This is Episode 047 of the Ask a Table Tennis Coach podcast. Today’s question comes from Alexander and is about how to play well when you’re tired.
“We often have to play league matches on Friday evenings and I have to go there straight from work. As you can imagine I play a lot worse after 8 hours of work than when I play rested on a Sunday. What can I do to lessen this difference? I’m especially interested in how to get mentally prepared and focused.”
This is a really awesome question Alexander, thank you for asking it.
Most of us are going to play league matches and sometimes even competitions in the evenings. This can be really tough after a full day at work or school. It’s easy to let whats happened during the day influence your performance and it can be quite difficult to forget about that and focus on your table tennis.
Here are some tips I’ve got for you and I hope they can help.
Firstly make sure that you eat and drink plenty and fairly healthily throughout the day. If you don’t eat enough food, or just junk all day, you’re not going to have the energy by the evening. You’re not going to have the energy physically and mentally.
If you are going to be at work all day and you know you’ve got table tennis in the evening plan beforehand what you’re going to eat at work. Maybe bring something in or make sure you’ve got enough stuff and that you’re eating throughout the day.
You can also try to eat maybe about 90 minutes before your match. That’s been identified as the best time to eat before exercise. So you give yourself enough time to digest and you’re going to be full of energy for the match.
Remember to drink plenty too so make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Keeping yourself hydrated in a decent state to play your match later on.
Secondly I would advise you to get to the match as fast as possible. This might be outside of your control if you’re at work and things are going on but I always do my best to try and arrive early.
If I’ve got a match at 7:30 I try and arrive there first before even the tables are set up. Just to make sure that I’ve got plenty of time to get used to the hall and get into table tennis mode.
As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing worse than working all day and traveling to a match, arriving late and the match has already started. Then you have to go onto the table cold and miserable. The more time you’ve got in the venue the more time you can spend forgetting about what you’ve been doing the whole day and switching to table tennis mode.
Thirdly try to leave everything at the door. As you walk into the hall table tennis mode comes on and forget everything else.
When I had Tao on the Expert Table Tennis podcast he said when he would get to venues he would turn off his phone. I never turn off my phone unless the battery dies and I would have never thought of this. He said it’s a distraction and he doesn’t need to be checking facebook or calling anyone before matches.
I think this can be quite good advice, or at least taking the mentally of no distractions on board. You need to be 100% focused on your table tennis for the two or three hours that you’re there for the league match. Work and family stuff can wait.
Fourthly make sure that you do a proper warm up. You might want to create some kind of routine that you do when you arrive at a league match. Lets say you get there early, do some kind of physical warm-up before you do an on the table warm-up. That can be a really great way to get yourself mentally prepared and focused to play good table tennis.
Lots of people think that creating routines is a bit superstitious. It’s not superstitious and all they are trying to do is make everything exactly the same so that they get used to having this routine telling their brain it’s time to perform now.
Maybe you could even watch some table tennis on your phone if you arrive early, if you haven’t turned your phone off. Just anything that’s going to get you into the table tennis mind-set and get you ready to play.
Fifth and finally I would remind you that you love playing table tennis. Try and think about your table tennis league match, even if it’s on a Friday evening, as the highlight of your day. The thing that you are looking forward to.
I know personally that it sometimes doesn’t feel like that. It can feel like a real chore when you’re tired and it’s dark and you need to slog off to some random hall. Just try and remember table tennis is what you love and what you really enjoy and that you’re lucky to play in matches against other decent players.
Just go out there and enjoy the match. Make it count.
Also, try and remind yourself about your long term goals. Why are you actually bothering to put all this effort into table tennis? Maybe you want to reach a certain level or win the league? If you remind yourself why you are doing it is going to help you be motivated when you’re tired and a bit run down.
In these situations you can really be your own worst enemy. I’ve been through this loads myself. You turn up at a league match and don’t stop thinking about work and checking on emails. You’ve got stuff that you’ve been doing and you feel busy.
Often I felt like I didn’t want to do the warm-up. But what you need to do is act like a professional. See yourself as a professional table tennis players for those two or three hours. Forget that you’ve even got a job. Once you walk into the hall you are a professional table tennis player.
What do professional table tennis players do? They are not distracted and play their best.
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