Now that I’ve upped my game from playing three times a week (for 2 hours a time) to five times a week (4 hours a time) I am basically a walking sore muscle. Even with two rests days, spaced apart, my body can’t catch up.
For instance? The other night at our training my coach was teaching me how to return a smash. Specifically a smash that is sent directly in front of you. You don’t just hit it, but keep the racket, and your body, down low directly in front of you. Then, while moving your elbow, but keeping your hand in the same position, you rotate the racket around and, leading with your elbow first, push out, swinging your hand out in front of you. (Kinda like this video shows.)
It’s a tough shot to practice, more for my coach than me. It’s because smashing a birdie is physically very tiring. You need to use your abs and all your arm strength. Even when you don’t use all your power it gets tiring quick. When I practice smashes I need to take a break and catch my breath after about 20 times. My coach is better but even he gets tired.
So while we were practicing, he needed a break, but I was still going. He calls in another guy, his teaching assistant and we go through more and more birdies. Finally I’m panting but this guy is gasping a bit and we take a break. Then he calls in another guy (not a coach, just a young guy who is really good) and we keep practicing until he also finally called it quits.
So I went through three trainers trying to practice this move. What I didn’t realize at the time was I was apparently using a new muscle. Because even before I finished that night, I felt a weird tightness kinda running from my arm to my chest. (After training, my coach invited me to a steak dinner with his family–the picture above. Even with the added protein it didn’t help my muscles.)
The next day I could barely raise my hand over my head this new muscle was so sore. Even two hours of playing didn’t relax the muscles at all, and after three hours I had to call it quits early because it hurt so much to raise my racket arm.
But I really like training five days a week. And I’m improving big time. My coach made me play singles with the third guy that helped me practice smash returns. This guys is much better than me, but not on the same level as my coach, so there was a slight chance. To even out our ability levels my coach started me off with 10 points. To win, I would just need 11 points while he would need 21.
The first time we played it was close, but he won pretty easily. Then after a little break I came back determined by the near win. At first he trounced me, racking up 7 points before I even got my first one. But then I wrestled back a bit of control and my points began adding up. I eked out a win: 11-16. I feel like he gave me the last point (he said “jia you” –Chinese words of encouragement–when I was serving my last points. “Hey! You’re my opponent! You’re not supposed to encourage me!” I yelled back.) But the other 10 points were legitimately earned. I wouldn’t have been able to pull that off even a few weeks ago. So I can tell I’m improving.
Unfortunately this was my last week for a month. It’s summer holiday and I always take off for about a month. Only this time, I feel a bit of regret. I’m gonna miss a lot of training and my level is gonna go down. I know it won’t be detrimental, but I’ve been going strong and I hate that I’m gonna lose momentum.