I play table tennis regularly, perhaps once or twice a week. I gave it up for 15 years and took it back up 2 years ago, but apart from that hiatus I’ve always played it, so I’ve managed to get to a semi-decent standard. It’s a very fast game, needing quick reflexes, good hand eye coordination, anticipation and split-second decision-making.

As a result of hitting millions of balls and playing thousands of matches, I’m in tune with when I’m not quite on my game. I played the other day and it was one of those days when I was not quite at the races.

I was tired, and as a consequence was a little off the pace, had small losses of co-ordination, poor concentration and I made poor decisions. I couldn’t get my body to do what I wanted it to do. It’s very frustrating when it happens, because the subconscious starts misfiring and the auto-pilot feels wonky.

Here’s the interesting thing, though. Was I mentally tired or physically tired? For a long time I simply assumed I was mentally tired, and was therefore sending poor or late signals to the body. I’m not sure that’s right, though. If I’m physically tired maybe the brain is functioning well but the body is too starved of energy to execute the commands.

It’s probably, as seems to be most of the time in work, sport and life, a combination of factors that’s causing the underperformance.

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