The Key to Surviving The Holidays

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The Key to Surviving The Holidays


It’s that time of year when the Gains Mugger shows up. You haven’t heard about him? I’m sure you’ll be familiar with his work. You’ve been working your arse off for months in the gym, you’ve dropped body-fat, you’ve packed on some muscle, then December rolls around.

One night you’re just popping out to meet with some friends. You’re not going to stay late, you’re not going to have more than one or two, you can’t indulge because you’ve got another two parties to go to this week alone.

All of a sudden it’s three weeks later, you wake up with a headache, a hazy-at-best memory of what happened over the last twenty-one days, and all the results you worked for appear to be hiding under a layer of flab again… No wait… The results look like they’re gone. There’s just the flab.

You’ve been hit by the Gains Mugger. The only person busier as December progresses is Santa Claus.

So what are you going to do? Are you going to let this catabolic rogue have his way with you, or are you going to make plans right now to safeguard yourself against his will? With a little smart planning you can get through December, enjoy the best of this time of year, but not suffer the worst excesses

Here’s what you need to do with your training:

  1. Strip back your program to the raw essentials. We all love to hit the gym for chest day, bang out some barbell bench, hit the incline dumbbells, throw in some flyes, a bit of cable work, then see how many pushups we can do before heading to the shower, but in December, your schedule is likely going to be a little more demanding than normal. You have two choices here, you can decide to do no chest day at all and just hope you make it in tomorrow, or you can just fit in the best session you can in the half hour you’ve got to burn. You might only get a few good sets in, but make sure they’re sets of the major move in your program, like barbell bench. A few good sets of the most important move of that day is far better than skipping a session altogether. If it doesn’t truly add to your results, at the very least it’ll help minimise backslide.
  2. Be content with a bit of HIIT in the park. Only got a fifteen minute window? Once again, you can use it as an excuse not to train at all, or you can get out and smash out half a dozen sprints in your closest open space. This month is all about doing what you can, and whilst it might not be of the same calibre as your usual sixty minutes of hardcore lifting, it’s going to help keep body-fat down, EPOC high, and stimulate that GH release. All good things.

When it comes to your lifestyle and nutrition, these elements can be a little more complicated. That doesn’t mean they’re not achievable, they just require some work. But if your results are worth having, they’re worth doing the work for. You knew that already, or you wouldn’t be reading this:

  1. Accept that you will indulge, but schedule it. It’s the holiday season. There will be drinks. There will be tables laden with food. Then there will be more drinks. Then there will be further helpings of food. That’s how December works. You have two options here; you can attempt to make worldwide changes to social custom in order to avoid temptation, or you can strategise to control your own behaviour. One of these options can work for you. The other one sounds like a futile mission you can spend the rest of your life on. So here’s what you do – select one or two of the best sounding occasions, and use those as your opportunities to indulge. Eat the cake. Eat the mince-pies. Drink the beer. But when the party’s over, the party is over. On those other occasions, be the designated driver.
  2. Taste the indulgent food, make a meal out of the good food. This is the time of year when everyone’s taste for the purely decadent seems to become perfectly acceptable. There’s going to be bacon-wrapped things, chocolate, cream, bacon-wrapped chocolate with cream on. Have a bite, but just because it’s good doesn’t mean you need to go all Zoidberg on it. Give it a try, then once you’ve tried it, and you know what it tastes like, load up your plate with the Turkey, Brussel sprouts and other greens that are always also present in abundance.
  3. Finally, if you’re like me and are sometimes at risk of giving in to your baser urges in spite of the voice of common sense, try these two awesome “minimise the impact” strategies.
  • Stay Hydrated – That’s right. A lot of the most painful side effects of alcohol consumption are a result of dehydration. Make sure you’re peeing clear before you ever hit the venue. Then once you’re there, cycle between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Have a good meal first – We both know this suggestion makes sense for a number of reasons. Firstly, if you’re going to have a drink, chances are you don’t want to be up on the tables with your pants around your ankles after two beers. A good meal reduces (doesn’t eliminate, reduces) the likelihood of this happening. Secondly, if there’s going to be a(nother) table bending under the weight tasty treats just waiting for you to gorge yourself, a good meal ensures that whilst you might have a taste, these fat and sugar-laden goodies won’t end up being the closest solution to your hunger just as it’s biting the most.

Finally, this time of year is meant to be fun. Isn’t that why we do it? So be sure to find the balance as best you can between having a good time, enjoying the indulgence, and not losing the results you’ve worked so hard for in the recent months.

See you in the New Year.

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