Your Holiday Workout Plan

For this holiday season, remember what got you started lifting in the first place. The need for strength permeates every aspect of our lives from our day-to-day routines to hobbies to sports. It is the very foundation of health (and to impressing your kids) and gives us options in choosing our physical and mental destiny.

Happy Holiday Training

The holiday season can be busy—many people host family, travel, or simply don’t feel like training during the holidays. But training and celebrating the holidays shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. Part of the holiday training slump stems from the attitude that training is just like work. You take time off work for the holidays, and it seems natural to also take time off from training.

Before you do, though, consider why you started training in the first place: it wasn’t just to add another chore to your work week. It was to do something beneficial and positive for your well-being. You chose a habit that reshapes your physical self and refines your psyche. You do this for the value it brings to you, not because it is work.

We don’t suggest missing your kids opening presents so you can go squat, but consider the following reasons why training and holidays go together like turkey and stuffing, like milk and cookies for Santa:

Better Recovery

Strength progress is not limited by how hard you train, but by how well you recover from training. The holidays offer a unique training opportunity in this regard with time off work, more sleep, and big meals. Carve out more time for training (not less) to take advantage of this extra recovery capacity. Taking a little more time between sets can make training a lot more enjoyable—especially if your training has been feeling like a chore lately, or you’re used to having to rush to fit sessions into your regular schedule.

Then, of course, there’s the food. Extra calories, extra protein, and homemade deliciousness is great for training. Training at sufficiently high intensity disrupts your body’s homeostasis and engages the processes of getting stronger, which requires protein, fat, and carbs to build muscle, bone, and connective tissue. Even if you don’t go ham on the turkey and pie, whatever extra fuel you take in is better spent on lifting.

That same hormonal process that tells your body how to use the extra energy is most effective when you are sleeping well. Sleep is the most anabolic substance you (likely) have access to. Any extra sleep you are able to get is another reason to train during the holidays. If you happen to be stuck on a certain lift, it might be just what you need to break past that plateau.

Rather than feeling like training is taking away from your time off, take the time to have some of the best training of your year.

De-Stress

Of course, the holidays are not always filled with fun, family, good food, and good cheer. They can be an intensely stressful time as well. If this is true for you, it may mean that the above benefits of holiday training don’t apply as readily to you. Stress, depression, and anxiety are anathema to good training. But this is not a reason to stop training during the holidays. Actually, this is an even more powerful reason to take some personal time and lift.

Training does not have to be a stressor that causes more stress during a stressful period. It should be a habit and a value—like saving money, calling your mom, brushing your teeth and staying close with your friends.

Training affects your mood and mental health. In a short review of literature discussing the link between physical exercise, depression and cognitive performance, Dr. David Puder concluded that:

“Training for physical strength is important for enhanced ‘brain strength,’ and has been shown to treat depression and improve cognitive function. Those who had the highest strength gains experienced the highest improvements in their mood issues. Strength gains also improved cognitive performance. Therefore, strength training should be another tool used in the treatment and prevention of psychiatric issues.”

Should you sacrifice this one thing that is actually an investment against life’s pressures? The thing that gives you a routine and puts the power back in your hands? And the thing that is proven to be the foundation for long-term health? We say “no.”

If you are feeling less-than-motivated to train these holidays, take some advice from Coach Niki Sims and make strength training a priority:

“Don’t decide whether or not you’re going to train, decide when and how you’re going to train. Even if you’re not a weekend warrior or don’t see yourself as an athlete, life is a sport and strength affects every way that we interact with our environment.

Ease up on yourself, but don’t give up on yourself. Because you’ve made it this far already. You’ve put in a ton of work and training has become a part of your daily routine. It’s okay if the demands of training change from time to time. If you’re feeling in a funk about training, talk to your coach. They can help you adjust your routine and expectations.

Try a new gym or find training partners to lift with. Maybe even get your kids interested in lifting and training. Buy new shoes or get yourself a nice squat bar. Treat yourself like you deserve to train well.”

You can follow Dr. Puder’s Psychiatry & Psychotherapy Podcast for more information on the emotional and cognitive benefits of strength training. While the holidays are not all “gay apparel” and yuletide cheer, there are still good reasons to train. It’s not selfish, especially if it keeps you sane. Even if you are stressed this holiday season, train like you need it—because you probably do.

Reflect on Why You Lift

For this holiday season, remember what got you started lifting in the first place. The need for strength permeates every aspect of our lives from our day-to-day routines to hobbies to sports. It is the very foundation of health (and to impressing your kids) and gives us options in choosing our physical and mental destiny.

The term holiday comes from “holy” “day.” While typically religious, the purpose of the holiday was to dedicate the day or time to a sacred purpose. For you, that purpose may be something bigger than yourself, but the term “holy” likely derives from the old Germanic term heil for “health, happiness, or good luck”—giving a personal sort of narrative to this term and this season. Ultimately, this time is about what is sacred or important to you. Make training part of that celebration.

Happy Training and Happy Holidays.

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