With the “silly season” in full swing, it is amazing the amount of time we spend with some of our clients discussing their plans over the Christmas/New Year break.
At this time of year, a lot of our clients have already undertaken a large part of either their pre-season training (for winter sports) or are in full training for their summer sports (think rowing, kayaking, sailing etc).
Careful thought needs to be put into avoiding de-conditioning associated with changing training times as normal training regimes go out the window for time spent catching up with family and friends. The other aspect that needs to be considered after a period of reduced training is the injury risk this poses once athletes re-commence training. This is a key time for most sports people, and any injury during January can severely affect performance when it counts down the track.
How to avoid de-conditioning
De-Conditioning refers to the loss of baseline fitness associated with a reduction in exercise. This can occur due to an athlete reducing from their normal 4-5 training sessions per week back to only once a week. This can have an effect really quickly, and make it harder to get back into normal training once it resumes. The tip here – KEEP ACTIVE.
If you’re holidaying, choose an active holiday such as going to the beach and surfing or snorkelling or somewhere where you can go for long walks and keep the body moving.
If you’re staying around home – schedule in some exercise time – and stick to it. Three sessions of 30-45 minutes won’t put a big dent on your “break” from training, but will help a lot once you return.
Then, when it comes to Christmas food – try to stick to some form of moderation. Whilst the mince pies and Christmas ham taste fantastic – you probably don’t need that fourth serving! Enjoy the lovely tastes and smells this time of year, but try to stick to some form of portion control.
The other thing to consider is alcohol intake. Probably the most useless calories you will consume over the Christmas/New Year period are in the drinks that slide down your throat oh so easily when it’s warm outside and everyone’s celebrating. Two beers have the same calorie intake as a muffin, so if you wouldn’t normally go and eat 4 muffins in a day – don’t drink that eighth beer! Also consider the mixers you have with spirits – there are many “dead” calories in soft drink, and a small change here to a “diet” alternative could help a lot when it comes to reducing weight gain over Christmas time.
Increased injury risk
Our bodies adapt to what we do – if we give them the chance. By stopping training over Christmas/New Year, our bodies will lose a lot of the adaptation to training that they have developed in the weeks and months of training leading into the break. This can be a significant risk for injury when returning to training if you jump straight back into the training load you had before the break. The types of injuries that can occur are mainly our overload injuries, such as groin pain in running/field sports, and stress fractures in other sports (such as rowing).
If possible, in the modified training that you are able to do over the holidays, try to incorporate some modality of exercise that stresses the body parts most commonly used in your sport. For running/field based sports this is probably quite fine to keep running – but for other sports like rowing, this may mean keeping the load on the upper body with alternative forms of exercise such as swimming, upper body weights or ergometer rowing.
Then, when resuming after a break, try to ensure a gradual, planned ramp back into full activity over a week or so to avoid a spike in training load after a break. This will help to reduce the risk of these overload or stress-based injuries.
So, this Christmas/New Year – have a great time enjoying the break. But try to follow the tips above so you can make the most out of what you have achieved in your training prior to the break, and make it a whole lot easier when you return!