CHENNAI: Joshna Chinappa heaved a sigh of relief when the Tamil Nadu government announced last week that athletes can train at the stadiums.
The World No 10 in squash, who resumed practice at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai on Monday after more than four months, feels it's important not to burn out in order to get back in shape too quickly.
In an interview with The New Indian Express, the 33-year-old opens up on finding purpose in training, staying focussed for the 2022 Commonwealth and Asian Games and the role of her sports psychologist during these difficult times. Excerpts:
How different was the training this time?
Having access to the academy and squash court is a relief. Right now, we are training solo. It's just one of us on the court hitting the ball. In the last four months, everything was shut. Predominantly, my training was only at home, basic fitness training. It's exciting to be back on the court.
Is there a sense of fear or paranoia even though in Chennai there are signs of things improving?
It (fear) is always there at the back of your mind and we should not take things like wearing a mask and sanitising your hands for granted. I just try and remember these because it's easy to forget once you train in a public place. It's about being more aware. But I know when I go to play, it's a safe and secure environment.
How is your body responding to this increase in training load?
Doing fitness is different from playing. My body is pretty bruised up (laughs). It is slowly getting used to it. But I just feel, in another few days or in a week's time, I should be able to play a bit more fluently. I think I need two weeks of consistent practice and strength training to get back into rhythm.
What are the challenges of starting afresh?
For me, it's about finding the purpose of training right now. (And decide) Should I push myself hard or keep my fitness at a good level or play squash as much as I can. It's important not to burn out when I train hard every day. But there is no tournament in sight currently. The challenge is in figuring out how to train correctly and efficiently so that I can look after my body and when the Tour does start, I will still be fresh to play for a few years.
You said a month ago, there was no motivation to train...
I believe things will start again, if not this year, at least by January. For me, Commonwealth Games (CWG) and Asian Games have always been the biggest motivation for the last few years. I've a plan to train and compete at the 2022 CWG and Asiad. It's important to keep training and stay focussed.
Did having a sports psychologist help you get through this phase?
Having a sports psychologist has played a huge role in my game. I've worked with someone for the last 10 years. He is also a squash player, so he understands my game. For me, there are two people that I trust with my game - my coach and psychologist (both based in the UK). It's nice to have someone to speak to, to bounce ideas off and to keep your perspective as positive as possible. Especially, during times like this when things are challenging, mentally.
When do you think Indian players will be okay with taking part in events abroad?
Right now, things are looking hard. Travel is not sorted out. Our Tour is trying to put together something from September or October onwards. But again, nothing is confirmed. Things are changing every couple of weeks. I personally don't feel like competing till October or November, if at all. Some tournaments have been cancelled. It's a little grey.
Do you see tournaments happening in India this year?
I actually asked the federation about this. They are keen to start something when things get better. As I said, it's all about how the situation is - travel, quarantine period and safety measures have to be considered. All it takes is one person to stop the tournament completely, be it domestic or international. It's important to try and wait a little bit. Let people first get back to training. Hopefully, when the situation gets better, we can start off with low-key domestic tournaments.