Twenty Twenty is just another year about to pass by, although it's one most of us wish to forget in a hurry. The year has thrown many challenges relating to staying active and competing and I don't think there has been a more testing year. Gym's closed, limits on gatherings and home exercise equipment sold out made staying on track for health and fitness goals a difficult task.
Depending on your location throughout the world, some have been fortunate to have toed the line of a race or competed in a virtual challenge. So the 'race season for 2020' (if we could call it that) is drawing to a close, restrictions in most parts on activity are slowly lifting. Most of us have our sights set on some races next year and some of us have even locked in our registration at events. Next year may feel like a world away but it's just around the corner so maintaining a level of fitness to stay conditioned and ready during the festive months is important to avoid a disappointing 2021.
The Festive Season may be your Off-season, but that doesn't mean hanging up the boots and checking out. This time of year is a great opportunity to focus on other areas of your training and performing to bring out your A game when it's called on.
Here are my top 9 tips getting through December and January without regret, setting you up for a successful 2021.
Number one - Focus on up-skilling and education
Pick up a book on your craft whether that be running, cycling or powerlifting. Learn some techniques from the experts in this field and refine the way in which you train. A subtle change in the way your foot strikes the ground when running or literature on mental toughness could help deliver a better you to 2021.
This may mean taking a step back on the intensity and duration of your weekly program and getting back to basics. A book I've read recently is 'The Running Revolution' by Dr Nicholas Romanov delivering simple principles to the beginner or advanced runner to improve performance and reduce injury.
A good read on lifting and building strength is 'Never Let Go' by Dan John. This also has some heart pumping hurt locker workouts to give a go.
Number two - Buddy up
Connect with a training partner who needs as much motivation as you to keep active over the next 2 months. Plan a run or a gym session together without any strict or focused goal, instead focus on supporting each other.
If able to explore the outdoors, plan a pre sunrise hike with a group of people through a national park, timing a reach to the summit with the rise of the sun. If this is a new experience for you, check out my article 9 things everyone should know about trail running to make sure you are prepared and stay safe for the adventure.
A catch up at the local gym could give new meaning to the phrase 'Meet you at the bar!'
Number three - Create a new habit
Perhaps one of your goals this year has been to drink more water and less coffee, or reduce dairy in your diet. However you may not of put a core focus on this target. According to Phillippa Lally; a health psychology researcher at University College of London it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit so starting now and committing to this change or improvement should set yourself up to have it ingrained in you by the end of January.
If you live with other people, a good idea is to invite a roomie or your partner to the new habit goal, it's much easier to achieve something like this with support and accountability.
Number four - Learn a new skill
Over the Christmas New Year period the fitness industry slows down due to people holidaying, travelling or simply taking a break. This is a great opportunity for you to connect with a Professional in their field to refine a skill. You will probably find fitness professionals will invest more time in you while some of their regular clients take a break.
This new skill could be complimenting your chosen sport or something different all together. It could be building confidence running downhill on trails to improve your race time, or simply to achieve one unassisted pull up, something you've wished you could do for years.
By setting these small target's over the next 2 months you'll stay focused without losing too much conditioning.
Number five - Step a physical weakness up to the plate
Pick one of your physical weaknesses to improve. A balanced body is important for overall health, wellbeing and performance. Too much of one thing can neglect other parts of our body, which develops a chain of events to impact our lifestyle and health.
Think of the one exercise in the gym you dread, or avoid because of a weakness or fear. It may something like lifting weight over your head. Seek out a fitness professional to support with proper training and technique with this movement.
For a runner, what physical part of you seems to weaken first on long training runs or races? Is it your core? Or do you harbour a lot of stress and fatigue quickly in your shoulders? Strengthening these elements through focused exercise will assist in an improvement to overall performance.
Number six - Keep working with your Coach
Stay with your coach that you've been working with throughout the year. Now could be a little biased here but it's important to maintain a level of fitness and relationship with your coach that you've been working with throughout 2020 so that there are not any surprises for either of you when you become more race or competition focused at the start of 2021.
This may also be a time to seek out someone to guide you towards a successful year next year if you haven't been working with a coach, giving adequate time to prepare and build a training program.
Be aware of reversibility, one of the key principles of training. We all know how long it takes to build strength and fitness and how quickly we lose it. By being conscious of this principle and having an accountability coach throughout this period you will avoid playing catch up on fitness in the new year.
Number seven - Create a personal challenge
Create your own personal challenge. Racing at events may be coming to a close but that doesn't mean the track, trails or gym have shut their doors for the year. Come up with a personal challenge that you would like to achieve, a quick win or fist pump achievement. This could be a PB over a certain distance e.g. a 10 km time trial, or could be to achieve 10 full push ups. Setting these little personal targets over the next two months will keep you focused and motivated to strap on the shoes or head to the gym.
For the more adventurous, check out the personal challenge Fit Tribe Oz Athletes Bryan and Marcus got up to a few months back in the heart of Covid-19, their own personal Ultra run.
Go even further by creating some competition with a friend. Examples like: The first one to get a 5k PB is a good goal, where you are competing against yourself and your friend. A little competition never hurt anyone right?
Number eight - Cross training to make your week interesting
Focus on cross training. If your main sport is trail running and you've been running for six days a week, drop a run or two out of the week and swap that with a cross training session in the gym or park.
For example your Tuesdays may have religiously been interval training. Maintain your anaerobic endurance and capacity by swapping the running intervals with intervals on a ski erg, assault bike or even a bodyweight HIIT class. You are still elevating and decreasing your heart rate over a set period and getting the desired fitness benefit. Although the training is not specific to your sport you are still replicating the effects of a high intensity interval workout.
Number nine - Enjoy your downtime!
Enjoy the less intensive and quieter few weeks! Let's face it we deserve to congratulate ourselves for surviving 2020. As restrictions around distancing begin to lift take this opportunity to catch up with friends and family and let your hair down. Enjoy some of the indulgences which have been limited during our previous months of training.
See you on the trails!