Home for the Holidays… and Athletic Performance

Home for the Holidays… and Athletic Performance

cozy fireplace

Whether you’re a student athlete heading home for the holidays or a fitness-minded adult making the trek, you may already be dreading getting back to your workouts after New Year’s.

It can take as long to get back to your former level of fitness as the time you take off, so a couple of weeks off your training routines can mean suffering for a couple of weeks into the New Year.

Limit the suffering by making the power of habit work for you.

If your daily routine right now is early rising, green juice, and an hour in the weight room followed by a long run, you may not be able to recreate that in your old bedroom back home or in your sister’s guest room. That doesn’t mean that your new routine should be rolling out of bed at 10:00 and tucking into doughnuts and a Coke before settling in on the sofa for a day of marathon TV watching and family chatter.

By the time you get back to your regular routine, you might have developed new habits, which can actually lay down traces along synaptic paths in your brain that cover up your old routine.

Instead, try this:

  1. Keep any elements of your old routine that you can. If you can get up and go to bed at your usual times, do it. If you can go for a run before the family time begins, do it. Even if it’s not the same as your current training pattern, maintaining the basic bones of your fitness habits will keep you from having to rebuild those habits.
  2. If you can’t maintain your regular routine, don’t build a new one. Grabbing a soda as soon as you get up for a few weeks over the holidays can be enough to build a habit that you’ll have to break when you get home. The same goes for that nightly beer (or three) with your brothers or staying up till the wee hours in a bar with your friends from high school. Take part in the fun, but change it up so that it doesn’t become a new set of habits.
  3. Share your good habits. Your grandpa might not be thinking about running a marathon, but everybody benefits from fresh vegetables and fresh air. Make it your job to fix a salad at every meal and invite your family to take a walk to admire the holiday lights. And don’t be embarrassed about turning in early if that’s your usual bedtime. Relatives might be staying up later than they want to, and they’ll be glad you took the initiative.

Habit is amazingly powerful. Keep it in mind, and you can eat, drink, be merry, and still get back to your fitness routines in January feeling rested and ready.