Getting physically fit for poker in 2014

    • BarryCarter
      BarryCarter
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      Hi everyone,

      I'm writing something about physical fitness and poker this week, after noticing so many top players tell me in interviews how important going to the gym was for their game. I too have noticed a massive difference in my productivity after I have been to the gym.

      I thought this was a good place to discuss the benefits of physical exercise for mental performance (I bet Schnitzelfisch has plenty to add to this). With a new year looming, I thought it was a good time to start the conversation.

      Do you work out regularly? Do you plan to? Do you think physical fitness is important for a mind sport like poker? Tell me your thoughts on this, what you do to stay in shape and your own experiences of the benefits of exercise.

      Read more here: How important is fitness for poker?

      Barry
  • 13 replies
    • Ramble
      Ramble
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      Joined: 17.11.2008 Posts: 1,421
      Mr. Carter - I am a HUGE fan of your writing - both the content and style - please keep the great articles coming.

      I recently purchased a treadmill to try and shave off a few pounds and improve mental health in general. I wanted to use it every day, but in practice it is every other day. Within 2 weeks I noticed a tremendous jump in energy levels and my mood has improved a bit. (I even jogged up a short hill the other day for no reason other than I felt like it!?!)

      Although my poker results have taken a dive in the short time I have been exercising, I believe physical activity has to improve any mental game. A better mood helps keep me from tilting (as much), as I find that I can shake off a bad-beat or a mistake in play easier when I am less self-critical and defensive (i.e. blaming bad-luck or donkeys). Higher energy levels keep me more alert and able to focus on the game and studying.

      I'm no biology guy, but I would expect there must be research to link better mental performance (in some areas) with the release of hormones/endorphins and elevated cardiovascular functioning - at least in the short term if not the long term.
    • BarryCarter
      BarryCarter
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      Thanks very much. :)

      I think I might look up some of the old research I have seen because I'm pretty certain there is plenty that says there is a huge link between exercise and feel good endorphins. My personal trainer has told me the same.
    • martinemem
      martinemem
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      Joined: 05.07.2011 Posts: 596
      Maybe i should stop saying i wanted to start running soon, and instead just do it. But i just did :coolface:

      Endorphins can be generate by a lot of different things. Also ofc exercise. You can even eat them, but that dmg ur liver in the longrun.

      Last time i ran a mile, was more than a year ago. I have however tried lately to go out on to the nearest playground on a swing, and get some fresh air in like 5x speed. But not sure how much exercise there is in taking a swing.
    • vilistaja
      vilistaja
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      Joined: 20.04.2012 Posts: 141
      It's interesting topic and i think i have something to share from my own experience.

      I have done sports from young kid, started with football (didn't like it too much) then years of volleyball and after that couple of years biketrials.
      When i went to university then came first longer pause to my training because lack of time, but after 6 months i felt i could not do anything and went to my university volleyball team. Went there some time and i felt more motivated then before and i thought that was because i used to train quite a lot and now it's back. But again after little time our group finished training because only few had interest in it.
      So i got used to couch potato lifestyle. And guess what? All most f***** up my school because of no motivation and energy.
      Then came time for military service and i got into best shape of my life. Doing 1500 push ups a day and walking 50km with full equipment was piece of cake. Unfortunately that time ended in 11 months when i my duty for country was completed.
      I was too old and also student with no income so i could not go to any kind of training group and again went back to couch potato. But since i was in good shape i had energy to do my studying for about year and then i started failing again, feeling tired all days and stuff.
      But about 2 months ago i realized that i am 25 years old and i have no energy or motivation, WTF? And then my friend posted picture to facebook:



      Don't know but for me it went straight to my heart. I started looking how to train by myself and found some running routines and that video:



      So now i go running 4x a week and so the first routine 3-4x a week and using some Schnitzelfisch planning techniques and in short period came MASSIVE change in my life.
      I am able to do all these workouts, i can study full time, i can work at almost full time in university and i still have spare time for my friends, girls, poker and even video games.
      Now i want to be in my best shape at next spring and run marathon next fall.

      In conclusion for my story i guess it's easy to see from practical example that working out and staying in shape is important.

      Now look at the picture i posted and watch that 60 yr old man:



      and ask yourself "What's your excuse?"

      If i motivated at least one person with that post i am happy.
    • Ramble
      Ramble
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      Joined: 17.11.2008 Posts: 1,421
      Originally posted by vilistaja
      I am able to do all these workouts, i can study full time, i can work at almost full time in university and i still have spare time for my friends, girls, poker and even video games.
      Isn't it funny how all those things are used for excuses for being too busy to work out, but strangely it is the people who take time for themselves, that seem to find time for all those things as well. :)
    • LemOn36
      LemOn36
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      Joined: 07.02.2009 Posts: 1,354
      Most people don't realize this - but cashgame poker is the best office job in the world to get ripped and most my peers agree with me.
      I play a game called floorball/unihockey/innebandy. It's a sport where at the highest level people train 10hours per week just floorball and have to do fitness inbetween. During the summer there's fitness preparation as well.
      So pretty much playing floorball at the highest level is like playing ice hickey or football at the highest level. Without any money whatsoever. The sport is on TV every week but most money goes to development and administration, not the players.

      It's no surprise that the average age in the highest league is around 23 - people with jobs just can't cope, there's a severe lack of free time and they can't afford to be tired in the mornings.


      Currently I play poker for a living, my staple limit is NL16. Most poker players think this is madness and what not but poker is the only job that not only allows a rich sports career, but the sports career actively makes you better at poker.
      I know I can fuck myself up at the tables going close to madness because I have a scheduled training 3 days/week that helps me clear my head, and games every 2 weeks that just completely take my attention.

