Run like a chicken, and other squash-related resolutions for the new year*

*A similar article of mine appears in Squash Magazine this month. I  promised to post it to my blog as well.
Happy new-ish year.

I hate going to the gym right after new year’s. The spinning bike that the ‘regulars’ know is mine is taken by an ‘irregular’ in spanking new spandex. All the jump ropes are gone by the time I get to boot camp. And I have to start setting my alarm clock earlier to snag a squash court for the next week. By the time you read this, many of the new year’s resoluters will have already started to fade away, but if I can’t beat them back for the month of January, I might as well join them in their pursuit of personal betterment, so here are ten resolutions relating to squash…and chickens.

1.     Practice. I took lessons with a friend for a good part of the summer and then some refreshers in the fall, but can I yet cock my wrist the way I’m supposed to? No. And that’s because I do not practice enough. Yes, I play squash mostly for fun, but it’s no fun not to improve. So one day a week needs to include more practice. It’s totally doable. I just need to figure out which day to do it….

2.     Keep quiet. I have a tendency to comment on what I take to be a winning or losing shot before it’s completed. Which really isn’t cool when my prescience is problematic. Sometimes I call a shot correctly. Sometimes I don’t. But I shouldn’t be calling it at all. So mouth closed. And fingers closed on the grip of my racquet when I get frustrated. I don’t exactly toss the thing, but I can’t keep using the excuse that the handle is slippery. It’s my brain that’s gone slick and I need to suck it up and move on.

3.     Sleep. Be well rested the day of a squash match. Even better, be well rested every day. I’m ahead on this one, as my office closed between Christmas and New Year’s and I became a resting wizard, disappearing to nap whenever the need arose. Admittedly, this is more difficult to do with coworkers walking by, so instead I plan to wave my magic wand and be in bed by eleven. Or am I already dreaming?

4.    Eat. Do not go to the squash court starving. Bring lunch and a snack to the office if you play after work. I don’t know why I don’t do this. All it means is five more minutes in the morning. Minute one: stick yogurt and granola in a sack for snack. Minute two through five: slap some turkey and cheese on a slice of whole-wheat bread, add some sprouts and honey mustard and another slice of bread and I’m good to go. I could even take a blast from my elementary school past and add carrot sticks and a cookie. I am doing this tomorrow. For sure.

5.      Be more interesting between games. I used to read. A lot. But somehow it’s dropped off and I find myself referencing books I read a decade ago. Or the Style section of the New York Times. Or the back of the Grape-Nuts box. That’s great for who went where wearing what or for making muffins, but I’m tired of being a conversational slouch. I need to up my intellectual ante and dip into something more world events worthy. A woman was reading Ann Coulter in the subway seat next to me this morning; now a jolt of Coulter’s controversial content would supply me with lots to talk about . . . or at least reason to hit the ball harder.

6.     Pursue at least one other interest besides squash. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good probability that you’re as squash obsessed as I, so it probably doesn’t take much to get yourself to the courts. If my schedule (and body) could take it, I would play every day. But there are other things in life that I’d like to be better at, and if I could just give a tenth of the energy I give to squash to another pursuit, it would be a good thing. Take learning another language for example. Or playing the guitar. Or perfecting a back triple twist. Just pick one, though. I still need that day to practice my drop shots. . . .

7.     Try ambidextrousness. I recently realized just how weak my backhand is while playing 3/4 court with friends. And now that it’s winter, I’m reminded of how I turn so much better on my right ski then on my left. It’s time to work on my right brain and my left side. Here’s a great article on the ambidextrous athlete to get going on this.

8.     Volunteer. I’ve been really bad about this, but it’s long overdue for me to contribute some time and energy to those who could use it. Let’s face it, the country is not exactly overrun with women who play sports. I am one and I would like nothing more than to see girls developing a life-long love of sports as a player and not just a fan. There are not one but two urban youth squash programs in my fair city. So I’m gonna get my fair brain in gear to volunteer.

Two chickens at the Prospect Park Turkey Trot

9.    Run like a chicken. Swim like a bug. Ride like a wombat. And sign up for a triathlon. Again. Because last year it was canceled due to Hurricane Irene. Thinking I would be swimming, biking, and running on Labor Day weekend kept me in great squash shape over the summer. I loved the variety—rising early to swim in the city (free!) pool, getting on my bike to explore Catskill countryside, and remembering how tough and how great it is run a hilly 5k, but still have something left to sprint to the finish. It’s a little hard to swim and bike in the winter, however, so I’m signing up for some road races, like the one at right – the chicken trot.

10.  Migrate. Save up for and organize a trip that is as much fun as squash, as active as squash, but is not squash. I keep thinking about the woman I met in Mongolia who was biking through Asia. That may be more than I could possibly pedal right now, but two weeks of riding through captivating countryside sounds quite appealing, and it might appease family members who sometimes hint that there’s more to the world than the one with four white walls.

Hopefully, I’ll complete at least half of these resolutions. Maybe more. Ideally all. In the mean time, good luck with your own—just don’t steal my spinning seat.

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