Find Out How to Balance Keeping Fit and Playing Poker
Poker players often ask how do you fit in the gym alongside your poker? And what's the best way to train when you're there?
There's no getting away from the fact that poker is a predominantly sedentary occupation; players sitting for hours at a time for days on end, with infrequent breaks to stretch your legs.
Nowadays poker players have their fitness at the forefront of their mind, and increasingly we are seeing them devote some of their busy schedules to going for a run, visiting the gym, or doing other forms of fitness like swimming and climbing.
We spoke to British poker player Guy Taylor all about it. Taylor, who got into poker by watching late-night re-runs of the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour and is now a regular at poker tournaments around England.
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Having previously focused on mid-stakes online cash games, he admits to adapting to the game's environments as well as personal circumstances. From multi-table tournaments to heads-up cash, and even Spin-n-Gos - whatever suits his lifestyle at the time, he says.
But fitness wasn't something that he felt was important, until later on in his poker career.
"I had competed at a pretty high level both as a teenager and at while at university. It wasn't until was playing poker full-time that staying fit seemed like something I actually needed to devote much attention to."
"It wasn't until was playing poker full-time that staying fit seemed like something I actually needed to devote much attention to"
In order to bring some semblance of routine to his workouts, Taylor says he has an order of ten different gym workouts on a continuous chain in order to keep him in shape when he's not at the tables.
"If I'm playing football on a certain day or I can't fit in a workout, then rather then missing that particular workout it just gets shifted along to the following day. It's a better system than assigning certain days of the week to certain workouts as seems to be the norm."
However, not every gym can accommodate his gym routine and not every "gym" is as good as it sounds.
"Sometimes hotels advertise that they have a gym, but it turns out to be a glorified janitor's closet with a rusty old bench and dilapidated treadmill. As a poker player you'll often find yourself with limited options, so be inventive. Go explore the local area for a nice park to go for a run-around, or find somewhere to do hill or stair sprints. There's really no excuses for slacking on the road when these options are out there!"
We asked Taylor how he keeps himself motivated after long grinds or tiring days of poker.
"To be honest, I think my own addiction to dopamine drives that. I'm often found in the gym directly after a cash game session at 4 am because I know I'll sleep better if I get that 'tick in the box' of my day!
"Ideally, though, you're best getting gym out the way before playing poker if you can. I tend to train as soon as I'm out of bed during my home grind. If you're new to fitness and are struggling to fit it in around your poker routine, then a Fitbit or Apple Watch can definitely help by tracking your daily energy expenditure and giving you workout reminders.
"Setting goals and assessing these regularly is very important. If you feel your engagement with fitness dipping, considering switching up to more fun activities, or attend classes instead of doing your own thing."
"If you feel your engagement with fitness dipping, considering switching up to more fun activities, or attend classes instead of doing your own thing"
Taylor says that people often think that a lot of work goes into going to the gym and that you need to dedicate your life to it and become a nutritionist to get results. He says that's not the case.
"It's all about integrating it into your existing schedule and it becoming a habitual part of your life. That's what makes a healthy gym routine. Be patient, and results will come. If you get results super quickly, then they probably aren't sustainable gains!
"This year I'm aiming to get back to 15% body fat, it's where I nearly was prior to the Vegas summer. That always comes along to derail all of my progress. But I prefer to set volume goals when it comes to the gym. As long as I'm doing something active every day, I'm content."
Will Shillibier is based in the United Kingdom. He started working for PokerNews as a freelance live reporter in 2015 and joined the full-time staff in 2019. He graduated from the University of Kent in 2017 with a B.A. in German. He also holds an NCTJ Diploma in Sports Journalism.