Many people’s biggest failing during the holiday season is to place unrealistic expectations on themselves, vowing to counteract the increased levels of food, alcohol and sofa surfing by committing to an increased training regime. Unless you’re an elite athlete or are entering into a major challenge early in 2019 our suggestion is that you give yourself, your families and your friends a break. I remember planning to complete the Rapha Festive 500* when I realised that, coupled with the other demands of Christmas, I’d either be (a) crawling out of bed at 0400 every morning to ride or (b) I would hardly see my kids. I resolved that as option A would result in me wandering around like a grumpy bear and that option B was simply ridiculous it was far better to ditch the whole idea.
Before you all run off to plunder the chocolate box allow me (and yourself) some perspective. The festive period presents three main challenges to anyone trying to pursue an improvement regime; excess temptation, excess opportunity to give into that temptation and new and unusual demands on our time. It’s a heady brew that’s all too easy to either (a) get swept away by or (b) reject in a personal austerity drive that confounds and frustrates everyone around you. Fortunately, with some foresight and a tiny bit of application you avoid either extreme and survive the season happy, socially well-adjusted and with some degree of the form and fitness you started with.
First and you’ve heard this before, figure out what you can control. I repeat, what you CAN control. There’s no faster route to frustration, bad moods and allegations of being the Grinch than fighting against the inevitable. Only the professional (and then not always), the masochistic or the self-deluded deny themselves occasional indulgence. Only the truly foolish deny themselves the enjoyment of that indulgence when it happens. The challenge with Xmas is controlling the volume and impact of those indulgences. Before you’re completely on the skids and singing Fairy Tale of New York in your local boozer whilst sweating into your polyester Xmas jumper do what you’d do with any other part of you training regime – make a plan, an Xmas Survival Guide. Here’s how:
You know those 0530 get ups for the early run, the lunchtime class or the evening workout? In your ‘normal’ working week you’ve built these into a routine. Well, that routine is about to be blown out of the bucks-fizz by forces outside of your control. By now you’ve probably worked out (even if you’re in denial) what commitments to friends and family you’ve signed up to. Sit, down, open up your diary/planner/journal and identify when and where you’re going to be able to do your thing.
Just in case an early excess of mince pies is fogging your thinking – remember to link the days: just because you have nothing planned on a given morning doesn’t mean that it’s a good time to apply yourself if the previous evening is your works’ party. Be realistic.
Once you know what time and places you’ve got to play with adjust your training plans and expectations accordingly. Here’s where you may need to get creative – you may be surprised at how much fun this bit can be.
In the context of your current goals and the possibilities presented by your new, temporary, schedule what can you do? Would a shorter sharper session work? If you’re away from home maybe you can plan a bodyweight plan (resistance bands are always a good travelling programme). Tried Yoga? You can do it anywhere and there are loads of free resources online. Personally, I always recommend Yoga With Adrienne. Maybe when everyone else is snoozing or on the PS4 you can nail a 15 min high intensity session. And then there’s the walking. Xmas is the one time of year when everyone seems up for a walk – make the most of it!
Finally , make sure you measure yourself against your Xmas-self – not your best-self. Bracket this period of time and work within those brackets. Treat this period as a means to explore new ways of moving that you’d resist in your usual routine. Use it to refresh your head too. I’ve never met an elite sportsperson who hasn’t benefited significantly from a short time away from their sport – even the most obsessive trainers who fear they’ll never get back on their game come back stronger.
The next bit, like always, requires you to put your plan into practice. But this time round you’ve given yourself a better than evens chance of coming into the New Year intact and prepared to kick on.
Haven’t subscribed yet? It’s free!
To conclude, a few other tips:
Want to eat big? Go for it – just take it easy on the processed stuff.
Fancy a drink? No-one is going to stop you, least of all us, but try and stick with what you know and avoid the classic Christmas drinks mixing. Bailey’s Cocktails with Tia Maria chasers washed away with Cava rarely brings out your best. And keep up your water intake!
Expecting late nights? Goes with the territory but make sure you still get sleep where you can – a good kip can be more beneficial than a training session. You might even want to try some afternoon naps if you’ve got some time at home.
Finally – and this is the really important bit: have an absolutely amazing, refreshing, recharging Xmas filled with laughter, friends and a little bit of whatever you fancy.
We’d love to hear you Xmas stories.
*ride 500 km between Xmas and New Years’ eve.