Making the difficult Christmas Month a success in the gym!
December again. Christmas month. That time of year where you write off your progress until January, leaving you with 4 weeks of the new year simply getting back to where you were in November. But imaging entering the new year after making good progress in December, without being a social recluse? Here’s how to have the best end to the year!
First off, it’s the same for me. Like you, December is a busy month for me. In fact, it’s probably one of my busiest months of the year in work. I have Christmas shopping to do too. But that’s not the tough bit… my social life is, for one month, is turned up to 100.
Christmas parties. Meals with friends/ family. Treats in work. Christmas only coffees. Cheese boards everywhere. And socially acceptable to have a beer when visiting family, even at 10am.
Best write off the month, and get back into the gym and diet from January, right?
Now, I’m not suggesting you’re a real Scrooge (although if this helps, go for it!) throughout December. Still enjoy it, and even still relax a little, take it easy, enjoy time with friends and family…. But let’s not leave the reindeer under the tree. In other words, it’s not all in or all out. You can relax a little, on occasion, and still make progress.
The end result of this is that you have a great December, and hit the new year feeling great, strong, fit, healthy, happy, relaxed, and motivated to keep moving forward.
The alternative is still there though, you’re the boss. If you decide that you want to go all in, feel like shit throughout Christmas as your party started three weeks before, and enter the new year feeling like you’ve wasted all of your hard work for the previous months (taking you to February before feeling back to normal), then you go for it. You’re the boss, remember.
But if you’re thinking the former sounds like a better option (Yeah, me too), then here’s three tips to help you have an awesome Christmas and new year, and start the new year by showing everyone, including yourself (not just telling everyone) it will be your best one yet!
FX Top Tip #1: Make your programme appropriate for the busy month!
Two ways, 1- train less, 2- train a rollover cycle
Here’s two options to make your training plan work over the high stress, low time period that is December. Here’s the key thing to remember: shades of grey.
No, not 50, I’m saying it’s not black or white… there’s some middle ground. It’s not 6 days a week or everything is pointless… and it’s certainly not the F it wagon. So, how do we make progress with a life, a job, and relationships to maintain through this riot of festive fun?
Sure, we could just tell you to “get after it”, a quote straight out of our bro box of generally useless advice, right next to “no pain no gain”. But luckily, we’re going to to a different box, one containing reasonable advice that may actually help.
One thing that works great here is to simply be realistic with the time you have available in the gym. Just because your current plan has 5 days a week, doesn’t mean you can’t make progress of 3-4 days.
In a real world, without risking spending Christmas alone because you spent “all your time” in the gym without helping out during these hectic weeks, could you just adapt the training plan to make good progress with a lower time commitment? Yes, it’s a compromise, but for the vast majority of us, that’s an appropriate approach to training in December.
But, if that doesn’t feel hardcore enough for you, here’s what to do. Keep to your current plan, but with ONE crucial change. You shift it to a rollover workout cycle. Therefore, rather than training based on days of the week (eg Monday deadlifts), you use a cycle that’s order is fixed, but not tied to any days (for example, day 1, deadlifts). This way, you can keep every intention of training 6 days a week (or 5, 4, 3…. You get it), without being fixed into that If you’re highly motivated, will make the gym when you can, but realistic about priorities, this approach works great!
Remember, if you struggle for motivation of getting into the gym, having a realistic schedule of set days and sticking to it will be a great approach. But if you know you’ll get in the gym, just don’t know how to manage being super busy alongside an advanced programme, move to a rollover cycle throughout December. This way, you can keep training the same, without stressing that you missed X or Y workouts!
FX Top Tip #2: Keep to a normal nutrition routine for most days
Go on, it’s Christmas….. surely one won’t hurt? Oh go on…
When you’re getting this multiple times a day from early November, that one that wouldn’t hurt, guess what. It starts to hurt. The “I’ll get back on track in January” approach ends up with you making small decisions daily that work against you. Individually, these can absolutely work within the plan, but when we take the “go on then, it’s Christmas” idea too far, we end up halting the results we’ve worked for, or worse. Then we sit, wondering where it all went wrong.
Want the answer?
Realistically, that’s what you get. Christmas and boxing day, New years eve, and a few social events for good measure (and this can even be completely managed for some of them…), but beyond that, what’s you’re reason for saying F it to the plan?
Throughout December, tracking your nutrition, and sticking to the plan, is still just as important for the most part. Sure, you may have the odd event that you decide to go off track, but 4 weeks of living completely different to your usual routine, well honestly, it’s probably not going to be worth it.
And if you’re sat there thinking “5 days! No way! I’ve worked my arse off for XYZ weeks for this, I deserve it!!”. Well then, this for me highlights a potential problem.
If you’re diet is kind of working (you’re getting results, but you’re waiting for the first opportunity to jump onto the F it wagon), then you’re overall approach needs looking at. Trust me, if you’re at this point, you need to look at the approach, because this type of dieting rarely leads to healthy and sustainable results.
So, simply put, pick a few days to relax fully. Stay mindful, but eat what you want, relax, and enjoy the days. For the rest of the time, you’re approach to nutrition should generally be the same as any other time. If you’re finding this request unrealistic, then expecting long term success with your current approach may be the thing to take out of wonderland.
FX Top Tip #3: Managing Christmas meals out and social events
Again, this can be seen on a spectrum of best to horrendous. My approach would always be good, better, best. Here’s how it works.
A “good” approach to a meal out with family may be to eat normally in the day, then get whatever meal you want at the event, get a beer, but avoid a desert. Not bad.
A better approach may be to modify the weekly plan, as well as the calories throughout the day, to make the above meal fit closer to the targets.
The best approach in this may be to do all of the above, but avoid the alcohol, and order the best possible meal on the menu, allowing you to stay almost completely on track- even without recording the meal!
Obviously, There’s a bad option, and a horrendous option, but if you’re looking to make progress the MAJORITY of the month, you won’t be seeing these more than a few times, but hopefully, you get the idea.
If you’re looking for more information on coping with Christmas, check out these blogs from previous years!Staying on track at Christmas! Diet breaks and Refeeds- your solution to Christmas dieting?
Or if you’re ready to make some serious progress, or want to apply to work with me in the new year, click here!
Josh Kennedy, MSc, ASCC, CSCS