With the holidays right around the corner it can be a tricky time to navigate for coaches and athletes. Competition has started, the volume of training has been incredibly high for a few months, and whether its a holiday tournament or the start of league competition, chances are you have some important dates circled on the calendar that are approaching. Right in the middle of all that you have…Christmas, New Years Eve, no school, traveling to see family, christmas cookies…you get the picture. Sometimes its hard enough to fend off one distraction or momentum killer, but just when things are getting rolling you have all of this to deal with. Rather than get tripped up by getting out of the routine, let’s use this as an opportunity to continue growing!
What to do:
1. Rebuild your base. You probably spent most of the fall months conditioning heavily to get in wrestling shape. As the season started you found less time for conditioning except maybe sneaking some sprints or bike in after practice. If you have the holidays off from competing, now is the perfect time to hit the road (yes, even in the cold) for a long 4-6 mile run and open up those lungs. A little time away from the mat can be the perfect time to challenge your aerobic fitness in some other ways, either running or a nice 60 minute air dyne session while you watch the Grinch. Or…
2. De-Load. Maybe the early season already has you feeling a little banged up. In that case, use this time off to schedule some active recovery - yoga, float tank session, or a trip to the chiro. Get some good aerobic work in without the impact by swimming laps at the local Y.
3. Chase the Pump. Most of your strength training from here on out is (or should be) heavy and performance based for explosive power. If you have some time away from your teams structured lifting sessions, hit the gym for a “feel good” lift. Grab some moderate weight for some medium high reps and get a killer pump. Think of a couple pump lifts as hitting the “reset” button, filling out those muscles and maintaining strength while gearing up for a return to heavy intensity.
4. Sleep in. No school? Use this as an opportunity to get some extra rest to recharge and fuel your fire for the upcoming grind. But remember - if you normally sleep from 10pm to 5:30am during school but on break you stay up until 4am playing video games and sleep until 11am you are actually getting less rest.
5. Take competition prep seriously. Just because a dual or tournament coincides with winter break doesn’t mean you should treat it like a vacation activity. Go to bed early, train hard, and be disciplined with your weight just like you would during the school year. It can be tempting to unwind during the holiday season but you want to be the one pulling upsets because the top kid in your bracket spent too much time playing fortnight and eating cookies - not the other way around.
What NOT to do:
1. Do not throw your nutrition plan out the window. I wholeheartedly believe that athletes need to enjoy christmas dinner and perhaps even have a treat or two - for their sanity if nothing else. But that doesn’t mean nutrition should not be a focus during winter break, one cheat meal a day is fine but a cheat day is not. If you know you’ll be having a big dinner with relatives, then pick that morning for the long run or swim you’ve been planning and then eat perfect all day leading leading up to it. It’s important to feel like you’ve “earned” it rather than “cheated” on your diet.
2. De-Load. I know, I know…I said a deload was fine. But remember, deload means different things to different people and some interpret this as “time off”. If you do not have scheduled practice time or strength sessions there is still plenty you can do - biking, running, light lifting, bodyweight exercises, or even some boxing on the heavy bag are great ways to de-load without back pedaling.
3. Do not worry about rankings. Ok, you’ve had some matches and maybe these early contests have went your way, and maybe they haven’t. Either way, look at the upcoming new year as a fresh start. Follow my tips and progress over break and come out ready to continue on the path to your preseason goals. But remember - this works both ways! Early season success does not equal post season results!
Coaches - make sure to share this list with your athletes. Enjoy the time with friends and family and have a wonderful holiday!
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