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Table Tennis - Should You Train When You are Tired?

Is practicing your ping-pong when you are pooped a good idea?

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Should you train when you are tired? I know that juniors seem to have inexhaustible reserves of energy, but what about us older players? Is practicing your ping-pong when you are pooped a good idea or not?

Before I get to the pros and cons, one point that I need to make is that deciding to keep training when you are tired now, but were fresh at the start of the session, is very different from trying to decide whether to train when you are tired before you even start. If you are tired before you begin the session, you may be overtraining. Our About.com Guide to Exercise, Paige Waehner, has an excellent article on overtraining, explaining how to detect if you are overtrained, and what to do to cure it, so make sure you check her advice out!

Training When Tired - Pros

There are several arguments that can be made for the point of view that practicing when you are tired can be good for your table tennis. Here are the ones I can think of:
  • If you are a serious, competitive player, continuing training when you are starting to get tired is a good foundation for surviving long, grueling days at tournaments. You need to have done enough physical conditioning to be fit enough to get through the competition. If you stop training every time you start to get tired, you are unlikely to have done enough work to get through a series of tough matches.

  • If you can successfully continue your training when you are tired, you will be getting valuable practice at maintaining your concentration and technique when fatigued. So how much easier will you find it to play successfully when you are fresh?

  • If you have a limited amount of training time due to other commitments, you may need to keep training when you are tired just in order to do enough practice. If you can only train twice a week, you may need to keep training just to get enough table time.

  • Getting in the habit of stopping your training as soon as you get a bit tired, or never starting a training session when you are already tired, is one way of mentally conditioning yourself to stop playing hard as soon as a bit of fatigue sets in. Not a good idea. Although you don't want to overtrain, you need to familiarize yourself with what it is like to play when you are tired, and prove to yourself that you can do it, because you can guarantee that sooner or later you'll have to play a competition where you are weary before you even start.

  • Sometimes, even though you may be already tired, you may need to go to training anyway, because you won't have another training session available for a while, or because your training partner is counting on you to turn up. On days like this, focus on exercises for yourself that are physically less demanding, and work on fine-tuning your technique and tactics instead.

Training When Tired - Cons

Although there are a number of good reasons to continue training when you are tired, that doesn't mean that there are no drawbacks. If you are going to fight through the fatigue, be alert for the following issues:
  • You'll have an increased chance of injuring yourself as you continue to tire. This can be due to overuse of certain muscles, as well as the tendency to get sloppy when you are worn out.

  • As I just mentioned, it is very easy to get sloppy with your technique as you get fatigued. Doing an extra 20 minutes of training while using poor technique is not going to help your form in matches. So be careful to maintain good technique throughout your training.

  • As you get tired, the tendency to mentally 'check out' also increases. This is not a habit you want to encourage, especially when playing in long, draining competitions. In order to get the most benefits from your training, you need to keep mentally alert. This can be especially tough when you have had a tough day at work, and you are mentally worn out before you even step on court, even though you might be physically fresh. If you can't maintain your focus, take a five minute break and try again. If you still can't concentrate, you are better off calling it a day.

  • If you often keep going when you are very tired, you'll increase the chances that you'll end up overtraining. So keep an eye out for the symptoms of overtraining, or the chances are good you'll injure yourself or stop making improvements.

Conclusion

I think it is pretty much a fact of life that we will all have to train when we are tired sooner or later. It can be a powerful training tool, but it must be treated with respect. If you train when you are tired without regard to the possible drawbacks, you are going to slow down your progress, either through injury, overtraining, or the development of bad habits. So go for the burn, but do it with due care!
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