There are a lot of good ways to improve your squash-specific fitness, with most players typically working a blend of circuits, gym sessions, ghosting, and court sprints. Perhaps the most straightforward and enduring form of fitness training however, is simply getting outside and going for a run. Just getting out and jogging occasionally is enough for many, but for those who approach their running training with a little more focus and enthusiasm, one of the most common distance formats is the 5K.
The five-kilometre distance has grown in visibility and popularity in recent years thanks in part to schemes such as park run and the couch-to-5k challenge, initiatives that have seen thousands of people dust off their running shoes and hit the parks and pavements, all while logging their times, training schedules, and PBs. Most phones have some kind of GPS feature built in now to allow you to gauge and track your distance travelled, or you can use features on apps like Strava, Google Maps or Google Earth to plot your route out in advance.
The 5K is not only one of the most common distances to get out and run, but is actually one of the most effective for squash players looking to boost their endurance. Although squash contains a far greater contribution from the high intensity, short-term anaerobic energy systems to power you through the repeat-sprint efforts that make up a typical rally, there still needs to be a solid aerobic endurance base in place – this will not only allow you to sustain a higher pace for longer during your matches but will also help to improve your recovery between points (and potentially between games). If your endurance training is predominantly made up of much longer, slower pace runs (+10k distances or +45mins durations) however, you can start to somewhat blunt your explosive edge – not to mention the longer runs take up more training time, and thus also likely more recovery time.
The aim when running a 5K session to develop your endurance is to challenge yourself to push to the highest threshold of intensity that you can maintain, as opposed to just ‘cruising’. Another benefit here of the shorter 5K distance is that you can actually mix things up a little to increase specificity – see our article on fartlek training for some ideas as to how you can play around with your tempo during a run, as opposed to just plodding along at a constant pace as can often tend to happen with longer sessions.
That said, it’s important to note that if you’re completely new to running then you should make sure to build up gradually at first. Even if you feel you’re relatively fit on the squash court, it’s unwise to just go straight into an unfamiliar high pace run without giving your body a little time to adapt. Be sure to start your first couple of running sessions at a comfortable pace, one that you feel confident you can sustain for the whole duration of the run. It is better to go off too slow and finish feeling like you could have gone on longer or faster when you first start out, rather than finishing feeling absolutely drained and exhausted.
When you’re going out on your first couple of attempts at a 5K, don’t be afraid even to walk part of it if necessary. Walking parts of the route can break the run up into smaller, more manageable pieces, and help allow you to complete the course without over-stressing your body. You’ll find that you soon adapt, and you can start pushing yourself to higher speeds and higher relative intensity levels.
There’s lots of good info on 5K running available on the internet, but two good links to check out first are this Red Bull article for beginner level runners, and this Runner’s World article for those already training at a higher level with their running.
And for those looking for a little more challenge and connection with their running sessions, why not check out new SquashSkills Strava group? With court access limited for many, we’ve built a great community on the Strava platform for you to track, compare, and engage with. For those that haven’t used Strava, it’s a great resource to enable you to join with others and share your exercise endeavours.
And of course, let us know how you get on – we’d love to see some pictures from your runs, simply tag us in your post and use #squashskills
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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