It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a whole slew of posts telling you how to stick to your fitness goals this Christmas and lists of how many miles you need to run to work off that mince pie you ate.
Well, this one’s a little bit different.
There’s loads of useful advice out there if you really need top tips on sticking to your fitness routine over Christmas, but I’m guessing that secretly you already know that the secret is just the same as it any time of year. Plan ahead, make the date, be realistic about time constraints, and get out there and do it.
Take a week off, heck, take 2. Sit on the sofa, eat mince pies, go for long walks in the woods. If you feel yourself itching to go to the gym, or head out for a Boxing Day run, then go, but don’t put extra stress on yourself trying to fit your regular training around gym closures, or forcing yourself out for a run in the freezing cold at 5am so you don’t miss out on family time (as I saw recommended in a magazine recently).
Last month I wrote about why you should think like an athlete, and ditching your training routine over Christmas is one of those times.
One of the big things I’ve learned with my journey into fitness and sports is that there is no end destination. You will never be finished. You will never be as good as you can be. Your fitness routine is something that will be forever changing throughout your life. It will get more and less intense as your life and schedule demands.
Athletes plan their training on a yearly schedule, often based around the season of their sport, and one of the important components of that schedule is rest. Not just rest days each week, but periods of 2 weeks, or maybe more, that they take time off from training for their sport.
If you’re an amateur athlete, or even a dedicated regular exerciser, then Christmas is the perfect opportunity to take some well needed rest.
The fact is that the hard work you do is only part of the story, and that the adaptations your body makes that make you fitter and stronger actually happen while you rest. I’m not suggesting you spend the whole of December stuffing your face with mince pies and mulled wine. Good fuel is essential to a stronger body. But taking a break from the pressure to get to the gym is good for your body and your mind.
Let those niggling injuries heal, be kind to your body and use the time to plan your training schedule for the New Year.
1-2 weeks off training will have very little impact on either your cardio or strength. Especially if you continue to eat reasonably well and stay active, ie, we’re not talking actual bed rest here.
Highly trained athletes who undertake no training for up to 4 weeks will show a maximum 14% reduction in their VO2 max and 12% in strength. Recently trained people will actually show less reduction, as little as 6%. And that’s with up to 4 weeks rest, not just Christmas week. Not squeezing in those burpees on the landing in your Grandmas house on Boxing Day isn’t going to mean you lose the results of all the hard work you’ve put in at the gym in 2017.
And so what if you do lose a little fitness? With the mental space and physical recovery you’ve given yourself with a week off you’re starting from the best platform to not only get it back fast, but build on it and get stronger.
One of the hardest things about the festive period for me has always been the loss of routine. I often find it hard to return to my regular, pre-Christmas plan without suffering from the January blues.
This is another reason to take a break at Christmas. Thinking about that week as a regeneration period, rather than heading in with well meaning intentions to fit in a HIIT workout and going running before Christmas breakfast and then, well, not, mean you’re not giving up your routine. This break is PART of your routine.
Keeping your focus is important, but factor in some meditation, relaxing yoga sessions and call it “active recovery” and your brain won’t latch onto this new lazy lifestyle.
So sod the articles about squeezing in a HIIT workout between Christmas Dinner courses. This Christmas focus on enjoying yourself, restoring your body and mind and be ready to take on 2018.