob Maison of the Cambridge Squash Club. After a short e-mail exchange with Bob, I started what has become for me a life-changing experience.
When I started, I believed that my general condition was not too bad. As already explained, my body was still relatively supple. And having never held any kind of racquet before, my plan was to develop my fitness – especially my stamina level in parallel with the development of my new squash techniques. I was under no illusion regarding squash being a fierce cardio vascular sport and was fully prepared for the journey to be a long one. Because of my job and the high degree of travel required, I was only able to attend lessons every few weeks, so I was prepared for a very slow process. However, being home at week-ends and as a new club member I am able to reserve court space most week-ends to practice the drills that Bob has taught entirely at my own pace.
It is five months since I started and I am progressing at exactly the pace I intended – slowly, as not to cause problems! My hand eye coordination has improved considerable – when I started I couldn’t hit the ball with the racquet! Now I am practicing solo volleys. Cambridge Squash Club has a gym upstairs above the courts and the first time I got on the tread-mill machine after a practice session in the courts, the computerised programme took my age, weight, measured my heart-rate and after a few minutes stopped – prompting me to wake it up again when my heart rate had come down! Now I am able to use it for a cardio-vascular work-out and use it on a ‘cool-down’ programme after an hour and a half on court.
I feel more alert and awake during the day – in fact ‘alive’ is a good description! I have undoubtably far more energy than I used to have. If I hadn’t discovered squash and the excellent training drills provided by Bob for solo practice I don’t want to consider how my situation would have played out – although the truth I believe is that Bob Maison and the Cambridge Squash Club have actually contributed to saving my life.