Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Squash: A cross-training experience

Yesterday: 6.1 miles at 8:51 pace; 1 hour of squash
Today: 7 miles at 8:23 pace

I haven't posted in the past few days because my father came to visit me in Austin and I have been busy busy!  The weather was great for his visit; 70s and 80s in the afternoon, sunny and clear skies.  We had plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, including horseback riding, tail gating and hiking.  He left Austin this afternoon, so I guess things have to go back to normal, including me being at work (instead of having fun).

One of the things we did during his visit was play squash.  Twice to be exact.  For those of you who don't know, squash is a racquet sport.  Of the other, more mainstream racquet sports, it is most similar to racquetball.  It is played indoors, on a squash court.  A squash racquet has a small head and the ball is small and made of rubber.  It was invented by the French, but popularized by the British.

Regulation squash court
I really enjoy squash, however finding places to play can be a challenge.  The easiest place to find squash courts is at  a university or college, especially in New England.  Like many obscure sports, squash is more popular in New England than other parts of the country.  As a child, my parents put me in squash lessons.  I wasn't very good, but I learned a lot and developed my skills enough to play with my parents and sister.  At MIT, they had six very nice squash courts.  I took a squash class as part of PE and continued to play with my family and friends.  The University of Texas has far fewer squash courts than MIT, but they do have some, so my father made a point of bringing his racquet with him.

The soreness I am experiencing now is a consequence of not playing squash for months, and then playing two days in a row.  Like other racquet sports, squash requires a lot of fast, lateral movement.  This is very different than running, so I have a sore butt and inner thighs today.  In fact, it seems that any sport that is not running makes me sore (previous entry about football).  I did have the intelligence to keep up with my morning runs, which I believe stretched out my legs and minimized the possible discomfort.

I would like to finish with a few interesting things about squash, for those of you unfamiliar with the sport:
In squash, all four of the court's walls are in play, including the back wall.  A lob or particularly hard return will often bounce off the back wall.  These shots are the most difficult for me to return.
Squash balls are made of rubber, and there are different grades of rubber (of varying hardness).  The rubber ball always needs to be "warmed up" before a game because as the ball heats up, the rubber softens and becomes bouncier.  This is often done by hitting it repeatedly against the wall.  Other people will keep the ball under their armpits.  Warming up the ball can be particularly challenging in winter, but not too bad in Texas.
Squash courts are often not well ventilated.  This means you are running around in a 6x10m box with no fresh air and it can get hot.
Squash can be played as a doubles or singles game.  Doubles courts are larger.  I have only once played doubles squash.

In case you were wondering, we played 6 games, I won 2.

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