It's no accident that 30% more people sign up for gym memberships in January. Most people drink and eat too much during the holidays and exercise too little, so come January 1st everyone decides that it's time to make a New Years resolution to start that diet, lose though extra LBs and start training again.
Unfortunately 25% of New Years resolutions are broken is less than a week and over 50% are broken by the 6 month mark. Real life gets in the way: jobs, family, laziness, stress and everything else makes it difficult for us to continue what we have started and way too many of us fall into the "All or nothing mentality" that leaves no room for error. Either we complete our training every single day to the letter, we sleep 8 hours every night, we never eat dessert, we never drink more than 1 drink at a time, etc etc OR we just give up. In other words, we set such high standards for ourselves that we are guaranteed to fail.
So here's my advice:
1. Don't wait until New Years. Start now. Every day is a new beginning and every day you can promise yourself that you will give it your best shot, regardless of what happened yesterday and what is going to happen tomorrow. Don't worry about trying to make up for lost time. Don't agonize over it if you can't do every workout exactly as planned. Don't beat yourself up for eating a couple Christmas cookies. Just do the best you can every day. Do the best you can to plan but don't let everything fall apart the moment your plans fall through. It happens. Get over it.
2. Everything in moderation, but a little excess is OK sometimes too. Don't miss out on the fun of the holidays. Celebrate time with your family and loved ones. All work and no play does not make Jack a better athlete. So have a cookie. Have a glass of egg nog. Have some butter fried latkes. Don't stuff yourself or drink so much that you throw up but enjoy these things, especially if you deprive yourself of them the rest of the year. If you are going to treat yourself to something sinful, you might as well enjoy it!
3. Be flexible. Look at your travel plans. Look at the weather forecast. If you have off from work or school or if it's 60 and sunny on some December day it's OK to do a little longer ride if you can. Likewise if it's snowing outside or if you are busy with holiday parties or final exams all day, maybe you can move things around with your training and take that day off or just do an hour on the trainer. This time of year most of us aren't racing (sorry cyclocrossers!) and most training is lower intensity, so there is lot's of room to move things around as you need to. And when in doubt... talk to the coach!
4. Make good behavior habitual. Here's a dirty little secret about training: consistency is the most important thing. More important than what you do, how much you do and how hard you do it is that you keep doing it. Seriously, most of my time and energy as a coach is spent trying to make it easier for my athletes to train consistently. The reason that's so difficult is because we have conflicting messages from our brains. There is the logical brain which tells us: "You need to train because you want to win that race... or at least not get dropped", "You shouldn't eat those cookies because you will get fat" and "You need to go to bed now so you can wake up and train at 5:30 AM". But then there is the feeling part of the brain that reminds us: "You are really tired and sore", "Those cookies really look good" and "I want to stay up to watch Homeland". When we are really focused and able to keep our goals front and center the logical brain may win out, but it never lasts. Time goes on and the daily grind starts to wear us down. Those goals seem really far away and it gets easier to miss that workout, eat those cookies, stay up late and hit the snooze button a couple more times in the morning. Don't feel bad, it happens to everyone. The solution is very simple: habit. Make your training habitual. Replace a bad habit like drinking a beer when you get home from work with a good habit like drinking a glass of water or hopping on your bike. Replace watching TV before bed with reading a book. Replace going to stopping by your co-workers desk to grab some gumdrops with eating a bag of carrots. If we make it a battle between the logical and feeling parts of our brains the feeling part will eventually win out. So don't make it a battle, just take your brain out of the equation. If something is habitual you don't have to think... you just do it. (OK, so this one might be easier once everything settles back to normal after the New Year)
Happy holidays everyone, and remember to tell your families and friends how much you love and appreciate them.
Colin Sandberg is the owner and head coach of Backbone Performance, LLC. He is a Cat. 1 road racer, a USA Cycling Level II coach and a UCI Director Sportif. He also is head coach at Young Medalists High Performance and race director for Young Medalists/Team Rothrock. If you are interested in coaching or if you want to find out more, check out Backbone Performance at www.BackbonePerformance.com or like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BackbonePerformance.