Overtraining Your Mind

A couple weeks ago I had a frustrating, uncomfortable, and somewhat novel experience. I lost a match that I had really wanted to win. The novel part isn’t the fact that I lost the match- I have lost many matches throughout my career. The novelty was seeing my performance decline from an already flat state straight into gutter. I cannot recall the last time I felt so unconfident in my shots, my movement, and my game as a whole.

Pre-tournament prep done right: Seattle

The previous week I had competed in Seattle, where I’d had a pretty good string of matches, only to fall up short against the number one seed. Despite the result, I felt confident throughout each game, putting up a pretty competitive fight against the #24 ranked woman in the world.

Leading up to Seattle, I had been careful not to overtrain, and was confident in my shots and fitness. (I have been on the verge of overtraining many times during my athletic career, and have realized that at a certain point, any further training will no longer be beneficial.) Aside from match play, my time in Seattle was leisurely and well spent. After a solid breakfast, I would practice for no more than one hour in the morning, ensuring to foam roll and stretch both before and after hitting. Following the hit, I would grab some lunch, before heading back to the hotel to chill out (but not nap!) before my match.

Photo credit :Enzo DiPietro

Following Seattle, I returned home to Victoria for the weekend. I took Friday off (I had played matches Tuesday through Thursday), had a massage, and did some light soloing on court. Saturday and Sunday I put in some good training sessions of no more than two hours, including drills/matches, sessions with light weights, and some movement (all separate, of course). Monday I flew to Calgary, where I had a light hit for roughly 45 minutes. Despite feeling slightly disoriented due to the increase in altitude, I still felt confident in my game.

Pre-tournament prep done wrong: Calgary

Then came Tuesday- the first day of the tournament. I did my usual light hit in the morning around 9 am before playing my match at 12:45 pm. I was fortunate to be the more experienced player, and had a fairly comfortable match against my opponent. However, I still didn’t feel quite used to the altitude, so when I was invited to hit with a couple of really solid players later that afternoon, I jumped at the chance. This is the point where things started to go downhill, and where I was too ignorant to acknowledge it.

In total, the three of us played for about an hour and a quarter. For the first 30 minutes or so, I felt pretty good- relatively fresh, and excited to play. The remainder of the practice, I felt slow and flat. Rather than stop and “give in”, I kept playing, hoping that my quality would improve. It didn’t. At the time, I gave zero thought to how this would impact my performance the next day.

Photo credit: Enzo DiPietro

At practice the next morning, my body felt fine, but my mind only felt about 80% there. Nevertheless, I was still excited to hit.

When match time arrived (5:15 pm), my body still felt fine, however my mental capacity and sharpness had declined, probably to about 70%. The first game felt pretty off, but I managed to win 11-6, thanks to some errors from my opponent. The next game was a little shakier, but I managed to grab a 9-6 lead. However, for whatever reason, at 9-6, I lost focus, and ended up losing the game 12-10. I realized after the match, that this was the pivotal point. If I had won that second game, I would have gained a huge mental edge over my opponent, as it is very difficult physically and mentally to come back from a 2-0 deficit. Unfortunately, I not only lost that game, but the following one as well, only to lose the fourth 11-8. By the last game, I felt that I was mentally performing at about 40% capacity.

What went wrong?

In sports, I believe there are such things as “bad losses”, meaning a loss to someone you are much better than and should beat. This was not a “bad loss”. My opponent was a higher ranked, very skilled player. I knew this before, during, and after the match. This said, I was perfectly capable of winning. However, when I came off the court, I couldn’t shake that same unsettling feeling which occurs after one of those “bad losses”. I kept replaying the match over and over again in my mind, trying to figure out why I played so poorly. Tactically, I knew what I had done wrong (basically everything). The issue that I couldn’t figure out was why I hadn’t been able to turn it back around.

Photo credit: Enzo DePietro

The next day, Thursday,I tried to play squash again, and once again felt incredibly off. Not sore, not stiff, just off. Normally, if I’m not tired, I can and will play for ages. This time, I was actually glad when the 45 minute session (which included a lot of breaks) was over.

