5 Ways Athletes Can Maintain Motivation During the Holidays
Author: Dr. Kristin Keim
You have finally nailed your training routine and then all of a sudden it is November and the holiday season is nibbling at your achilles. This time of year can be busy for all us, but it can also create some unique challenges for athletes who are back to training and/or currently competing. Over the years, I have found that many of my athletes tend to find it hard to balance training and even racing while also wanting to indulge in all the perks of the holidays (e.g., delicious meals, family obligations, parties, traveling, and other outdoor activities). Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the tips that have helped my athletes maintain focus, motivation, and balance from November through New Year’s. Follow these steps to stay on track throughout the holiday season and avoid backtracking with your training and racing.
1. Plan Your Training in Advance:
Planning your training in advance is always important, especially at this time of year. If you are working with a coach it is helpful to figure out a realistic training plan and objectives that work with your holiday plans and obligations. Schedule out weeks of training surrounding travel plans and family activities. If you know you will not be able to train for a few days, plan on using those days as active recovery and focus on doing a block of training after the holidays. Many of my athletes will plan a training block somewhere warm after the holidays; this allows them to stay motivated throughout the holidays and colder months.
How Olympian and Professional Cyclist Megan Guarnier manages the holidays: “The best way to manage and stay motivated during the holiday season is to plan for a disruption in my training. I have found that working closely with my coach to set days aside when I know my ability to train will be limited is the best measure. This requires me to be fully committed on training days, which allows me the time and space I need on the 'off-days' to enjoy being with my family and loved ones.”
2. Control the Controllables:
Set aside time to keep a daily schedule where you can manage your training and energy. During the holidays many of us often feel scattered and maybe even a bit stressed so it is important to focus on what you can control and learn to let go of what you cannot. I often say that we all need to have structure in life, but sometimes it needs to be seen as fluid structure. This is a time when it is best to work with life and as Megan shared, to plan and prepare for disruptions with your training, racing, and schedule. Focus on limiting stressors by taking it one day at a time.
3. Embrace the Moment:
Refill your energy tank with meditation. The holiday season usually asks for even greater demands on your time and energy, so meditation can help you focus on being in the present. Your breath is one of the most potent ways to nourish yourself. The oxygen you breathe travels to every cell in your body and the more oxygen we have in our system, the more energy we produce. Remember, meditation is about focusing on one thing and staying there, staying focused in the moment. Wherever you are, you can transform it into a place to meditate. You do not need to have the perfect surroundings. Just focus on your breath or your mantra. When your mind’s distracted by external noises, simply return to your breath. After all, even if you are in a very quiet place, your mind can be just as loud as if you were in a loud room. Do not fight your surroundings. Instead, acknowledge them and return to your breath. Concentrate on breathing in, breathing out, slowly and deeply. With consistent practice, you will find that no matter where you are, no matter what circumstances are occurring in your life, you can still meditate each and every day. Remember you can meditate anywhere, anytime. Many of my athletes also find using the app Headspace helpful, perhaps you can get the entire family to do some meditating too! As result of taking time to meditate even during the holiday rush, you may find yourself feeling more grounded and less stressed.
4. Indulge in Life:
Allow yourself the time and space to enjoy this time of year. There is no sense in depriving yourself from enjoying your grandmother’s famous pumpkin pie or your favorite holiday foods and outdoor activities. Pick the one’s you want to indulge in, but as always — everything in moderation. I like to call this “being human” as athletes it is easy to live life too structured, almost like robots. Give yourself permission to be human and embrace the holiday season with family and friends. Remember, a few days of fun can refill your motivation tank and set you up for quality training and racing in the future.
5. Hit the Reset Button:
As previously mentioned, this is an ideal time to allow yourself a physical and mental break. Once you have your dialed training or race plan set up then you can look at the holiday season with a more restorative lens. We are what we think. With the right lens and outlook you can turn the holiday’s into a time and space where you refill your energy tank, connect with family/friends, refocus your objectives for training/racing, and enjoy what life has to offer... like an extra slice of that pumpkin pie (after trainer intervals of course).
About Dr. Kristin Keim
Kristin E. Keim, M.A., Psy.D., CC-AASP (#560)
Dr. Keim completed her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology with a focus in Health Psychology, Neuropsychology, and Clinical Sport/Performance Psychology, as well as her M.A. in Sport Psychology. She is a Certified Consultant in the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and Member of the US Olympic Committee Sport Psychology and Mental Training Registry. Dr. Keim is the owner of Keim Performance Consulting, LLC and has experience working with athletes of all ages, levels, and abilities. Her research focuses are on mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs) in athletes, mindfulness, depression in athletes, athlete identity, and the transition (retirement) out of sport. This past summer she attended the 2016 Rio Olympics where she worked with Olympians in both cycling and triathlon events. In her spare time she enjoys riding, running, yoga, and exploring new cities and countries.
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More from Dr. Kristin Keim on the Skratch Blog: 6 Mental Strategies to Prevent & Cope with Hitting the Wall