Snooker as Practice for Running

There was a snooker table in my grandparents’ house when I was growing up. It was the right fit for a growing boy.

I used to play all the time.

My grandfather loved the sport. My uncle even used to play competitively. He played frames against legendary players such as Cliff Wilson, Willie Thorne and Steve Davis.

I looked forward to watching snooker on the television as well. I have fond family memories of the World Snooker Championships on the BBC every late April to early May.

My favourite player was Stephen Hendry. He was the most dominant player of the 1990s, arguably the greatest player who has ever played, and who I admired for his impressive break building, stoic mental strength and consistent match performances.

My favourite player of the modern game is Ronnie O’Sullivan, mostly because, like Hendry, on top form he is unbeatable. O’Sullivan also has a fast potting style, can play with both hands and win matches without having to play his best snooker. He’s also a runner.

I loved potting balls. My main attribute was long pots.

Although I did move up to cueing on a full-size table I never played snooker competitively. But I remain fascinated by a sport that relies so heavily on mental fortitude and inner peace.

Snooker Table Pocket

Snooker is a game of concentration, patience and consistency. Much like an endurance event, an appreciation of the challenge ahead must be balanced with appropriate decision-making in every moment.

For the past several years I have played on a slightly larger table than the one during my youth. It’s six feet long, and three feet wide. Although I only have a pool cue to use, some pocket nets are missing, room to strike the balls is limited by the walls of my lounge, and the cloth is slightly uneven I’ve enjoyed reliving one of my first sporting loves.

Snooker is a straightforward sport. Pot balls. Similar to running, the simple repetition of placing one foot in front of another, the difficulty arises from the choices that precede the execution. Every time you speed up or slow down, cut a training run short, or veer off the route you intended, you must rely on strategy. You must take intelligent actions.

The more you practice the better you become at making the right choices, quickly. That will be the difference between success and failure at the important moments in race situations.

5 Ways Swimming Developed My Athleticism

My mum introduced me to swimming at an early age, paddling in the training pool. In primary school I took lessons. I had a instructor who was encouraging, friendly and patient. I accumulated six local school badges, including 25 metres unaided, and overcame my fear to pencil dive. Swimming was one of the first sports in which I gained personal success.

I took a long break from swimming throughout my teens and later picked it up as training for my sprint triathlon. I swam with friends and colleagues from my university sports centre. I enjoyed the challenge even though it took a while to regain the correct technique with the aid of a nose plug, goggles and cap.

Swimming has taught me to be a better athlete.

There are many components to any action – swimming is difficult because you have to find a rhythm with your breathing, as well as arm, leg and head movements.

Confidence in enduring discomfort is essential to progress – my fear of drowning, especially at the deep end of the pool, taught me to focus and recognise that this was a barrier to my athletic development.

The importance of a mentor can never be underestimated – my instructor gave me the necessary knowledge and self-belief to continue even when I could have easily given up.

Feeling relaxed is the optimal state for performance – considerable practice and calmness during exercise are essential to realise your full potential.

Accumulating mementos can inspire you – a motivating factor growing up was to obtain the next badge, which continually pushed me to achieve more than I would have otherwise.

I am not the best swimmer, not least because I find it hard to stay afloat. However, it is an exercise that requires immense concentration and helped me overcome personal weaknesses growing up.

4 Running Lessons from Playing Badminton

In my second year of university I joined the badminton club. Membership was cheap and Thursday evening training fit into my schedule. It also required little equipment.

1. Running in a confined space is an effective exercise.

Running around the badminton court improved my aerobic endurance.

The weekly practice sessions were four hours long. My instinct was to play as much as possible; I only rested when there were no courts available.

The continuous training matches replicated the demands of long slow distance runs. Whilst the short, sharp repeated movements in rallies supported slight progress in my anaerobic threshold.

Singles is harder than doubles as you have to rely solely on your own running to cover the court.

2. Running is a useful but limited skill in sporting success.

Running as an attribute can win you points. By running quicker and further I would sometimes keep the shuttlecock in play, and therefore force my opponent to make an extra shot (and an accompanying error).

But running only served to cover up a lack of sport-specific skills, such as shot selection and tactical execution.

After a year I realised that without more dedication and knowledge I was unlikely to develop.

3. Running in all directions challenges your legs in new ways.

Movement around a badminton court is quicker than in tennis. The need to run sideways, backwards and forwards in fast sequences exercises different muscles in the legs.

For example, you jump more often for smashes and the repetitive strain on your dominant arm requires careful management. Although sore when I first played, I quickly adapted to the physical stresses.

4. Running can give you a mental edge.

During university I played many matches with friends, club members and even students from other universities. I lost more matches than I won but I learnt a valuable lesson about how my running affects my enjoyment and the score.

Despite my relative inexperience my ability to chase every point meant most sets were decided by a small margin. I also felt better if I never stopped running, as it meant I was burning more calories and working my muscles harder.

I am proud that I represented my university in the Men’s Third Team in British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) league matches. My opponents often praised me for my doggedness, an essential characteristic for all runners.