My diet used to be simple; I was only allowed to eat until it hurt once per week. You know, the meal where you end up on the floor with your belt buckle undone moaning in pain. That was my diet. When the holidays hit, it wasn’t uncommon for this to not only occur more than once per week, but on those big eating days like Thanksgiving and Christmas it could happen more than once on the same day.
It is widely believed that Americans gain between 7-10 pounds between the months of October and January. The research actually shows it’s probably closer to 1-3 pounds. The problem is this weight doesn’t come off for 5-6 months and for many not at all. Over a few years this weight can really add up. For triathletes that are used to super high calorie diets to keep up with their training it can easily push closer to the 7-10 pounds if they take a few months off from structure during the holiday eating season. Trying to gain strength, power and endurance while operating at a caloric deficit to get the weight back off is very difficult.
So what do you do?
If you plan to take some time off from structured training try to remain consistent. Make a goal for the number of hours per day or number of days per week you plan to train. It could be as simple as getting in 1 hour of exercise per day, 5-6 days per week.
Focus on Running
This time of year is extremely busy. We have guests coming to town for the holidays or we are planning trips to visit family. Pools are often closed for big chunks of time or you simply can’t find one while traveling, and your better half thinks the Pack ‘n Play is more important on your holiday travels than your bike. Psst…unfortunately he or she is probably right. Running is the one thing you can squeeze in just about anywhere and offers more bang for your buck. Running has the biggest fitness returns and the highest transfer of training for the amount of time you put in. A run focus block can accomplish a lot with 4-6 hours per week and you do not have to worry about bike routes or pool schedules.
If you’re like us, the holidays means much less down time. The kids are home from school and require a lot more time making any workout that much more complicated. Think of ways to include them. They can ride their bikes with you while you run, you can push them in a baby jogger, or do hill repeats by pulling the kids up back up the local sledding hill.
Wake Up Early
There is so much going on during the holiday season that it’s tough to carve out time during the day for workouts. Whenever possible wake up and get your workout done first thing. I have learned that if it doesn’t get done early, it likely will not happen. “The early bird gets the worm.”
Water and Apples
A little trick I like to employ during the holiday season is to drink 1-2 cups of water and eat an apple before big meals. This just takes up space that I would otherwise fill up with mashed potatoes and gravy. Numerous studies have shown that drinking water before a meal results in consuming less calories in that meal. In another study published in the journal Nutrition, scientists found that instructing participants to eat an apple or a pear before meals resulted in significant weight loss.
Put your Fork Down
I may not win every race, but when it comes to finishing my dinner quickly I’m always on the podium. Try putting your fork down between bites. This forces you to slow down, eat more slowly and chew your food better. It also allows more time for satiation to set in so you’re less likely to go back for a second plate.
Increase Scale Time
Try stepping on the scale every day. Just knowing that you’re going to be checking your weight every day this time of year can make you a little more conscious of what you eat.
Increase spontaneous physical activity
Typically this time of year when training volume is the lowest it’s a good time of year to increase spontaneous physical activity, which technically includes activities of daily living, changing posture, and fidgeting. The “pros” talk about maximizing their recovery with afternoon naps and a sedentary lifestyle outside of their training, but that’s a recipe for disaster for the rest of us who train ⅓ as much. It’s too easy to blame age or genetics for age-related weight gain, but a lot has to do with the big picture of your activity level. Have you ever measured the steps of an active kid? The past couple weeks, Sullivan has been wearing a Suunto watch and he consistently racks up over 20,000 steps per day on a school day, without any structured training, and excludes taking the watch off for his 2 hour basketball practice. The kid can’t sit still. So get off your butt and do 10 squats, a few lunges, or run to the mailbox. Play with your kids or your pets. Whatever you do, don’t act your age.
Josiah Middaugh is the 2016 XTERRA Pan America Champion and the 2015 XTERRA World Champion. He has a masters degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a masters degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for more than a decade. Read past training articles at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about their coaching programs at http://middaughcoaching.com.