Having the opportunity to work with athletes at ETS and athletes in our hometown we have realized how important it is for these athletes to learn to navigate this tricky time of year. If you are committed to your sport and wanting to stay on track during this holiday season we have some tips to help ensure you come out of break ready to hit the court/mat again.
With the holidays in full swing it can be a tricky time to navigate for athletes. Competition has started, the volume of training has been incredibly high for a few weeks, and whether its a holiday tournament or the start of league competition, chances are you have some important dates circled on the calendar that are approaching. Right in the middle of all that you have…Christmas, New Years Eve, no school, traveling to see family, Christmas cookies…you see where we're going with this. Sometimes its hard enough to fend off one distraction or momentum killer, but just when things are getting rolling you have all of this to deal with. Rather than get tripped up by getting out of the routine, let’s use this as an opportunity to continue growing!
What to do:
1. Rebuild your base. You probably spent most of the off season training and participating in camps to get in shape for your sport. As the season started you found less time for conditioning except maybe sneaking some sprints or bike in after practice. If you have the holidays off from competing, now is the perfect time to hit weights or outside for a run. A little time away from the mat or court can be the perfect time to challenge your aerobic fitness in some other ways, either running or a nice 60 minute air dyne session while you watch the Grinch. Or…
2. De-Load. Maybe the early season already has you feeling a little banged up. In that case, use this time off to schedule some active recovery - yoga, float tank session, or a trip to the chiro. Add in some active recovery days or even some outdoor snow fun. A true de-load will let your joints, muscles, and central nervous system recover.
3. Chase the Pump. Most of your strength training from here on out is (or should be) heavy and performance based for explosive power. If you have some time away from your teams structured lifting sessions, hit the gym for a “feel good” lift. Grab some moderate weight for some medium high reps and get a killer pump. Think of a couple pump lifts as hitting the “reset” button, filling out those muscles and maintaining strength while gearing up for a return to heavy intensity. You don't want to spend your break on the couch for 2 weeks straight, chances are you will be sucking air when practice time comes around.
4. Sleep in. No school? Use this as an opportunity to get some extra rest to recharge and fuel your fire for the upcoming grind. But remember - if you normally sleep from 10pm to 5:30am during school but on break you stay up until 3am watching tv and sleep until 8am you are actually getting less rest. A good stable sleep cycle is what we are after here.
5. Take competition prep seriously. Just because a dual, tournament, or game coincides with winter break doesn’t mean you should treat it like a vacation activity. Go to bed early, train hard, and be disciplined with your weight and performance just like your would when you are in school. It can be tempting to unwind during the holiday season but you want to be the one pulling upsets because the top kid in your bracket spent too much time staying up late and eating cookies - not the other way around. And if the court is your domain you want to be the player who's not winded 1 minute into the game.
What NOT to do:
1. Do not throw your nutrition plan out the window. We wholeheartedly believe that athletes need to enjoy Christmas dinner and perhaps even have a treat or two - for their sanity if nothing else. But that doesn’t mean nutrition should not be a focus during winter break, one cheat meal a day is fine but a cheat day is not. If you know you'll be letting loose for a big Christmas dinner, try to stick to more nutritious options throughout the morning.
2. De-Load. we know, we know…we said a deload was fine. But remember, deload means different things to different people and some interpret this as “time off”. If you do not have scheduled practice time or strength sessions there is still plenty you can do - biking, running, light lifting, bodyweight exercises, or even some boxing on the heavy bag are great ways to de-load without loosing ground.
3. Don't spend too much time getting down on yourself if you had a rough start to the season, look at this change in schedule as a fresh start to dial back in. We've all been there, the season hasn't gone the way you planned, but there is still plenty of time to put in some extra work and get to where you want to be.