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Q&A by Michael Catling

Amazing coincidence...
A few days ago, I got a mail from Charlie, Tom's brother, who sent me a few b&w pics from his brother. Thought I would use them in my corner as I just loved them.

But when Michael Catling sent us a Q&A with the boy, thought it was the perfect opportunity to use them.... Plus a few from Cubs, Line and even one of mine...

Under the spotlight Ö
Tom Richards

After suffering a serious knee injury in 2007, many critics wondered whether Tom Richards would ever be able to fulfil his undoubted potential. Heralded as a future England star, Richardsí injury kept him out of action for nearly a year and left him outside the top-100. Five years on however and Richards career is on an upwards spiral.

The 26-year-old has now firmly established himself as an England international and is currently on the cusp of breaking into the top-ten. Our man Michael Catling recently caught up with Guildfordís rising star to uncover his training and nutritional secrets ...

Charlie's photos

What constitutes a normal training week for you?

My sessions vary quite a lot depending on how close I am to a tournament. In a training week, generally I play squash or have a squash session once a day. I usually go on court for a couple of hours; either for match practice or to perform different training routines.

I also do another training session a day, which tends to be in the gym doing cardio workouts. Sometimes I go for a run or do a lot of bike work so my sessions encompass all types of fitness.

Do you tailor your sessions towards a particular area of fitness?

It varies but I mostly focus on anaerobic work to replicate a squash match. When I run, itís mostly anaerobic-centred and likewise, the bike sessions where I really try and push myself to the limit are again purely for anaerobic benefits like building up lactic acid tolerance. I do try and mix it up though as you have still got to do your fair-share of aerobic stuff to build up your endurance.

You really have to try and strike a balance between all the different aspects of fitness which can be tough. At the end of the day, youíve got to put the work in off the court and hope that you can transfer that onto the squash court.

Are your on-court sessions quite flexible as well?

I do quite a few routine or conditioning-based sessions. I do a lot of ghosting and grooving if Iím on court by myself but if Iím training with other people, normally the sessions are more routine-based or even just straight matchplay. As you get closer to tournaments, you tend to play more matches to get up-to-speed.

So would you say solo practice is a beneficial method of training?

Definitely! It gives you time to really work on different aspects of your game. When you are training with someone else, you almost have to pander to what they are doing as well. Whereas when you are doing solo practice, you can really get stuck into a certain aspect of your game. Itís simply a case of hitting lots of squash balls and working out your own swing and refining certain aspects of your game.

On average, how often do you train during a week?

I train every weekday, take Saturday off, and then train once, possibly twice, on the Sunday. My sessions tend to last four hours Ė two in the morning and two in the afternoon. If Iím doing really high intensity stuff, I might reduce the training time slightly. It does vary but as Iím finding out as Iím getting older, itís more about quality rather than quantity.

Do you have a network of coaches that help you with your on-and-off the court sessions?

Chris Robertson is my main coach. He doesnít organise my training programme as such but I see him probably once or twice a week. I also get input from Danny Lee whoís coached me for many years and also from Steve Meads who I have known for quite a long time as well.

Who is responsible for devising your day-to-day training programme?

As Iím part of the EIS [English Institute of Sport) programme for squash, I get a weights and circuit programme given to me by their strength and conditioning coach. The programme is only used for two sessions a week really so apart from that, I organise the rest of the other ten sessions.

What types of exercises are outlined in your EIS programme?

Most of them involve body-weight and strength endurance workouts. Rather than lifting big weights, I tend to do lots of repetitions and in quick succession to try and replicate a game scenario. When I was younger I used to lift fairly big weights but as I have grown older, I donít really work on my muscular strength as much. Instead, my sessions are tailored towards a game-specific style.

How important is it to maintain a healthy diet?

I think it is extremely important. I donít necessarily have a strict diet but Iíve been a professional for eight years now and Iíve learnt over time what kind of work you need to do before and after tournaments.

You are always trying to be healthy regardless though. Nothing can really supplement training itself but as long as you can maintain an all-round healthy diet, I think that is the key to physically feeling good and maximising training

Do you make any allowances in your diet for alcohol?

I do drink yes [laughs]. But I try to avoid alcohol a week or two before a tournament. When I first started playing, I was a lot stricter and didnít drink that much at all. But Iíve found that itís quite a nice way of relaxing after a tournament or at the end of a long, hard week of training. As long as you donít go overboard and end up drinking every night, I donít think it is necessarily a bad thing.

Finally, what advice would you give to amateur squash players looking to devise a nutritional and training programme?

I would advise people to plan their weeks fairly well in advance. Before the week starts, you could maybe plan three hard sessions, three moderate sessions, three light sessions and then two others that you could maybe tailor depending upon how you feel. I think planning plays an integral role in trying to remain fresh and to reap the benefits of the tougher sessions.

Nutritionally, I may sound a bit like a broken record but I think you just need to eat healthily. You donít necessarily need loads of carbohydrates or loads of protein; you just need a good mix of the two.

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