Being an athlete requires sacrifice.
From the outside it looks like everyone is having fun and setting PR’s. The reality is that being an athlete isn’t easy. Everyone who considers themselves to be competitive in sport is aware that they must make difficult choices, everyday, in order to remain at the top of their game. Many of these decisions are in direct conflict with the ‘holiday season’ which is essentially celebrated as a time of excess and culturally approved decadence. Furthermore, the holidays coincide with the lead-up to Wodapalooza in Miami, one of the largest and most well-run competitions in the competitive fitness world. In addition, the next few weeks mark the initial build-up of training intensity leading into the CrossFit™ Open. If you are serious about competing well or taking a qualifying spot for Regionals this time is critical.
I think it is important to address some key points regarding sacrifice and the pursuit of athletics.
Training - if you consider yourself an ‘athlete’ you are probably planning on training during the holiday season. However, for many, training gets put on the back-burner, due to increased family and life obligations. While it is fine to plan on lowering your training volume for 2-3 days around the holidays to accommodate travel, increased stress from a disrupted routine, and gym availability issues - you should not be planning an entire week of lowered volume just because your non-competitive peers are getting time off work. The best strategy here is to have a plan. If you know that you’re going to have a period with no gym-access, work with your coach to plan your priority gymnastics, accessory, and trunk stability work on those days. Scheduling out your training time during the holidays and making that a priority can make the difference between a missed session or a good training day.
Nutrition - assuming that your training volume during the holidays will remain relatively consistent, your nutrition should do the same. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a ‘cheat meal’ as food avoidance in social settings tends to be a another source of stress for people. However, taking this to the extreme by drinking excess alcohol or eating so much that you feel sick can result in you retaining pounds of excess water the next day and will impact your training quality. This lack of self-control can be avoided with good planning. Planning your cheat meals and alcohol intake around your training (and not the other way around!) is a simple strategy to enjoy the holiday while still taking care of your athletic needs. Remember that not planning is planning to fail!
Stress Management - despite what you might think, your stress levels probably don’t go down during the holidays. Between family, travel, and parties it is likely that your typical routine is going to be disrupted. Stress, as I’ve written about on this blog before, is really just our bodies neurochemical reaction to change - regardless of whether the change is perceived as positive or negative. Making time for some of your normal routines that help to reduce your stress, for example doing an evening mobility routine or spending 10 minutes on mindfulness meditation practice, can actually go a long way at keeping your stress levels in check during the hectic holiday season. Some things to consider for reducing stress levels:
Progressive Muscular Relaxation
Light Stretching / Mobility
Sleep - sleep plays an obvious role in your ability to recover from training and stress. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule during the holidays is critical to continuing to adapt to your training program. In some cases this may mean leaving early from holiday parties or heading to bed while your family is still watching a late night movie. These are some of the sacrifices that are necessary to consistently perform at your best.
Staying Motivated - inevitably during this time of year athletes begin to question their ‘why’. I have seen it consistently, year-after-year. Being around people that are eating and drinking like they have no regrets, the grind of training and volume of work from the past year all start to take their toll and you’re not sure that you’re going to be able to achieve your goals. The reality is that NOW is the time to be stepping up your game! Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. The biggest events in our sporting season are right on the horizon and the decisions and sacrifices that you make now are going to impact your performance in competition. This is a time to sit down, review your goals and make any final adjustments to your road map. Putting in a great training block during the holidays can be exactly the push you need in order to be confident and prepared come game time.
Being an athlete isn't easy and requires sacrifice. Most people don't really want to make those sacrifices which is why most people are not elite athletes and never reach their potential. It's fine if you don't want to make those sacrifices, but if you are calling yourself an athlete, you should be happy to make the difficult daily decisions that are necessary to fuel the pursuit of your potential.
- Plan and prioritize your training sessions.
- Plan your eating and drinking around your training sessions not the other way around.
- Set aside time to take care of yourself with mobility and relaxation sessions.
- Stay on your sleep routine - the people around you who want to see you succeed will understand.
- Take time to reflect on your why and ensure that your actions are in-line with your goals.