Ah, the festive holidays.
Back in the day, I entered many a Christmas period feeling like Popeye only to come out of the other side looking more like Bluto.
You see, if you love going to the gym (like me), training over Christmas and New Year can be ridiculously hard thanks to the number of family engagements, the temptation to eat more junk food, and having less time than a child abuser in gen pop.
So about 10 years ago I changed my strategy, and it is something which I’ve since passed on to my clients.
Today I am going to share that strategy with you.
What You Should Not Do
The natural temptation is to go hard over the Christmas period.
I’ve learned from experience that this is the wrong way to go.
I typically train 6 days a week, working a different body part on each day (twice for legs, because I’m one of those sick motherfuckers).
So I’d head into the festive period with an attitude of simply carrying on with my gym routine as normal and, after a long day at work, I’d workout for about an hour, then try to fit in all of the extra-curricular bullshit that comes with December and January.
I now believe that this is the worst thing you can do.
I was training hard because I didn’t want to lose any results, but in going so hard, I was actually creating a much bigger problem – my central nervous system was completely fucked.
Because, thanks to those long working hours and the endless line of get-togethers with people who never speak to me at any other time of year, it didn’t take long before I reached burnout.
I couldn’t recover properly, I lost strength, I was snappy, and I just felt snowed under (excuse the pun) with the schedule I was trying to keep.
Also, if I ever had to skip a workout because I was too busy, the fact that I hadn’t hit my shoulders that week would play on my mind every day.
So I’d wake up, sit on the edge of the bed and convince myself that all of those hard-earned results were slowly going to waste.
But the worst part of all?
I was missing out on family moments.
I want you to steer totally clear of this type of nonsense during the holidays, because it only serves to make you feel bad about yourself.
How To Workout During The Holidays
So, around 10 years ago, I completely ditched this approach and adopted a much more schedule-friendly gym routine that I would incorporate throughout the holidays.
Instead of shooting for my usual training split, I adopted a full body approach and stripped my workouts down to just 3 sessions per week.
Instead of doing 8 exercises for chest, I’d do two.
What I noticed surprised me.
I was continuing to make progress, thanks to the switch-up in routine, and I never lost strength thanks to the ability to fully recover between sessions.
Better still, I had a tonne of free time that I could apply to my family and all the other stuff that needed done.
Any concerns about losing training volume on a muscle group were alleviated by the fact that I was performing around 6 sets for each muscle group in every session. By the end of the week, that meant I was still hitting 18 sets for chest, back, etc.
Which is still some pretty decent volume, to be fair.
Furthermore, a full body workout is wonderful for ramping up your training intensity.
You’ll hit each muscle group in a fresh state, meaning that you can lift heavier weights. For instance, if I was going through a typical “chest day” I’d usually find that my pecs reached their peak in the first half of the workout, and this impacted the resistance I could use beyond the halfway stage.
Splitting the volume across three sessions, however, meant hitting each exercise in a fully recovered state and actually saw an increase in the amount of weights which could be used.
Instead of hitting January feeling stressed and tired, I was in the best mindset of my life and I was ready for another year of consistent training. The offset in results was tiny.
Despite my initial concerns, the only thing that changed was that I went from being a (super ripped) grumpy guy sitting at the dinner table on Christmas day feeling overworked and underfunned, to laughing and joking, joining in all of the festive activities and being a (super ripped) core member of the family get-together.
It was fucking awesome.
You can find my exact routine inside my website here. Look for “Blitz”.
Be sure to click on the Basic version of the plan, as I have also created an advanced version which can be used at other times of the year.
How To Diet Over The Holidays
The issue of diet plays a major role in your progress over the festive period.
And, much like with your training, I encourage you to ease off to get more results.
Again, I believe that one of the worst things we can do is try to stay strict when we are over-worked, over-busy and there is junk food all around us.
Fuck that. I’ve done it before, and it’s a recipe for disaster (another pun!).
Plus, nobody wants to be that douche who brings tupperware to Christmas dinner.
Any plus-points of maintaining a rigid diet over Christmas are easily negated by the mental torture caused by having to battle against the urge to eat a bit of cake, or the self-esteem issues which can arise when you crack under the pressure.
It saddens me when I hear about people who have been blinded by fitness magazines, into believing that they must “eat clean” 24/7 or risk ruining their results because that’s what Mr. Olympia does, despite the fact that they have no intention of stepping on stage anyway.
Mr. Olympia is doing his job. He’s essentially working Christmas, and he’s being paid handsomely for it. Plus, Mr. Olympia is also ingesting a shit-tonne of vitamin S.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that my clients typically follow flexible dieting plans which encourage them to eat treat foods as part of their daily diet. It’s all about moderation.
And one of the things I do when setting them on the way with these diets, is to get them to factor in some “downtime” throughout the year.
You can’t (and don’t need to) go hard all year round.
This creates a healthier relationship with food. Just like your body needs the recovery time to gear you up for another year of consistent workouts, your taste buds will enjoy being able to eat actual cake, instead of the cardboard-flavoured stuff we pretend is cake during the rest of the year.
So try to ensure you get enough protein into your meals, and feel free to enjoy some treat food.
Sure, you’ll still see those annoying “clean eating” and “100% or nothing” fitness meme’s posted by our resident social media douchebag who bases their self-esteem on how many likes they can get, but I highly encourage you to stay away from this approach.
You’ve trained consistently all year – if anyone is entitled to eat a bit of cake without worrying about it, it’s you!
That’s why being more flexible with your diet was featured so prominently in my article on 10 Weight Loss Tips That Fucking Work.
Which Supplements To Use During The Holidays
Another area I have my clients address is supplements.
I highly encourage you to dial down your supplements during the holidays by ditching any expensive preworkouts, fancy fat burners or unnecessary extras, and just focusing on getting your basic supplements in.
You’re busy as hell, and money isn’t exactly free-flowing for most people at this time of year, so it doesn’t make sense to spend it on pills and powders.
When you are training only 3x per week you will notice that you’re so amped to be in the gym that you don’t even need a preworkout. Plus, when you bring them back into your routine further down the line you will notice a much better response, because most preworkouts are based around your body’s tolerance levels towards beta-alanine and caffeine.
And if you are enjoying a lot more freedom with your diet over the holidays, I see very little point in using a fat burner supplement.
Heck, I see very little point in using them anyway, but that’s a topic for another article.
I recommend taking everything down to the basics – a good whey protein, a good creatine monohydrate, your Omega-3 capsules, a vitamin D supplement and a multivitamin should be enough to support a training routine for even a top athlete.
Interestingly, if your overall training goal is fat loss then I’d consider switching out your whey protein for a good casein. Casein is slower digesting, meaning you’ll pack some protein into your diet while also curbing your appetite to a greater degree. This article teaches you more about why most of my clients use casein.
When To Go Back To Normal
To this day, I still use this training routine from December 1st all the way through the holiday period.
Occasionally, I will continue with the plan through January, too.
That’s because it works, and it works very well when you simply don’t have the time to commit to a more in-depth workout routine.
You see, I go from the Christmas period to a period where everyone-and-their-grandma wants to book in for a session, so Blitz allows me to keep training throughout that whole period.
Most gym-lovers go from the busy Christmas period to a phase of being unable to move in the fucking gym thanks to the influx of new members, so that’s why most of my clients also adopt this full body approach until the end of January.
Give it a try, and let me know how you get on.
— RUSS HOWE PTI (@RussHowePTI) December 27, 2016
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