New Year, New Me?
It is that time of the year - yes, when our stomachs are full of holiday treats, sugar levels are at an all-time high, and if you are like me motivation, as much as I am telling myself it’s a New Year, is still pretty damn low. You have come down from your post race high from your 2018 ‘A’ race and lost some fitness (which is the sole purpose of an off season). I feel recovered and ready to roll - at least I think I am the latter.
The first few weeks back to your “on-season” are always a struggle and offer a swift kick to the face by the reality of early AM workouts and far more conscious eating. While I am a coach, I am also an athlete and one who succumbs to the same tendencies that others do. I know that many of us struggle with the same issues, even if we do not always like to admit it.
There are 3 issues I typically face at this point in my early season training, and here is how I have learned to combat them.
Lack of focus on eating (ie overeating, not eating consciously for fueling)
This is one that I REALLY struggle with around the holidays. In a time where you are spending time with friends, family, and co-workers it is tough to not get sucked into the holiday libations, baked goods (mmmmm cookies), and other yummy stuff. For months I was able to indulge far more often (within reason) due to a pretty high volume training.
Yes - you will gain weight this time of year. That is fine, and quite honestly a great sign that you took your off-season seriously. This is the time of year we rebuild our foundation and ensure there are not any cracks in said foundation. One way to ensure that we are ready to built the house anew is through fueling the body and gaining some healthy weight
“Gain weight” says coach - I say, game on. But then I hit a point of “what the hell happened?” It gets to a point with me where I am struggling all day with my eating and the emotions that can be attached to eating and hunger. I catch myself overeating because I am so “hungry” and my mind/body is craving that sugar buzz we get from those aforementioned holiday treats and baked goods (mmmm cookies).
I have tried a few different techniques over my years of racing, but one has really seemed to work for me and helped me to kick off my healthy eating/fueling efforts - food tracking. With the advent of smartphones and apps for seemingly every task possible, there are countless options. The one that I go to is MyFitnessPal (and also perhaps the one that most of you are familiar with). Yes - it is time consuming to find the calories, log it properly (ie weigh the food like the neurotic person I am), and not get so fed up and just eat a pre-packaged meal when you can scan the info and it is loaded into the app. The key aspect of food tracking for me personally, and from what I’ve seen with my peers is that it provide two aspects to you as an athlete and person in general. First off, it holds you accountable for what you are putting in your body. When you have that mind - body connection to the food you are consuming, and seeing the nutrient makeup of say something like a COOKIE, you tend to make the better choice. Being a type-A and goal driven athlete, I love to ensure that I am staying within my caloric goals, and also meeting marco nutrient requirements. Suddenly I am not too focused on how hungry I am, I’m eating less crap (for instance, cookies), the timing of my meals if far more consistent, and the weight starts to come off at a healthy rate. The second reason and simply put, I feel empowered to eat nutrient dense, healthy foods and know that I am treating my body as a tool for performance and my vehicle to become the best version of myself of an athlete - and even beyond that as a person who wants to be physically healthy.
2) Lack of motivation to wake up/getting back into the routine.
Don’t get me wrong - I love to workout. But we all know there are days that no matter how much we enjoy it, motivation can wane. This is amplified by such factors as weather (read: cold, rain, windy, etc), and daylight savings time making us want to just go to sleep at 6 pm and sleep until 8 am.
The first week back is what I refer to as boot camp - it is a swift kick in the pants to bring you back to your structured athletic endeavors. Fact: I am not a morning person, and have to set 5 alarms to get my ass out of bed on time for an am workout. I wish I was kidding, but what can I say, I love my bed (and my mama). You know you are singing that song in your head now...
The way I personally work around this is by setting a goal of waking up to make JUST one workout. Once I get one or two early AM workouts out of the way I am reminded of the mental boost I get throughout the day, albeit if it comes with an additional cup or two of coffee on those first few days. My motivation for the next workout starts to build and gain momentum, and before I know it I am almost excited for my next training opportunity.
Another way to approach this is to reward yourself the first few days, this can be in the form of a smoothie (or healthy-ish ;) snack of choice) on the way home from your workout or on the way to work. Or maybe after you make two weeks in a row of getting up, you buy yourself some new gear. Celebrate the wins regardless of how big or small they are.
3) Not being able to find time to workout
Even outside of the holiday season, it is tough to balance everything on our plates between work, family, and still trying to have a social life that may require you stay out past 6 pm. This gets amplified to new levels of difficulty when the workout load starts to pick up. So how do you combat this other than adding 2 more hours to the day.
First, be open with your coach about what your obligations are. The new year at work can also be stressful, or getting your kids back into a routine. Consistency is key, so setting up realistic weekly training volumes where you are not running yourself ragged is a key focal point for success. We often want to go head first back into training in the New Year - but that does not always work and can set us back - a slow ramp up is usually the way to go. One great session a week or month does not make an athlete great, but multiple quality, well executed sessions make an athlete.
Second, like previously talked about - set incremental goals. The downfall I face is switching my workouts around within the week. As a coach it is frustrating to see an athlete do this as I take a good deal of time to schedule all of the various sessions to ensure maximum benefits. The first week back my main goal is no missed workouts. Second week back, no missed workouts AND no moved workouts. After those two weeks have lapsed I am in a decent groove in both a mental and physical space averting any lack of motivation or the attempt of ‘catching up’ on workouts after moving your week around on your own accord.
So what does all this mean?
We are all human, and not robots. The ebb and flow of motivation is natural and normal.
I offer these as what works for me, but if these do not work for you, ask your friends and training partners how they get through it. Do not be afraid that you are showing weakness by expressing your lack of motivation or discipline at the moment. It happens to most everyone. Dare I say all of us - just some are more willing to be open about it.
Make a plan, set a goal, and celebrate any and all victories that come your way!
Here’s to crushing 2019.
Be sure to follow Coach Nick @ncgregory8878 on the gram.