      What's more, going to the gym, for a run etc not only adds ev in poker but also leads to another purpose which is floorball.

      Normal people can't do what I can - when my mind and body are tired, I go to the gym and pool during the week for 3 hours. When I need a day to focus on my sports game I can just take it. At any time whenever anyone calls me that wants to go for a run or go to the gym or pool I can just stand up close tables and go because I know it's hugely +ev, and often that happens as well even though I need to train my buddies to go to the freaking gym more often :)


      So yeah, competitive sports are amazing for a cash game poker player. At the moment I only 2 things and their subsets - poker and floorball. I have no time for a gf, spend only a couple hours with my family and spend huge amount of hours per week on stuff related to the two goals I have yet my life feels like it's balanced. Of course I do get fucked up from time to time, but mostly with floorball or gym buddies anyway.
      And it's always nice to have 2 things in your life with results and process you put in instead of one, in case one goes badly you avoid going insane.



      Also when I did gym for the sake of gym here always comes a downswing where you can't be fucked and pretty much anyone I know that just go to the gym from their own will have periods where they just stop.
      Of course a gym buddy helps:

      But I always know if I lose motivation I have these mandatory floorball sessions where I'm the n1 goalkeeper and 20 people rely on me which will always push me to get better. When I didn't have that I'd go for a few months, stop go again etc.
    • Maloco87
      Maloco87
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      Joined: 30.01.2011 Posts: 514
      I agree that fitness can help your poker game a great deal

      I started back at the gym last month and when I played poker poker online or live I felt good and I think it really helps you make better decisions. Also I think feeling fit and healthly helps a lot with your mood at the table. If you take a bad beat you can accept it easier and move on, at the end of the day thats just poker, you can be more honest with yourself about how you feel you played which overall I think helps your to evaluate and work on your game in the future.
    • Wriggers
      Wriggers
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      Joined: 21.07.2009 Posts: 3,250
      I've never been unfit as such, i've always generally had an athletic build and been able to complete a 90 minute game of football without passing out. But recently i've noticed, at the grand old age of 23, that I started to get a bit of a belly coming on for the first time in my life. So, as another first, I decided to start exercising regularly to burn it off, look better for my girlfriend and feel better for myself.

      I started the Insanity workout a few weeks ago and within a few days was starting to feel the benefits. Yes I was aching, but I could already feel the muscle definition coming back and just felt generally more energetic and happy. Around the same time my girlfriend started going to her second weekly fitness class (Think it's a woman thing :D ), and a few weeks later she is commenting on how much happier and better she feels just because of having a session that was really tough on her muscles.

      Regarding poker, whilst it was cut about 1.5 hours a day out of my playing time, I feel like i'm playing better and focussing more, and my mental game in general has improved.

      Just from these few weeks of exercise I can see how important it is, not just in relation to your health, but also appearance, happiness, energy levels and focus :)
    • Schnitzelfisch
      Schnitzelfisch
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      Joined: 08.11.2008 Posts: 4,952
      Very interesting subject.

      I definitely agree that frequent exercise can greatly increase your energy levels, which are a foundation for all of the mental work that you do. If you don't have a lot of energy, feel tired and sleepy all the time, it's likely that you won't be able to get a lot done or maintain focus for longer periods of time.

      If you look at professional athletes, they are very often bursting with energy, and that is what you want to achieve as well.

      An interesting thing that I would like to add is the importance of nutrition here. I know that a lot of people go to the gym for months and see no results at all because they don't have a proper nutrition. This means that they won't lose weight/gain muscle, and their energy levels also will not drastically change.

      So the underrated factor with energy levels in my opinion is definitely nutrition. If you are eating food that is fresh and not processed, you will have tons more energy than if you eat processed food, sweets and junk food all the time.

      Put together a good nutrition plan, frequent exercise and a proper sleep schedule, and you have the recipe for a lot of energy - it's the 20% part of your life that will get you the 80% results as far as the energy levels go.

      What are your thoughts and experiences with this? Is just working out enough, or do sleep and nutrition play a big role for you as well?

      P.S. Interesting fact: Exercise can also influence sleep quality - more info here.

      -Primoz
    • BarryCarter
      BarryCarter
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      Thanks Primoz.

      Interesting thing. I get plenty of exercise (gym and dog walks) but my job is sedentary. I read a book recently which has lots of data which suggests long hours of sitting is more deadly than smoking.

      So today I decided to raise my desk and stand while working instead of sitting. Two immediate takeaways:

      1) I am really energised, I have gotten so much done this morning in two hours. That may be a short term plaebo, however.

      2) My back is killing. Even though I lift weights and walk a lot, my back is completely unprepared for not sitting. It makes me want to keep going to see just how valuable standing is, and how dangerous sitting is.
    • Schnitzelfisch
      Schnitzelfisch
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      Hey Barry,

      Maybe this would be for you then, a Treadmill Desk :D .



      I personally find it a bit silly and haven't had the opportunity to try it out yet, but it might be a solution against sedentary work after all... :) .

      -Primoz
    • BarryCarter
      BarryCarter
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      lol - standing is already quite a strain so I'll stick with that for the moment.
    • VorpalF2F
      VorpalF2F
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      Joined: 02.09.2010 Posts: 8,910
      I can walk for hours, but I can stand still for only a short time before my back starts to hurt.

      I do sit for my job, but fortunately I have tasks that require me to get up and move around.

      I used to have far more such tasks, but not many lately, so I try to spread them out.

      We had an ergonomic assessment done of our work areas about a year ago that made a huge difference.

      It was based on this document from British Columbia's Worker's Compensation Board.

      Cheers,
      --VS