Steph Inglis column: Discussing the life of a professional athlete

I thought I’d start sharing some of my experiences as a professional judo player.

When we caught up, I would laugh with my friends on our WhatsApp group and say, “Just woke up from a nap and I’m going to Austria this weekend.” “Wow, Stephen, I wish I could do that. Do, it sounds so good.”

I used to laugh and say it sounded good, but I used to try to explain that my day-to-day work is not easy, and I may travel the world four weekends a month, but they are not holidays!

I play a hard, all-around contact sport and fight for a living; most importantly, I play a weight control sport, so I have to stay close to my battle weight and then lose weight for the world competition.

That kind of sacrifice and pressure, only the people in the judo bubble understand! Although I had to step up, I lived the life of my dreams, even though my days were strict, disciplined, and hard!

So here you have it, my day as a professional judo player:

6.45am. The alarm goes off.

6.54am. The alarm sounded again. “Oh, really? Well, better get up and see what today brings.

The first thing I do every morning is check my weight, remembering that my fighting weight is 57kg, although the proper weight for a seated workout is about 60kg.

For me, this is the hardest part of my sport, the fact that it is weight control – however, it’s the fairest way to separate judo from competition, and it’s not easy!

Weight fluctuations are natural. Some mornings I’ll be 59kg, other mornings I’ll be 61kg. When I hit 60kg, I thought, “Oh no, really can’t eat breakfast or drink too much before training this morning”. Why, you might ask? This is because we are weighed by our trainer every morning before training to keep a close eye on our weight, if we are not maintaining a good weight, will help us seek support from a nutritionist and help us when needed, I fully understand, But it used to bug me because I knew the stress of checking my weight with a trainer every day was affecting my morning workout prep.

I’m relieved when I’m down to 60kg because it means I can grab a bowl of banana porridge and start training with a satisfied tummy and no anxiety.

7.45am. I leave my Dunfermline flat in the car and head to the Scottish Judo Training Centre in Lato, Edinburgh, where I start training at 9am.

9 am to 9:30 am. On the judo mat, get ready to start our pre-training session with our strength and conditioning trainer. This will be an exercise focused on strengthening our knees and shoulders, as these are the areas where judo athletes are most prone to injuries. We’ll also use a foam roller and stretch our sore body the day before training.

9.30-9.45am. Football warm up. It’s always fun! Our coach would split us into two teams and we would play football as a warm-up. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but I also think it’s debatable! I don’t have much experience playing football, so you can imagine 20 judo players chasing a football on a small judo mat, just kicking it back and forth, fighting or ramming each other in the process.

As I said, we’re judo players, not football players, so it’s an omnipotent game! Sometimes, we girls play handball, so we adapted the game to “tack”, a football game where you pass and shoot with your feet and your hands. This is awesome and I think this game will be very successful! I bet you’re curious about it and want to see it in action, or even try it yourself!

9.45-11.15am. Judo Technical Conference. This is where we practice judo throws, presses, arm locks and strangulations. On average, you can throw 100 to 200 times – sounds like fun, doesn’t it? capture? You will be thrown the same number of times when your partner takes your turn! But we’re all working on perfecting our techniques and areas of focus, so we’re ready for the next game!

11.15-11.30am. Rest awhile. Swap out your sweaty judo suit and put on your gym gear. Hydrate after judo, eat a banana and oatmeal or a protein bar to prepare for your workout.

11.30am to 12.30pm. Then, we’ll do strength training or conditioning. Strength training can be weight training, including bench presses, squats, cleans, deadlifts, pull-ups, etc., or we’ll do strength training, including hard and painful rowing! But that’s what we need to do to get fitter and stronger to be ready for the next game and to achieve our goals.

12:30 noon. Back in my car for lunch and rest on the way home. I usually call my dad and tell him about the morning training.

1.15pm. Time for a hard-earned lunch. Usually omelets, chicken salad or wraps, yogurt and little fredo to satisfy my sweet tooth!

2pm. I sit on the couch with the TV on, relax and choose an afternoon movie. Then I would lie down, close my eyes, and enjoy a nap to help my body recover. Such naps usually last an average of one to three hours. My body is tired!

17:00. I fell asleep feeling fresh and happy. I was preparing dinner before my judo class that night. Dinner usually consists of chicken, beef, pork chops, or golden gate fish, followed by a small portion of rice or pasta, and the rest of the plate is filled with vegetables, followed by yogurt or jelly for dessert.

18:00. I’m packing my judo bag, putting on my judo pants, filling up my water bottle and getting ready to go to training.

Back in my car at 6.30pm and drove back to Ratho for my two hour judo randori (Japanese fighting) class. Here we practice our match fights and put everything together.

7.30-9.30pm. Landory. Some nights we do 10 5-minute stand-up fights, then 5 5-minute fights on the ground, then finish with some gold until the end. Basically, it’s pretty much the last person standing. Make no mistake, this meeting was tough!

We would be split into two groups for stand-up fights, and the five minutes between fights were quick, involving filling water bottles and applying small wounds; usually the fingers, wrists and toes, to provide them with support.

9.30-9.45pm. Stretch and relax – training is over again!

9.45pm. Jumped into the car happily and called Dad on the way home to discuss my fight that night and what I thought was good and bad.

10:30pm. Coming home and taking a shower in my sweaty judo suit, I’ll jump into a nice hot shower! Have a cup of tea, relax, watch TV, and wait for my judo suit to finish washing.

11pm. bed! In the end, my body hurts, I’m tired, but happy with the quality training I put into the day and thinking about tomorrow, because soon I’ll hear the alarm and it will go off and repeat!

So this will be my daily routine while training at home in Scotland from Monday to Friday.

Now that you know what a day in the life of a judo player looks like, do you think you can handle it?

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