My friend had won her match that evening, so I offered to warm her up the next morning before her match. I knew we were only going to be practicing for a small amount of time, and when I stepped on the court, for the first time in 2 days, I felt excited to be there. I proceeded to have a great hit, feeling sharp and motivated, even though I wasn’t about to compete. A little strange, isn’t it?

The Realization

Right after our practice, it finally dawned on me: the 3 hours of squash I had played on Tuesday, prior to my Wednesday match, had taken a toll on me, not physically, but mentally. Throughout my athletic career, I’ve learned to become weary of overtraining my body before competition. However, I somehow forgot to acknowledge the impact of training on my mind. I tend to take for granted the fact that I love to train, and since I train more than I compete, if I have a bad training day, it’s okay, I can take a day off and come back later. In competition, you need to be ready on match day. Furthermore, anything less than 100% of your best isn’t good enough. This is something I’ve realized throughout the few pro tournaments I’ve played so far- if you are not both physically and mentally at your best, your opponent will not only take you apart, but will not let you back in the match.

This is exactly how I felt during my match on Wednesday, where I couldn’t seem to grasp the confidence in my game, hence letting my opponent dictate the match.

Photo credit: Enzo DePietro


The Takeaway

I will always be one of those athletes who wants to do more. I am often told to “do less” when it comes to training (which I don’t like hearing, I’ll admit). However, I have learned the hard way that leading up to competitions, less is more. Leaving practice wanting more is what gives you that extra spark on game day. The excitement of competing is what feeds confidence and self-belief. The mystery and anticipation of an upcoming match is what makes you know what you’re doing is worthwhile. Entering competition with overconfidence takes away from this thrill, and makes a win all the less enjoyable. While losses are by no means fun nor pleasant, they never fail to provide a lesson to be learned, if you are willing to dig for it.

Squash in Seattle, Victoria, and Calgary

Hello hello!

Yes, Squash on Squash lives on. It’s been a very busy past few months, hence the lack of blogging. However, these past two weeks I’ve been away travelling for squash tournaments, which has given me some time to reflect and plan out some blog posts. We’re back!


A couple weeks ago I flew from New York to Seattle to play in a squash tournament. Overall, it went pretty well, and I managed to qualify for the main draw before falling to the number 1 seed.

I felt pretty good during all of the matches and practice sessions, which may have had something to do with my classic breakfast which I kept consistent every day!

Every day, my parents and I went to the Cherry Tree cafe, where I got either a cappuccino (they were amazing) or a normal coffee, and oatmeal. I was a huge dork, and brought everything back to our hotel, where I added some almonds, banana, and protein powder. One day I was an even bigger dork and brought an individual packet of protein powder with me to the cafe.

IMG_8004Whole Foods also made a regular appearance for lunches, with the exception of a delicious Buddha Bowl from Sweetgrass Food Co.




After Seattle, I went home to Victoria for a couple of days to train and hang out. This of course meant time spent at my second home- the squash club!

IMG_8014And a trip home wouldn’t be complete without at least one appearance at the Parsonage Cafe.



After a nice (but short) visit at home,  it was time to fly off to Calgary for another squash tournament.

IMG_8016The tournament went okay, but I didn’t play as well as I had wanted to (more to come on that in another post), and ended up losing in the final round of qualifying. I was pretty annoyed following the match, but after several chats with my coaches, I’m now feeling better. There are always lessons to be learned, whether you’re experienced, or new to the tour (which I am!).

I’ve since spent my time doing some good old Canadian stuff, such as attending hockey games and running in the icy (yet somehow warm) outdoors.


IMG_8035I head back to New York early tomorrow morning, where it’s back to real life! (Meaning, training and work).

What Am I Doing in NYC?

Hello friends!

In typing up this post, I realize that a big update is long overdue. I’ve been so preoccupied setting up and beginning this new chapter of my life (post-college/real world), that I struggled to integrate regular blogging into my schedule. Until I really settle into things and find a new and improved role for the blog, I’m going to take a bit of pressure off of consistent blogging, and stick to product reviews and updates for the meantime.

