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Greg's Table Tennis Blog - January to April 2008

The Past Ain't What it Used to Be


Photo of Journal and Table Tennis Racket

Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail....

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

Monday 21st April

Crumbs! Nearly four weeks since my last ping-pong blog update, so I guess it's time to report on my recent progress.


I've played two weeks of winter pennant competition since my last blog update, and I haven't yet been really pushed in my matches - apart from one strange match where I won 3-2, but kept getting terrible starts in the first 4 games and had to play catchup. Fortunately I was much steadier in the fifth and won comfortably. I've got harder matches coming up in the weeks to come though.

We've also had one local tournament since my last report, and I played fairly well in the Men's Singles, losing in 7 games to the eventual winner, Gio Cnapich. While disappointed to lose of course, I'm happy to be competitive at this stage of the season, and I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve for the rest of the year!

This Friday is another round of our local Grand Prix competition, so I'll get another chance to gauge my progress against the local top players. I'm looking forward to it.


  • Fitness - I reported on Friday 28th March that I was at 199.5 pounds (90.5kg) and 16.5% bodyfat. As of today I'm now 196 pounds (88.9kg) and 14.7% bodyfat, according to the callipers and accompanying bodyfat charts. I don't think I'm actually that low, I'd say I'm closer to 20% bodyfat right now. But my bodyweight is dropping, and my skinfold measurements are dropping as well, so I'm on the right track at least. According to the callipers, my muscle mass is up a little bit more again, so I've actually lost around 11.3 pounds of fat since the 3rd March - not bad going.

    Doing a few calculations, I'd estimate that a weight of around 79kg would give me around a 10% bodyfat level, provided I don't drop too much muscle mass at the same time. With the Australian Closed only 5 weeks away, I'm going to do my best to get down to around 84-85kg by that time. Then I'll re-evaluate things for the Australian Open which starts on 20th July, only 13 weeks away!

  • Training Routines - I started aiming for 3 hours or more of training per day as of Monday 14th April. Since then, I've been doing 2 hours in my morning session, and at least an hour in my evening session. Interestingly, after my first day where I did 3 1/2 hours, I went straight into overtraining with an elevated heart rate. So on the next day (Tuesday) I did an easy 1 1/2 hours of training, and on Wednesday morning my heart rate had gone back to normal, where it has remained since. So from last Wednesday onwards I've been doing my 2 hours morning training, with 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon - apart from Saturday where I had a rest day.

    Compared to my training workload at the start of the year, where I was happy if I just did my half-hour per day, this seems like a pretty darn heavy workload. I'm certainly a bit tired by the end of the day (although not totally knackered), and I'm sleeping around an hour or so longer at night. But since the bulk of my exercise is low impact (either aerobic walking or bicycling), my legs and joints are standing up to it surprisingly well. As of yesterday (Sunday), I've started to increase the amount of time I spend practicing on my table tennis robot, and reduce the amount of aerobics a corresponding amount. I've only added a half hour on the robot in the morning and afternoon sessions at the moment, but I'll slowly increase that as time goes by. So I'm not all that far off my overall goal of 2 sessions of 2 hours each per day. I must admit that I am feeling a great deal fitter than at the start of the year.

  • Technique - I'm quite pleased with my technical progress. My defensive technique is starting to feel very good overall, and I am now fairly accurate against the robot, where a month ago I was still chopping high way too often. Of course, it's how you chop against human opponents that really counts, but I'm pretty sure I'll do better than before.

    I'm still working on grooving my forehand loop (you may recall that I recently changed my forehand loop swing angle against block and topspin), and I've mainly been focusing on a one ball repetition on the robot, to keep things simple. I would start with that, and after 5 minutes of practice, I would set up the robot to give me three balls in a row, one medium chop and two light topspins. This second exercise is good for ensuring that I start to get used to opening against a push or chop, then swinging forward at that 45 degree angle against my opponent's block or counterloop. After a week and a half of practicing my new swing angle, I'm starting to feel more natural with the stroke. I definitely like the results when I do it properly! Again, I'm hoping to try this out against real opponents in my pennant match tomorrow night, and in my Grand Prix competition on Friday.

  • Motivation - this is probably the most important consideration, because if I lose motivation then everything else is going to suffer. I'm glad to report that despite my increased training workload, I'm champing at the bit to get back into competition. Since my last report, I've had only 2 days where my morning heartrate has indicated I was overtrained, and I just took it a bit easier those days and I was fine the day after. I'm enjoying my training and not getting bored or stale - I've been watching some table tennis videos while doing my aerobic walking and stationary bicycling, which helps the time go by faster and also lets me study techniques and tactics at the same time.
So that's the wrap up of things for the moment. I must admit that I'm pleasantly surprised with how well my body is actually coping with the training workload. I think doing a slow build-up in January and February gave my body time to adapt to the stresses without burning me out. I'm nearly 2 months into this heavier training workload, and I'm in a much better position both physically and mentally compared to the last time I tried to increase my training to this level. I guess slow and steady really does work!

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