Santa’s coming! Santa’s coming! And for our neighbor’s to the north, Boxing Day! It’s an exciting time of year to be sure, but it’s also hectic, stressful, and indulgent. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that every once in a while but as triathletes who value structure and routine, the end of the year can be anything but.
We know the week and days leading up Christmas are ridiculous so I’ll spare you the cliches. The reason you’re here is to figure out how the heck to manage it all, eat with your best intentions, and still maintain your swim, bike, and run fitness.
My wife and I will be traveling down to New Jersey and New York City with our one-year-old daughter for the holidays. That’s where my family is located. It’s several hours in the car after a workout, without my bike, or my local pool. We’ve made this trip a million times in similar situations so we’ve gotten pretty good at eating and exercising how we want while away from home.
Here are some strategies you can try to avoid the gluttony of the holidays and the dreaded loss of triathlon fitness:
Eat slowly and stop when satisfied, not stuffed
It’s Christmas morning and mom’s hosting this year. You’re up early fiddling with your new bike computer or lacing up your new running shoes. Your mom is putting the hors d’oeuvres on the table and yelling at you to stop picking at them. Does that sound like you? It sure sounds like me.
Cold cuts, olives, bread, pasta, you name it! My fingers have been all over it before the first guest arrives. That’s a recipe for overeating and falling further from your goals. Instead, exercise a bit of patience. Once your company arrives prepare a normal sized plate, sit down at the table, and eat it like you would during any other night. Put your fork down between bits. Take a sip of water each time too. Make conversation. All these tiny tricks will allow your stomach the time it takes to feel full preventing you from overeating.
Effective do-anywhere workout when you’re without your bike
You’ve been diligent about your triathlon training, hitting the workouts day after day. But with the holiday parties and traveling to see family it’s easy to let a few days go by without a lot of movement. This simple workout takes little or no equipment to complete and minimal time so you can get back to enjoying the company of family and friends.
Move through each exercise in sequence
Do 5 reps of each exercise
Don’t rest between exercises
Rest 1-2 minutes at the end of each circuit
Repeat for a total of 2-4 circuits
Bear crawl - Starting on all fours, push down with toes to bring knees off the floor. Crawl with right arm and left leg moving together and vice versa. 10 seconds = 1 rep.
Reverse lung - Using a dumbbell (a suitcase works just as well. You’re traveling, remember ;)) stand with feet shoulder width apart. Keep your chest high and core tight while stepping backwards with your right foot. Lower your right knee to the ground. Drive your weight into your other heel to return back to an upright position. Switch legs and repeat.
Push-ups - Start in a plank position, hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your body tight, bend your elbows lowering yourself to the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together then allow them to spread fully apart at the top. Keep your abs tight and prevent your shoulders from shrugging up towards your ears.
Squat - Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your core tight push your hips back and lower yourself as far as you can. Be sure to keep your feet straight and your knees aligned with your toes. Push through your heels back up.
Single-arm row - Stand with your right foot forward with your hand on the couch or chair for support. Hold your dumbbell (or suitcase) in your left hand. Pull the weight up towards your armpit keeping your elbow locked against your ribs.
Banded hip extension - Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and have a resistance band looped around the back of your neck and the other end under your feet. Keep your core tight, push your hips back, and lower your chest to the floor until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings. Return to the starting position keeping your core engaged.
*This workout is from our friends at Precision Nutrition.
Eat well on the go
Ideally you’d be sitting at the table eating a perfectly portioned meal. But it’s the holidays and that’s unrealistic. So here’s what you can do to ensure the best food is being consumed allowing your goals to stay in your sights.
Pack snacks - Focus your snacks around proteins. Things like hard boiled eggs, chicken breast, protein bars, and tuna make for fantastic options.
Eat carbs and fats - When it comes to the other macronutrients, don’t neglect carbs and fats. In fact, fresh fruit and mixed nuts are readily available at every gas station or rest area you’ll pass so stop in a grab some.
Make the most of your carry-on - If you’re flying this holiday season, fruits, meats, cheeses, and nuts will make it through security. Soups, yogurts, and other gel or liquid-type foods will not.
The perfect protein shake
You’ll never get too hungry when you’re protein powder makes the trip with you. Allowing yourself to go too long between meals, especially protein-filled ones, is the best way to overeat later on. Avoid that by putting your protein jug in your bag. Not sure which protein makes the best shakes? Here’s what we recommend: Level-1 from 1st Phorm.
Eat your micronutrients
The micros are just as important as the macros. Vitamins and minerals help reduce bloating and dehydration many of us experience while traveling. Whether it’s by car or plane, we inevitably get stiff, gassy, and parched. By munching on some fruit we can alleviate many of those symptoms. However, having the time to grab an apple or banana isn’t always practical. In those situations I rely on a greens drink, namely Opti-Greens 50, and a multi-vitamin pack.
The Micro Factor pack helps me perform and recover properly. It includes an anti-oxidant, probiotic, essential fatty acid, fruit and vegetable superfood blend, and complete multi-vitamin.
The perfectly portioned meal
You can get through the holiday without losing your fitness and without gaining weight. Build your meals around proper portions. Did you know each of us carries the best portion control guide with us at all times? Yes, it’s your hand! A palm (or two for men) of protein, one cupped handful of carbs, and a thumb of fat makes for one perfectly portioned meal!
If you need other ideas or some encouragement send me a message!
For those following along to see my weekly training log, here it is:
Swim: 5,200 yards