It seems like everywhere is in a slightly different stage in terms of COVID related restrictions on indoor sports. However, many squash players are now managing to get on court again finally... even if it's just for solo practice!
I'm from the UK and I was able to get on court for the first time recently, and I certainly felt it for the next few days. We're not back to full court match play yet in England, we can either do solo practice, socially distanced drills involving one player on each side, or full court with someone in your household.
After 3 or 4 months off the squash court, our minds, bodies, and shots are going to be a little rusty (mine definitely were), and it's important to acknowledge and prepare for these things.
I came up with three key things to consider while we ease back into squash: risk of injury, fitness and muscular soreness, and patience with shot accuracy...
Risk of injury
Since most of our bodies haven't been subjected to the high impact and intensity of squash movement for some time, there's an significantly increased risk of injury. The quick shifts in direction and lateral movements of squash mean a large danger of ankle and knee injuries, and if your muscles haven't experienced that type movement in 3 or 4 months they may not be strong enough to deal with it.
Areas that may have diminished over the lockdown period include repetitive muscle force quality output, coordination, reaction speed, and one which I believe to be somewhat overlooked... physical recovery after squash.
We've already seen increases in injuries in other sports that have returned like tennis and soccer, and physiotherapists have mentioned that they are expecting an influx of hamstring, knee, and ankle injuries as sports return.
Keeping this in mind, it's important to ease back into playing squash and don't go all-in when you first get on court... no matter how tempting it might be! Start with some easier, low intensity hitting drills like boast drive and cross court volleys, and you could even do some light ghosting to get your movement back and leg strength up.
Make sure to warm up, stretch, and cool-down, and then stretch again each time you play!
I'm sure not everybody has been doing stay at home workouts during lockdown, which is absolutely fine. If you're a casual player, I'm sure keeping your body prepared solely for the return of squash was the last thing on your mind! I myself tried my best to stay fit during lockdown, but I honestly believe that it's incredibly difficult to mirror the intense workout of squash.
I must admit that during and after I played last week for the first time, I certainly felt the effects of fatigue. I was out of breath, my legs felt like they were going to cramp up, and my shoulder felt solid as a rock... and that was from drills!
Be patient with your squash fitness, it will come back the more often you play, so my advice again would be to ease back into it and try not to exhaust yourself the first time you get on court!
Patience with shot accuracy
Accuracy is crucial in squash, hitting those corners and keeping the ball tight to the side wall are the foundations of your game. Again, this is an area in which most of us will be pretty rusty, I personally found that my width on crosscourts and my confidence taking the ball into the front had suffered the most after 3 months of not playing.
Sometimes a bit of solo hitting is all you need to reclaim your accuracy, it's important to remember that everybody is different when it comes to things like this. I hit with a good friend of mine the other day and for him, it was as if lockdown had never happened, whereas I was hitting the ball all over the shop and I must admit that it was a little frustrating!
I've been focusing on low impact drills as simple as just hitting drives back to myself, it's a lot easier having something specific to aim for, using spare racquets as targets on the floor to aim for can really help you think about exactly where the ball is going.
My main advice when it comes to getting back on the squash court is to be as patient as possible, it's going to feel weird and some aspects of your game will take longer to come back than others. Finally, be safe and look after your body!