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Take It To The Limit - By Tan Aik Huang

In my last two articles, I explained what I think are the right ways to train to become a world class player. I have not gone into detail of how hard you should train.

Before we go on to what champions think and feel about training, I would like to share with you my views on what training hard means.

I am sure you have heard this comment over and over again: “Our players are pampered, they do not train hard enough.”

But what exactly do we mean by that and how do we measure or quantify "hard"?

By the number of times, by the length of time and intensity that a player trains?

Is it hard enough if a player plays a tough six sets, or 10 sets of 15 points continuously? Is it hard enough if a player goes through one hour or one and a half hours of a strenuous session of shadow badminton or multiple shuttle drill?

Most of us would agree that playing 10 tough sets of badminton of 15 points continously or going through a one and a half hours of a strenuous session of shadow badminton or multiple shuttle drill every training day would be hard enough. Maybe too hard.

But the question is, “hard enough or too hard in relation to what?”

To answer this question, I would like to introduce for your badminton training the experience of what marathon runners call "hitting the wall".

For marathon runners, when they arrive at the last few miles of their 26 mile race, they would have nearly reached or reached the limits of their physical endurance, it is called "hitting the wall".

And yet, they carry on at the same pace, or even increase their pace until they reach the finishing line.

How is it possible?

This is because they can somehow mentally stay focused on the race and will their bodies to keep up the pace to finish and sometimes win the race. It is physical and mental endurance combined.

So, in badminton, you must be able to train until you hit the wall and still concetrate to hit those shots that will ensure your winning the game.

Of course, it is not possible to "hit the wall" every day in your training.

In fact, it would be counter productive if you try and you will be risking injury.

Once every three or four days would be “hard enough”. Training until you hit the wall, and then to continue to see whether you can still concentrate to make the right shots to win the game is something you cannot quantify but it is very tangible and real. It is just non-measureable, only you yourself know when.

The reasons I am suggesting this approach are as follows:

1. It provides an effective benchmark to the uppermost limits of how hard you should train.

2. Just as important, training hard in this way is an effective method to improve your standard of play.

Try to recall the times you played a very tough and hard-fought match, going to three sets in a tournament, testing your physical and mental endurance to the limit.

What happened to your touch, accuracy, the execution of your strokes and movement on court the next day or two when you had recovered from the match to start training again?

You must have felt as if every aspect of your game had been fine tuned.

Training can never replace competition but training in this way has a better chance of replicating what happens to you, i.e., your badminton, your body and your mind in competition, and hence a faster improvement in your game.

3. Training to this limit also prepares you well for high level competition.

When you play matches during competition, there is always a certain amount of tension in you.

The more important the competition, the more you feel the tension. The tougher your opponent, the more tension you may feel. This tension sometimes affects your energy level and fitness before you start playing.

Training hard in this way prepares you physically and mentally to last a very strenuous match in competition.

Often, in competiton, when you reach or nearly reach your limit of physical endurance, you start making all sorts of silly mistakes, especially on shots you should not have played if you were not that exhausted.

You sometimes lose the match, partly because you are exhausted, but often because you are not able to concentrate on the game any more. The ability to focus even when one is physically very tired is the hallmark of a champion.

My main purpose of telling you what champions think and feel about training is to help you cultivate the right attitude towards training to become a champion yourself.

Let us assume that you are of World Champion potential. What would be your thinking and feeling towards training and during training?

It would be like this:

Almost every time you go for training, you feel excited about it; you cannot wait to go to your training.

You feel excited that today you are going to further improve your badminton skills or if you are doing some exercises, you look forward to becoming stronger for your game.

You feel excited that today you are going to try something new to beat your fellow trainees.

You look at your training every day as very important. Unless there are other activities which are exceptionally important you will not postpone your training.

No matter how tough the training for that day, you feel you must complete it.

You feel something very important is “missing” and you don't feel good for the rest of the day if you don't complete your training.

You think of training like a pleasant journey and you are always aware and you pay a lot of attention to your improvements.

After every competition, you analyse your strong points and your weak points, whether you win or lose the tournament.

After analysing, you work on improvements during training. This process would go on and on. It is a routine in your training.

You also have a lot of discussion with your coach or fellow players about your performance during training and tournaments.

In the past three weeks, I have shared with you my knowledge, experience and observations on training to be a world class player and champion. The rest is up to you and you only and nobody else!


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