1) Use deliberate practise!
What is deliberate practise? Essentially, it’s thinking about and analysing what you are practising and not just doing mindless repetitions of the same shot over and over again without much thought as to what is and isn’t working.
For Instance, player 1 and player 2 both have 1 hour to practise their forehand pendulum serve. Player 1 does 500 serves, whilst lacking any substantial breaks and without thinking about why some serves are drifting long or going into the net. Player 2 only does 100 serves, 5 times less than player 1, but player 2 takes mental and physical notes after each serve they perform analysing what was good what wasn’t and what needs to change each time they serve. Who do you think will improve q
The answer is of course player 2. This may all sound very simple and in fact it is, but we have all been guilty at times of just going through the motions during practise and not thinking about what we are trying to improve. Of course, high repetition is essential for muscle memory and developing muscular endurance so finding the correct balance is key.
2. Staying Hydrated!
The importance of being well hydrated cannot be emphasised enough. Good hydration means having the correct amount of water in your body before, during and after you play table tennis. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints, and transports nutrients which give you energy. Studies have shown that only a 5% decrease in hydration can decrease performance by as much as 30%! You wouldn’t give away 3 points at the start of every set would you, so don’t not drink the right amount of fluids!
In terms of how much is the right amount, sports scientists recommend you drink 500ml of fluid in the 4 hours before you play table tennis and the same for the 15 minutes prior to when you start. During any form of exercise, a basic guideline is just to make sure that whenever you feel thirsty you actually have a drink and don’t just carry on playing, but a more exact recommendation is around 250ml of water per 20 minutes of table tennis. After you have finished playing you should also be drinking at least 300ml of water to replace lost fluid and help your body recover.
For those who like to have a pint of beer after a league match, (who doesn’t?) don’t! Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it removes water from your body increasing the amount of urine produced by your kidneys.
3. Eating the right food at the right time
Just like with fluids, eating the right food at the right time is also essential for playing table tennis at your optimum level. We all now have the benefits of healthy eating shoved down our throats on daily basis through advertising and a plethora of healthy living TV shows but at risk of sounding like a broken record there is a reason for this. It’s important! Not only for the general health benefits like reducing the risk of disease and illness but also (and perhaps more importantly) improving your table tennis performance.
These benefits include improvements in: Maneuverability, strength, power, recovery, energy levels, flexibility, reaction time, concentration to name but a few. So now we know the benefits, what should we be eating? Well like anything a balanced approach is always best but ideally you want a breakdown of roughly 50% carbohydrates 25% protein 25% unsaturated fats.
Like drinking, when you eat is also very important. If possible, try and eat big meals 3-4 hours before you play table tennis so that your body has time to breakdown your food to create energy for you to use. If you are playing only an hour after devouring a big three course meal your body will still be breaking down food so you will feel sluggish and lethargic as your body tries to juggle processing your spaghetti Bolognese and play a forehand loop at the same time. If you are at a tournament try and eat healthy, easily digestible snacks throughout the day. If you have a league match straight after work maybe try splitting your dinner into two smaller portions, one before and one after your match. Maybe even try a protein shake afterwards to help aid your recovery.