This being the season it is, thinking ahead to when Christmas is over and we return to our normal working lives is a challenge.
Which is putting it mildly.
In fitness terms, considering what our training strategy will be after New Year is worth doing, if only to ensure that this time is best used when it comes. Having a plan, and one which reflects the reality of what most of us has just been through in terms of activity, diet and rest is the best way to use this period as a springboard for the early part of the year.
Like most people, I like to rest over Christmas and New Year, to eat and drink well and to indulge myself. It is, traditionally, a time for rest and recuperation and should be enjoyed as such. On returning to the gym after this period it is important to do so realistically and, by easing back into a fitness lifestyle, to ensure that progress is made from the first step on the gym floor and that this is then built upon.
I advise my clients to begin the New Year with a workout that has a strong cardiovascular element, uses light weights and resistance, includes more reps’ than perhaps would be usual, and is focused on burning calories.
In terms of how much to workout, my recommendation is initially to exercise for a couple of sessions over a period of weeks (easing back in again), with genuine rest between these workouts. At this time, the body will likely still be imbued with toxins from the festivities and pivoting from this to a more healthy state is probably achieved step by step without shocking the system.
Taking this approach is also a mental process, re-gearing our thinking to a more disciplined exercise and dietary schedule based on routine and expanding physical and mental demands. Crashing into this routine risks causing injury and discomfort which, at this challenging time of year, is to be avoided!
When to start this routine is of course up to each individual, though my recommendation is to do so as soon as possible and certainly early in January. Leaving the return to later only makes it difficult to meet the challenges ahead.
Once back into the swing of things, moving out of January and through the rest of the year (particularly with pre-summer objectives to get ready for the beach!), getting back into shape, expanding cardio’ capacity and getting the energy levels will come easier and be sustainable. It will also allow training programmes to be switched up to a more demanding routine, using the January start as a foundation for this.
So, build up from that foundation. Use it as a springboard for the rest of the year and the confidence builder it has the potential to be. Train smart for the long-term with a flexible pace, and the rest periods will serve a function.
They will fuel the rest of the year’s training.