The Republic of Ireland Ladies Snooker Association is very much in favour of promoting fitness and healthy living in cue sports.

Times are changing for many people as society lends itself to lack of fitness and unhealthy habits, mainly due to the way we live today.  With sugar being the main culprit, especially among our younger population and obesity on the rise within society.

Snooker, like all sports, is now promoting healthy living and fitness for players.  Below is a guide to what’s happening on the professional circuit and what we can do to help young people towards healthy living and fitness, that is necessary for your overall wellbeing.

We will be visiting this subject again during the season and if you have anything to add, suggest, please get in touch at rilsasnooker@gmail.com

PUBLICATION BY STEVE BURKE

30 years ago, when the 1985 World Championship Final was watched by over 18 million people on the BBC diet and fitness in the snooker world was barely something of great concern to many of the players. Bring the clock forward to the modern-day and now as a snooker player, keeping yourself fit and healthy is taking greater and greater prominence. Mark Williams is now becoming a prime example of how a change in lifestyle can also change your fortunes on the table. Since he’s started working on his diet, started exercising more and working with his personal trainer Steve Burke (who has been a massive contributor in this piece and getting the whole thing off of the ground) his form has dramatically improved. Mark has been able to get back into the top 16, reaching three full ranking event semi-finals and a ranking event final in the 2014/2015 season, having lost two and half stone over this period.

 

So what difference does this actually make to a player? Well the first thing to point at is certainly that when you’re eating the right foods and starting to make the healthy choices, this allows you to feel more alert and more focussed, maximizing your powers of concentration. The World Championships is certainly one tournament that highlights how you have to be making these positive choices, with the multiple session matches and a hard 17 day slog if you are going to realise that dream of being a world champion. Having a good healthy routine is one of the things Steve Burke has highlighted in his work with Mark that’s helped him, and will continue to do so. Having a high energy filled meal, a couple of hours ahead of your session will help to stay fully energised and remain focussed throughout a session, whatever the length of that may be. So, in the long tactical frames where some players concentration may waver and they start to make silly mistakes that ultimately cost them frames and matches, players with a strong routine like this will be able to steal these frames, but then come back in the next with a big break to help stamp their authority on a session and a match, which is key to winning big tournaments and World Titles in particular.

 

Another one of the key aspects now with the increased calendar in snooker is of course the travelling, and avoiding the dreaded “burnout”. In World Championships around 2012 and 2013 a few players have talked about coming into Sheffield under strength because of all the snooker and travelling that had been undertaken in the months leading up to it. However, if you’re making healthy choices away from the table then the travelling and playing around the world becomes a lot easier. The key again is to combat things like jet lag and all of the travelling effects by having a healthy and sustainable routine that you can apply both at home and on the road. For example, it’s all well and good as a player having a plan for when you’re at home, but if you can re-create this or something similar when away in places like China, all of your hard work can be undone and the effects of travelling can soon make players feel lethargic and not perform to their potential. The key to maintaining the same energy levels on the road as you can at home, is to have a plan before going out and trying to maintain your usual routine of meal times and sleeping times, as your body will quickly begin to pick this up and behave as per usual. This is where for Mark Williams, working with a Personal Trainer like Steve has come in particularly handy. By having someone else to take care of these routines and make these healthy choices for you, they will know what works for the body and what will maximise energy and concentration levels in order for a player to get on with their jobs, play well and maximise their potential to give them the best chance of winning and achieving some consistency. That is exactly what was happening for Mark Williams. From mid-February to the end of March Mark has had a semi-final at the Welsh Open in Cardiff, a final at the Gdynia Open in Poland, won the World Seniors Championship in Blackpool, made the semi-finals of the Indian Open in Mumbai, quickly followed that by making the quarter’s in Llandudno at the World Grand Prix before going straight back out to Thailand where he reached the final of the Players Championship. What this all demonstrates is that when you get a sustainable and consistently healthy routine going with diet and fitness, you can re-create this anywhere in the world with just a few small tweaks and keep a consistent level of energy and concentration which allows you to play consistently well on the table, anywhere in the world, without the effects of all of this travelling taking too much effect on your game because of the sustainable routine you are in.

As well as diet, physical fitness has now also becoming a key in the game of snooker like many sports, with the packed calendar, in order to stay physically fit and avoid any injuries that can crop up in this game. It’s so easy in a game like snooker to pick up injuries in the back, neck or shoulder regions because of the repetitive motions involved in playing snooker for long periods of time, both in practice and with so many matches in so many tournaments in quick succession. So, what can players do about this? Well, one of the things again mentioned by Steve in his work with Williams are the exercises he designs specifically for him to help strengthen the muscles specific to snooker. What this helps to do is eliminate muscle fatigue and sustain good posture, which is particularly important over the physically demanding 17 days of the World Championships. This gym work though is not designed to overbuild these muscles, but just to increase their endurance, which is exactly what you have to be as a player to win any tournament these days, but particularly the big one at the Crucible.

There is a common misconception with diet and exercise though that it only affects you in the physical ways that I have mentioned above, but a healthy way of life can help change your whole outlook on life, and snooker as a professional. If you look good and eat well, the first thing you will do is feel good and a lot more positive, looking at things more positively, which can also help you to see things more clearly and make clearer decisions, which is something a snooker player has to do well to succeed in the sport. One thing I personally noticed when I lost two stones myself at the back-end of 2013 and into 2014, changing my diet which I have kept up to this day, is that I started to feel more and more confident in myself as I started to look better physically. This sort of thing in a snooker player is huge as this new-found confidence and the self-belief you can gain from making positive changes in your life and seeing them work out over an extended period, can be transferred onto the table as a player and have positive on their game. At the end of the day, snooker is no different to a lot of things in terms of the mental approach and outlook you have on it. If you’re confident and have belief in yourself that you can achieve great things and perform to a high level, you will start to fulfil your full potential as a player. Another thing that this can do is increase your motivation, because as Steve mentions, if you feel better and more positive you will be much more motivated and therefore more like to work hard in practice as a player, which of course helps you to feel a lot sharper when you come into tournaments as you feel as prepared as you possibly could be. Something else mentioned by Mr Burke when it comes to actually getting in shape is that if you can find a trainer or motivator to help you get fit, you will want to do it as much for them as for yourself because of the accountability factor that you wouldn’t want to let that person down, and you know that if you take a wrong turn you’re going to have them on your back. Moreover, it’s about positive and helpful feedback as you know that this person is going to tell you what you need to hear to help yourself and turn things around, not just what you want to hear, and this honesty is what some players need to act upon their flaws and weaknesses and actually continue to progress, rather than staying in the same slump.

By Steve Burke