Okay so update time! Here we go…


Body Space Fitness

I have a couple different jobs here in NYC: coaching squash, and personal training/group fitness instructing. Yes, I am putting my squash ability and NASM cert to use!

IMG_3301The studio I work for is called Body Space Fitness. If you’re a longtime reader of Squash on Squash (hello, grandparents!), you may recall me raving about BSF when I visited NYC last summer. Well, earlier this summer (after graduation), I reached out to the owner, Kelvin Gary, and inquired regarding any opportunities. One thing led to the next, and voila! Since the beginning of July, I have been an employee of Body Space Fitness.

IMG_3297The first month was mainly training (aka me shadowing and watching in order to learn), but soon progressed to teaching the group classes, and am now working with clients.

IMG_3300I’ve learned a ton these past couple months, and don’t foresee the learning decelerating at all any time soon. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by a small but mighty team of very positive, smart, and encouraging people, and am so glad that I am able to put my athletic experience to use!

Squash Coaching

I’ve also been coaching squash a couple times a week, mainly up in Westchester, NY. There aren’t too many female coaches around the area, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to work with a lot of junior girls throughout the year. I was lucky to have a few female squash mentors as a junior, and I’d love to give back and provide any sort of knowledge that I have regarding the game, or even college!

Squash and Training

Now that my knee and back are doing much better post-accident, I am training again in full force! I have found some good coaching and hitting partners here in the city, and have been doing a combination of HIIT strength/cardio classes at Body Space as well as spinning to cross train.

While I was interviewing for several different jobs in June, I knew in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to pursue a normal 9-5 office desk job. Working in the fitness industry has allowed me to engage with others in an active environment, as well as fit in my own training during the day. Oh yeah-I get to wear workout clothes everyday too!

IMG_5763So far things are going well (knock on wood), and as things get busier throughout the fall season, I’m still fairly confident I won’t miss the long days of class followed by hours of homework. It’s time to take a break from that!

Well that’s all from me. Because a post wouldn’t be complete without some sort of food item or workout, here’s a picture of my lunch from yesterday: Trader Joe’s “cruciferous crunch”, with black beans, edamame, avocado, and sweet potato, dressed with a little olive oil and Trader Joe’s spicy black bean dip. IMG_7375Yums!

TKO Jump Rope Review

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I’m currently hanging out at work typing up this post, partly because I am between a workout and a meeting, and also because I don’t have wifi yet at my new apartment.

On the plus side, we are actually making great progress getting settled into the new apartment! And it no longer looks like we’re living in squalor (which it really did while I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor for a few days).

Anyway, the rest of this post is mainly focused on my latest toy- the TKO jump rope!

IMG_7256For me, jump rope is kind of like the game “tag”. It’s that thing you used to be good at, and used to be easy when you were a kid, and now is ridiculously hard.

So when I received a jump rope from TKO, I decided it was time to revert to my childhood roots and work on my coordination.

IMG_7304The jump rope is small, lightweight and compact, and fits easily in a side pocket of my squash backpack.

IMG_7308So far I’ve been mostly been using the jump rope as a warm up, especially when I don’t have access to a stationary bike, or much room for jogging. It gets my heart rate up, and makes me focus on my coordination!

I’ve also been integrating jump rope into some of the fitness classes that I teach at work. I’ve got to say- it’s definitely an eye-opener when most people realize just how hard skipping rope can be. Fortunately, there are always ways to regress jump rope exercises to modify them for every level.

If you’re looking for a versatile piece of equipment which is small and lightweight, look no further than a jump rope! Combine it with a TRX and you’ve got endless options for a full workout. (A TRX trainer is that black and yellow thing hanging in the background of the pictures of me skipping). Those two pieces of equipment are especially great if you’re constantly travelling and are looking for an easy way to fit in a hotel room workout.

Alright, time to go grab some food and get back to work! Have a great rest of your day!


