Holidays can be a challenge for athletes to maintain their training. With short cold days, holiday parties, and sweets galore, it is all too easy to lose focus. Nonetheless, it is not necessarily a bad thing to take some time off and reset after a long season. In fact, it is important to prioritize recovery and put some time into other areas of your life.
However, with a few months of decreased physical activity and the longer you are away from the structured lifestyle, the harder it will be to refocus on training. When athletes have taken a break, especially over the holidays, the transition into training is a critical step in reaching a higher level of fitness. To make this process easier, there are certain key principles that are essential for athletes to follow. The following are key principles that will enable athletes who enjoyed some downtime over the holidays to get back into training once again at the start of the New Year.
Reflect on Current Fitness Levels
After the holidays, it is important for athletes who have taken a few weeks off or gained a few pounds to adjust their intensity zones to reflect their current fitness levels. Rather than focusing on power or pace, metrics such as heart rate or rated perceived exertion should be assessed to prevent over-exertion. This will help to lower the likelihood of injury and the frustration of trying to reach previous fitness milestones.
Focus on Frequency Rather Than Training Load
Following a long break from exercise, it is important to ease back into a training routine. Rather than attempting to reach a certain weekly training stress goal, athletes should prioritize frequency, focusing on shorter (60 minutes or less), low-load sessions. This approach helps to reduce the inertia that often accompanies a break from exercise and encourages the development of a regular exercise routine. With this method, athletes can gradually reintroduce exercise into their lives.
Readjust or Set Near-Term Goals
If you’ve lost focus over the holidays, you may be feeling frustrated or unhappy, especially if you had set near-term performance goals, such as a winter running race. In this case, it’s important to reset or readjust these goals. Progress in athletics is like progress in life, and humans are hard-wired to seek it. Redefining your athletic pursuits and adjusting your goals can help you get back on track and start feeling better about yourself and your athletic journey.
Manage Your New Year’s Resolution Mindset
Incorporate your new year’s resolution mindset in a way that is beneficial to long-term success. Not everyone needs extra motivation to continue their training after the holidays, and some high-achieving athletes may benefit from holding back. It is easy to be overly enthusiastic with a “New Year, New Me” mindset, but too much too soon can lead to injury and burnout. It is important to focus on forming habits and developing discipline that will help you achieve long-term success. Make sure to follow your training plan and try to stay realistic when it comes to your goals.
Generally, the initial month of your training shouldn’t be too strenuous. Athletes often experience uneasiness when they return to training after taking time off, particularly when their break has been full of indulgent holiday activities like sweets, wine, and channel surfing. Don’t be discouraged if you feel exhausted after completing an interval session or experience difficulty; however, don’t overexert yourself. This stage is ideal for creating a weekly regime, increasing your muscular strength and flexibility in the gym, developing your technique, and staying mindful of your ultimate objectives.