With Christmas just around the corner your thoughts might be turning to relaxing and enjoying yourself rather than training. It’s also the time of year when we start to see misguided messages about dieting and watching what we eat. So, what can you do this festive season to keep you on course for a triumphant 2021?

First, don’t panic. Christmas is one day. Enjoying Christmas dinner with family and friends is a highlight of the season for many people, and shouldn’t be something that causes feelings of dread or regret. One day of indulgence is not enough to ruin your training regimen.

With this is mind, here are some top tips for enjoying the festive season:

  • Keep a routine for your meals and snacks – for most of us our routines are built around school, college or work and when we take a break our routine goes out of the window. Although your training volumes might reduce, you will still need to make sure that you are eating regularly to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to stay in tip-top condition (your muscles need energy even when you are resting).
  • Make sure that you get good quality sleep – again, routine is key here. Keeping to a regular bed time and waking up time will keep your energy levels stable and your body clock ticking away happily. It will also make it a lot easier to return to your routine once your break is over.
  • Hydrate – For many, alcohol consumption increases in December. Remember to hydrate properly throughout the day, particularly around any training that you do. If you do decide to drink alcohol, use a proper measure for wine and spirits, and alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Creamy liqueurs, sugary mixers, sweet wines and pints of cider, stout or ale are all high in empty calories.
  • Focus on you 5 a day – with all of the sweet treats around it is easy to spend the day bouncing between cake, mince pies, biscuits and that tin of chocolates. All of the Christmas favourites can be enjoyed (in moderation), but not at the expense of fruit and veg. Try to start your day with at least one portion of fruit or veg at breakfast and stock your fridge with pre-chopped veg to enjoy with dips as a snack.
  • Don’t get too saucy – creamy sauces and toppings are high in calories and fat. Luckily a little usually goes a long way, so instead of getting heavy handed with that jug of brandy cream grab a spoon to serve up your portion.
  • Stretch your legs – make time to get out and about each day. This doesn’t have to be a training session, it could be a walk with the dog, a festive family cycle, or for a bit of Christmas competitiveness try a knock-out tournament with a ball or frisbee in the garden.
  • Stop! – When there is a lot of food around you might feel tempted to over eat. Instead eat slowly and, and stop when you are full. For some great tips on storing and recipes for using up leftovers visit https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

Not everyone will have time off from work over the festive period, and for some it may be the busiest time of the year (and I don’t just mean Santa). Be prepared and plan ahead. Instead of relying on the last few unwanted chocolates to keep you going all day, make yourself a packed lunch of a festive sandwich or wrap loaded with veggies or salad. Or, if you are a little more organised, arrange with your colleagues to prepare one dish each and you can all enjoy a proper meal which will keep you fuelled while you work.

Finally, enjoy yourself and, if you have the opportunity, take the time to relax and let your body recover. You won’t reach peak performance unless you are in peak health, and this includes mental health too. We all need a break every now and again.

Merry Christmas from Rowing Ireland.