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Greg's Table Tennis Blog

Still Doing it My Way...

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Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail...

© 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

28th December 2009

Looking back on the success of my New Year's Resolutions for 2009, it's a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I did quite well with my physical fitness, on-table training, and competition resolutions, which is good. On the other hand, I didn't stick to my mental training resolution very well at all, and after the Australian Open finished in July I kind of let my physical fitness training go a bit, resulting in the need to get back on the diet and exercise treadmill again. Sigh.

In light of the many aches and pains I suffered during the week long Australian Open, and the fact that I'm turning 40 in 2010 and will also be eligible to play in the Australian Veteran's Championships in October, I sat down and had a hard think about my defensive style and the stresses it was putting on my legs, knees, and lower back. In the end I decided to change to a close to the table style, which has proved to be much more forgiving on my body, thankfully. But it does mean that I need a different set of resolutions for this year.

Physical Fitness

I do want to work my way back to two training sessions a day, but this year I'm going to change things in a few ways:
  1. I'm going to aim for a morning session of 2 hours, and an afternoon session of 1 hour. I never really achieved 2 sessions of 2 hours each in 2009, and I'd rather focus on the quality of what I'm doing over the quantity of training anyway.
  2. I'm going to make on-table training a much larger proportion of my training time, and reduce the amount of pure aerobic work accordingly. I'll use my heart rate monitor to make sure that my on-table training is still good aerobic exercise though.
  3. I'm going to make a definite effort to get back into my free weight training again. I need this to keep my overall muscle tone in good condition, and I think it will help strengthen my legs, lower back and knees too.
Of course, I'll still monitor my heart rate in the morning to check for signs of overtraining, so that I'll know when to have an easy day and give myself time to recover fully.

Part of the reason for reducing my pure aerobic work is that at the 2009 Australian Open, I had no problems with my aerobic fitness at all, but I suffered badly from aches and pains in my legs, knees, and lower back, caused by the amount of bending I was doing while playing my defensive style. So this year I'm expecting that my change to an up to the table style (which bends down low a lot less) will reduce the aches and pains a lot (and it seems to be working well so far), and I will also spend a lot more time on the table to get my body better conditioned to playing a lot. The free weights will act as an overall strengthener of my muscles, which should help too.

On-Table Training

I've already mentioned that I want to do more on-table training this year, but since I'm using a new style I also have to decide on what I want to do with that extra training time. This year, I've got a few simple goals that I want to focus hard on, while just keeping the rest of my game in tune. (Actually, I must confess that I've been doing this for most of December - I'm considering these to be early New Year's resolutions!)
  • 15 minutes of service practice per training day. This won't be considered part of my overall training time, since it's not particularly taxing on the body. But I definitely need to improve my serves, especially now that I'm going to stand up to the table and get aggressive, instead of playing a defensive style. I need to set up my own third and fifth ball attacks much more often, and the best way to do that is with good serves.
  • 20-30 minutes per hour of my training session spent on serve return. I've never really developed much of a flick, and I need to rectify that as soon as possible. It's entirely possible that I've spent more time in the last 3 weeks working on my flick than I have in the last 3 years. Needless to say, my flick is beginning to improve in leaps and bounds. I am also working hard on my short return of serve against good double bounce serves - I need to have the ability to stop my opponent from third ball attacking, and a double bounce return of serve is the best way to do that. So I'm working hard on this return also.
  • I've made some good technical improvements on my forehand loop this year, and I'll be looking to solidify these gains, so I'll continue to work on my loop against backspin, block and topspin.
  • Due to the importance of being the first to attack, I'm also working on opening up strongly (instead of just safely) with my backhand using the long pimples on that side. I won't always be able to twiddle to the inverted to attack, so I need to be comfortable starting my attacks with the long pips.
Basically, now that I am playing a close to the table aggressive combination bat style, I want to be the first player to attack. That means serving well, and opening up with power on the third ball if the return of serve is weak, and if the return is good then I need to open up safely and with placement and look for a fifth ball power attack. When I am returning serve, I want to attack any long serves, while returning any good double bounce serves with a double bounce backspin push of my own, or an aggressive flick, so that I can be the first player to make a strong attack. The things I am working on above are the areas that I need to improve to make this happen against good players.

Mental Training

Mental training continues to be the area in which I really fall down. I still haven't managed to make this a part of my daily routine. I'm going to have to sit down and think a little bit about why I keep failing at this part, and come up with a plan to improve things.

Competition

I've got two main goals for competition this year, which are to perform well at the Australian Open Championships in July 2010, and then to do the same in the Australian Veteran's Championships in October 2010. I'm sure that I'll need some time to fully adjust to my new aggressive close to the table combination bat style, so I'm not going to worry too much about whether I lose a few matches in my local competition along the way.
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