Do you ever use a jump rope to warm up? 



NASM CPT: My Experience + Tips

I am officially a NASM Certified Personal Trainer!

Image 10While I don’t know what my official score was (yet), I do know that I passed, and right now that’s all that matters! Coming right out of college, I was pretty used to the whole study/exam process, but it had been ages since I’d had to teach myself an entire course (hello, grade 9 math!).

My biology background helped me out with a lot of Chapter 2 (Science), and my experience as an athlete made it much easier to understand the Human Movement Science portions. (For example, I know from personal experience that my knee has caved inwards during a single leg squat because of my underdeveloped gluteal muscles).

Reading blogger’s study guides online was also extremely helpful, so along with this NASM review, I will also link to all of the worthwhile tools I used throughout the studying process.


Why NASM? (National Academy of Sports Medicine)

  • It is widely accepted and recognized. I’d seen the name pop up everywhere- on blogs, workout forums, and gym/fitness studio websites. Out of all of the personal training certifications out there, I’d say that NASM was the one which appeared the most, followed by ACE.

How much did it cost?

  • I chose the second cheapest option (exam + online self-study materials), which costs $699. (Note: I received a discount for agreeing to write this review post, which ended up bringing my cost down a bit). The cheapest option is $599, and only includes the exam- no practice materials, no textbook, nothing.

How long did I study for?

  • About 2 months. I purchased the NASM package at the beginning of June, and took the exam August 11th. I studied nearly every day during June, backed off a bit for the first two weeks of July, and then ramped it up towards the end of July/beginning of August.
Studying on my “couch” (aka a pillow on the floor) before I had a bed or anything to sit on in the apartment!


How did I study?

  • Textbook (provided by NASM). I read through the entire textbook and made notes, which took me the better part of a month. After attempting some questions, and realizing I was nowhere near prepared, I then went through the textbook again, this time highlighting important areas and bookmarking certain tables with post-it notes.
  • Online flashcards (provided by NASM). There are roughly 400 flashcards in total, and they are very comprehensive. If you don’t know a topic very well, reviewing these will most definitely point out those weaknesses.
  • Online practice tests. I ended up finding lots of practice questions online, but beware- some of the information may be outdated and/or incorrect. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to test yourself, but when in doubt, always refer to the official NASM resources for the correct answers. Below are a few links to some of the online quizzes/tests/flashcards I used:
  • iPhone apps. I downloaded two free apps, and one paid app, which cost me $5.99, and provided me with about 450 questions. The paid app was great for when I was killing time on the train/subway, or trying to fall asleep. It allowed me to practice without having to lug around the ginormous textbook everywhere.
  • This Bodybuilding.com forum. Skip to the last page for the most recent material and tips. It is really helpful- I highly recommend checking it out! Some of the same exact questions popped up on my exam.
  • Blogger’s study guides. To get a better sense of NASM, and what was important, I read a lot of online study guides- the best being one by the Healthy Gamer (link below).
  • Extra practice exam ($20) from NASM. I purchased this the night before, and am really glad that I did. I ended up completing the exam at 11:30 pm in about 40 minutes (rushing through it), and passed- barely. The lesson I learned from this is that I needed to really concentrate during the exam, read the questions thoroughly, and avoid “stupid” errors. I also learned some things I somehow skipped over while reviewing the textbook. Taking this practice exam was also great practice for understanding how NASM phrases their questions, which can be tricky sometimes.


NASM Special Offer

Good news! The NASM people have agreed to set up Squash on Squash readers with a discount for your CPT package! For more info and to take advantage of this, email Michael Miller (michael.miller@NASM.org), and let him know that you were referred from Nicole at Squash on Squash. Michael was incredibly helpful, and I really enjoyed partnering with him/NASM!

If you have any questions regarding my NASM experience, feel free to reach out and shoot me an email at squashonsquashblog@gmail.com.


Are you considering getting your CPT? If so, have you heard of NASM?

If you are certified by NASM, what was your experience like? Anything to add?