Whether you are a high school, college or elite athlete training over the holidays can always be a little difficult. Most coaches will assign some training for long breaks. Some coaches chose a lot of volume in the hope that athletes don’t lose fitness. Other coaches may be more relaxed wanting athletes to enjoy their time off. The same goes for athletes; some err on the side of doing too much in fear of losing fitness while others just want to enjoy the free time. There is no perfect way to train over the holidays, but the two key goals you need to have in mind are making sure you lose minimal fitness and are ready to go when the break ends. Here are some tips for doing exactly that.
First off you are not going to lose much fitness over a short break like Thanksgiving. Even if you did nothing for the whole week, you would still be able to bounce back after a couple days of normal training. Most coaches put a few extra hard sessions leading up to the breaks so your first few days should be spent recovering. Maybe do some extra stretching and try to get exercise through light cross training workouts like swimming or jogging. The key for short breaks is making sure you go back feeling one hundred percent.
Secondly, mental breaks are important. Training extra hard over a short break might give you a little edge on your competition, or it could put you deeper in the whole and cause you to burn out. Enjoy the time off and make the most of it by doing something you wouldn’t normally do. A Turkey Trot is a great activity that will provide you with the exercise you need for the day and not make you feel guilty about having that second or third helping of pie. If you have access to a gym or rowing club, consider doing a workout there the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving. A medium difficulty workout with a day or two to recover will make sure you hit the ground running when you meet back up with your team.
Longer breaks are a little more challenging. The long holiday breaks are long enough that it is possible to lose considerable fitness if you do nothing, and they provide plenty of distractions to make that a real possibility.
The first step is making a plan, have a schedule for yourself and a time set aside every day that you can do at least one workout. You shouldn’t need to do more than one workout a day if you are good at training every day. You want to work smarter not necessarily harder. Showing up after New Years having done double workouts every day could leave you exhausted and behind the ball because most coaches have some test waiting for their athletes when they return from a long break.
One pretty steady daily session should leave you in good shape upon your return. If you want to start ratcheting things up a bit in the hope of returning a little fitter than when you left, that is totally possible to do without killing yourself. If you can continue lifting a couple times a week, this will pay big dividends. Throw in an AT work out once or twice week and one max effort piece near the beginning of you last week of break and you will find you are in great shape come that first test in January.
Many athletes are overly concerned with losing fitness over a break; this is especially true amongst rowers since the sport attracts so many type A personalities. It is important not to overdo it over a break. As hard as it may be, try not to push yourself too hard during these times. This is especially true for elite athletes who are being given workouts to do over break. Do what you coaches tell you to do, you don’t need to do extra (in some cases you may need to do less. Some coaches assume their athletes will be lazy over break so give somewhat ridiculous training schedules. Know your coach and use your discretion wisely). If you don’t have access to the equipment necessary to do the assigned workouts, make sure you don’t overcompensate by giving yourself a crazy workout to make up for a missed erg. Try to do something of comparable difficulty like going for a run or bike. Secondly if you haven’t been doing things like running, ease into them. Going for a 10 mile run after not running for several months will leave you worse off, sore and unable to do much else for a couple days.
Most importantly enjoy your break. Spend time with friends and family. Fill them in on what you are doing, how your training is going. No matter how ridiculous this sounds, people want to hear about it, very few people get to be a high school college or an elite athlete in the grand scheme of things. Give yourself the mental break you need, don’t grind yourself down anymore. Have fun.
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