Hello from… the plane!
I believe I am currently flying over Turkey or Iran, en route from Naples to Dubai where I will be participating in a pro training camp held by the Flying Daf Academy.
I thought it might be interesting to recap my last few days, which were spent coaching a Squashletic member, Paolo, in Naples, Italy.
Paolo has been following Squashletic on Instagram for at least a couple of years now, and has signed up for a couple of my programs, including Lunge like a Legend. For some time now (I think nearly a year), Paolo has been asking me if I- or any coach- could come to Naples for a few days to do some coaching.
When you are traveling and competing full time on the pro circuit, you are always on the go. I am usually only at home for a couple of weeks maximum between tournaments, which makes for a very busy (and tiring) schedule. While I would have loved to pop off to Italy last season, the schedule simply didn’t allow for it.
However, shortly before I left for Paris, Paolo sent me a message asking if there might be any time I could come to Italy to do some coaching. It just so happened that I had 3 days between competing in Paris and training in Dubai that I was looking to fill. The timing was perfect, and a great opportunity to change my environment (and of course, make a bit of money while on the road!).
So, after messaging with Paolo back and forth for a few days, we sorted out the logistics, and on Wednesday evening I flew down to Naples for 66 hours!
Paolo kindly met me at the hotel, and had arranged full room & board for me during my stay. This was hugely helpful, as the hotel & club was located in a more secluded, industrial part of Naples, with limited restaurant options. This made it very easy to coach, train, and simply come back to the hotel to shower & eat before heading back down again.
On Thursday morning, I hit with Paolo’s friend, Lidia for one hour, and then hit with Paolo for about one hour. The “club” has 2 courts, and shares a space with a Crossfit box. I love a good old functional gym with no frills, so this spot was right up my alley!
After coaching, I did a few minutes warmup & mobility, then went straight into a 30 minute treadmill session. I was a little hungry, but from experience I know it’s always best to have a sweat before lunch- even if you don't have your best energy. It helps you avoid the afternoon slump, and also primes your body for later by promoting blood flow and reinforcing good movement patterns.
The session was tough, but a familiar one I have done several times this summer. After a short warmup, it consisted of 12 sets of 60 seconds on (about 90% pace), and 30 seconds of rest. I ran at 17 kph (or 10.5 mph), which seemed challenging but doable. After having been sick for the last few days (the entire time I was in Paris), it was just nice to be able to work hard again without feeling like my lungs and throat were on fire!
Once I was done with my running session, I did about 15 minutes of mobility to cool down. This is such an essential part of any athlete’s or coach’s daily routine. It always pays off to spend a few minutes doing some mobility or strength exercises after you have been on your feet for several hours.
I then walked back to the hotel for a delicious lunch of salmon and mixed grilled vegetables. One thing which struck me about the food in Italy was the simplicity yet tastiness of the dishes! I believe the Italians pride themselves on using quality ingredients, and I could certainly taste the difference. Furthermore, my stomach can be pretty sensitive to bloating (especially when traveling), but despite eating bread, pizza, and gnocchi, I didn’t experience any discomfort. Maybe it’s just the low-stress south European environment, or maybe it was the food, who knows! All I know is it was a pleasure to be able to eat these “indulgent” foods and not feel heavy or sluggish afterwards.
Later that evening I went back to the club to coach Paolo again from 6:30-8 pm, and then finished off with a solo hit. I was able to get back to the hotel in just enough time to have dinner and watch the Paris PSA on SquashTV.
Friday was similar to Thursday, except that I did a solo hit and ghosting session before lunchtime. I knew I wouldn’t want to do it later on, so despite having been on court for 3 hours straight in the morning, I pushed myself to get it done in the morning. I find it’s almost always best to do the hardest or most tedious stuff earlier on in the day. As the day wears on, you may talk yourself out of it, or there might be circumstances that arise which are beyond your control.
After my solo/ghosting, and a very light hotel lunch of grilled fish and a few lettuce leaves, I had a quick shower and then rested for about 90 minutes before going back down to the courts to coach Paolo again. We did a little over an hour, and worked entirely on his backhand technique.
I finished up the afternoon with an efficient 40 minute strength session. Although I was a bit hungry during the workout (which usually affects the quality of the workout), I surprisingly felt pretty good- probably because the gym was empty and there were zero distractions! I also was really glad I got it done, because my joints felt heaps better afterwards and the following day. It never ceases to amaze me how a good full body, full range of motion strength circuit can take the stiffness, aches and pains out of your joints, and leave them feeling better than before. A fantastic alternative to Advil, I find :).
That evening, Paolo and Lidia took me out for a classic Neapolitan dinner… Pizza! Until this trip, I didn’t know that pizza was actually invented in Naples. So naturally, the Neapolitans take their pizza very seriously. In fact, there was an entire section which was just dedicated different kinds of Margherita pizzas.
They all have mozzarella cheese, basil, and some sort of tomato, but they all vary slightly. For instance, my pizza did not have tomato sauce, but just cheese with the tomatoes on top. Lidia's pizza had tomato sauce, but no fresh tomatoes on top. There are also very specific varieties of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and even olive oil that differentiate each of these pizzas. Oh yes, and we also had arancini to start, which is basically a fried rice ball with cheese or other flavors.
Saturday began slightly earlier than the past two days, so that Paolo and I could fit in our last coaching session before my flight to Dubai. We did an hour on court, mostly focused on rotating drives & getting the ball out of the back corners. I then rushed back to the hotel to shower, pack, and grab a taxi to the airport!
Airport transit is usually long and boring, but my journey was none of the sort. My taxi driver opted to drive me through traffic-riddled town, and I then found myself in the wrong queues to check in thanks to poor directions.
The traffic or queues weren't too stressful on their own, but I had a real fright when I went through security and upon exiting the machine, couldn’t find my purse anywhere! I had tucked it inside a non-zippered pocket of my backpack, and realized it must have either fallen out somewhere in the security process, or worse- someone had quickly snapped it up without me noticing. I immediately felt a huge panic and frantically searched the empty bins, under the security desk, and asked one the security staff if they had seen it. I was beginning to imagine the reality of having lost not only all of my coaching cash, but my passport! What a nightmare this would be.
I continued to scan the security area, and eventually spotted it on the floor, by the conveyer belt before security. I’m not sure how, but it was obviously knocked out of my bag and off the belt before the bin entered the x-ray machine. I felt a huge sense of relief wash over me, and thanked the security staff. Note to self: zip up your bag before it goes into the conveyer belt!!
With that stressful situation behind me, I quickly found a grab & go cafe to purchase some lunch (salad and sandwich). I also stumbled across a cute pasticerria and couldn’t resist buying a couple of Neapolitan treats to try.
One was a sfogliatella, and the other was some little chocolate treat cookie sandwich with cream. One of them is calling my name now, and I have just an hour or so left on this flight, so I’m going to sign off now and dig into one of them!