Focus and Motivation During the Holidays

Focused During Holidays PictureBy: Gerhard de Bruin

The festival tidal wave of Christmas and New Year’s is looming ahead.  Yes, it’s only November, but it’s never too soon to begin planning for the mental onslaught they bring.  The holidays usually bring a host of undesirable consequences – less time training, weight gain, lack of discipline, and diminishing focus.  The typical person develops an iron-willed mantra:

The holidays are a time to relax and let loose.  I’ll get back on track come January.

From parties and family commitments to travelling and tempting meals – it’s no wonder that our clothes start to feel tight during the holidays.  Sadly, most people also lose the motivation to train hard, but it’s important to stay focused on your goals, so when New Year’s hits, you’re already ahead of everyone else.

Follow these strategies on how to stay on track during the holidays.  You must do whatever it takes to avoid going downhill with your training and nutritional goals.  Godspeed, soldier!  You’re going to need it!

1.  Prioritise and Plan

Devise your training schedule at least one month in advance.  Consistency and good time management techniques will bring you victory!  The holidays are an ideal time to stay loyal with your training and diet principles.  Sit down with your coach and outline your goals for the upcoming new year.  Discuss last year’s training and race results – and turn your past shortcomings into future strengths.  Don’t allow travelling to get in the way of exercising either.  If visiting family and friends will steer your training programme off path, create a way to use those travel days as recovery days.  You can afterwards intensify your workout plan to make up for those days.

Handle your time wisely!  Don’t try to be superman/superwoman.  Trying to perform too many tasks at once only brings stress and discouragement.  Wake up early and be realistic with what you can actually achieve within a time frame.  Simply following these tips alone will prevent burnout and loss of focus.

2.  Find Some Training Buddies

While solitary training allows you to press the mute button on the world, exercising with others can simplify your life and make training more enjoyable.  Working out with friends also gives you accountability.  It’s already tough waking up at ungodly hours to train, but you’ll be less likely to skip training knowing you’ve got a pal waiting for you.

Plus, working out with a friend or groups of buddies encourages a more positive mental outlook.  Believe it or not, social interaction and exercise play a pivotal role in the subconscious mind.  Researchers discovered this process called “social facilitation” with cyclists – they cycled faster when racing against someone else versus riding solo.  “The same holds true with runners.  When you run with others, you tend to give more effort,” says Cinda Kamphoff, Ph.D., a sports psychologist.  “You get caught up in the pace, and you might not recognise how fast you’re going.”

3.  Make Sleep a Priority

Lack of high-quality sleep negatively affects your training routine – not to mention your focus.  Sleeping more than seven hours a night helps  you stick to a solid exercise pattern and amps motivation.  Studies reveal that people who sleep more end up losing weight and reaching their goals.

Fatigue and sleep deprivation can easily drain motivation to exercise and even stops you from pushing yourself harder – therefore causing muscle loss and weight gain.  Your appetite grows when you sleep less.  You can’t properly hear the brain telling you to stop eating when you’re exhausted – instead, the signals to eat get louder.

The hormone that suppresses your appetite (leptin) is reduced, and the hormone that increases your appetite (ghrelin) becomes more active (Taheri et al., 2004).  “Hence, you can have a hard time differentiating between being hungry or tired.  In either case, cookies and chocolate can be very tempting,” states Nancy Clark, a board certified specialist in sports dietetics.

I often find myself feeling real tired and hungry at the end of a long training day.  I have to remind myself to get into bed, or else I’ll struggle to keep my weight and motivation in check.

4.  Join a Training Camp

Still need a push to reach your athletic objectives?  Many swear by enrolling in a great training camp.  Working alongside an elite coach might sound too extreme for some, but it’s definitely worth the expense if you require extra motivation, discipline, and are dead serious about taking your athletic performance to the next level.

Training camps during the holidays make a perfect active getaway, especially if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere during December, January, and February.  Warmer climates and professional guidance will fire up your fitness resolutions and encourage you to make better decisions.

In January, DBT Training Camp offers high-altitude training in beautiful Golden Gate, South Africa.  The camp takes care of everything for you, enabling you to gain better focus and best of all, you’ll come out of the camp with an insane amount of motivation to kick start the racing season.

5.  Set Mind-Blowing, yet Realistic Goals

Practice patience to achieve your dreams.  Impatience sets you up for disappointment and hopelessness.  Focus on  your progress rather than solely focusing on your sky-high goals.  That way you’ll discover whether or not your regimen is leading you closer or further away from you goals.

Pinpoint your goals on a regular basis, and understand the series of actions that you’re undertaking to achieve those goals.  The whole process of getting there is imperative, but having an awareness of the “bigger picture” assists you in staying motivated and focused during the fight to achieve your personal goals.

Keep a journal depicting your progress and track your athletic metrics every couple of weeks during the holiday season to remain inspired.

Source:  Taheri, S., L. Lin, D. Austin, T. Young, and E. Mignot. 2004. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body max index. PLoS Med 1 (3): E62.

Original article can be found here

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