The holidays!

They really are some of the best times of the year…unless you are a Scrooge! 

I mean, how can you not be happy when there is a 25 pound turkey or ham, two and half barrels of mashed potatoes and a double decker carrot cake to be consumed??

Or how about when Uncle Frank “The Tank” tries to relive the glory days and funnel a 12 pack…oh, not your family?

Well, even if the holidays are amazing, when it comes to your health, fitness and performance, they can be tough.

I’m not here to tell you to focus on protein during your meals, stay away from the extra helping of stuffing, or swap a glass of water for eggnog (loaded or unloaded depending on your age of course). All of these are great tips, but are well known. 

Instead, I wanted to help play a little hazard relief after the day that inevitably goes a little off track…I mean honestly, I do this for a living and still had way more calories than I needed and sat on my ass more in a 24 hour period of time than I typically do in a month. 

So instead of continuing to allow the holidays to snowball (pun very much intended), I’m going to show you what you should do (and need to do) the day after a big holiday to stop the bleeding. 

Fast until at least noon the next day, and train before you eat.

Fasting has been, and will continue to be one of the most talked about nutritional strategies in the health and performance game. 

Fasting pretty much forces you to consume less calories as it shortens the period of time that you can consume food (as long as you are consuming quality calories). It also has positive impacts on insulin sensitivity and other hormonal profiles that are conducive for getting and staying lean. 

The caveat however, as a recent article by Christian Thibaudeau on T-Nation explained; the fasting hours when you are awake are much more “valuable” than when you are sleeping. Add a training session in there and you rev up the benefit even more. 

Personally I’m not crazy about doing a high intensity resistance training session when fasted, but I’m ok with conditioning…keep reading for more on this. 

The point is, try to hold off for a bit before consuming more calories after a day with an overload of calories.

 

Open up your hip flexors and t-spine, and get your glutes and upper back on. 

For the holidays, many of us will travel by car or plane. In either case, we will be sitting for extended periods of time…this past Thanksgiving we were on the road for 10 hours in a 24 hour period!

Then we sit for the feast, and if you are a family that enjoys football, holiday movies or playing games, you will likely be sitting for most of the day. 

With that, your hip flexors become stiff, t-spine closes down (rounds forward), glutes turn off and upper back musculature become lengthened and weakened. So what to do? The exact opposite. 

 

(barbellphysio.com)

The first thing to do is work some soft tissue of the hip flexors and quads, and attacking the chest would be good as well. Then it is time to lengthen the hip flexors (hip flexor stretch) and work through some t-spine extension (extensions over the foam roller). 

Activating the glutes (glute bridge) and turning on the upper back (band pull aparts) is next to help solidify the range of motion you opened up. 

Here is a post I put up on the gram explaining this process, as well as the following steps. It is the 3rd slide that I am referencing here. 

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😊 The holidays are amazing, especially when you get to eat delicious food and sit around with your little man while watching some football. 🙁The only problem is, with all of the excess calorie and more sitting in 24 hours than you usually do in a month, the body can fight back a bit. To combat this you can decrease you overall caloric intake the day following, and address… • 1️⃣ Soft tissue work is the quads, hips and chest 2️⃣ Mobilize the hip flexors and t spine 3️⃣ Activate your glutes and upper back 4️⃣ Go through large ranges of motion that open you up in your warm up 5️⃣ Attack some full body conditioning (sleds and ropes are great for this) • 👏🏻 Do this the day after a bit holiday and you will be right back on track for optimal health and performance. • #holidays #holidayseason #mobility #warmup #conditioning #cardio #fitness #health #performance #athlete #athletes #theathleticway

A post shared by Kyle Arsenault (@kylearsenault1) on

Get a solid warm up in with movements that go through full ranges of motion. 

After opening up the hip flexors and t-spine, and turning on the glutes and upper back, it is time to go through some “catch all” movement prep. 

My favorite movements for this are the spiderman with t-spine and hamstring, as well as the squat to stand with overhead reach. 

Both of these movements allow the hips to go through a full range of motion, as well as getting the t-spine to extend and rotate. Both of these are crucial after a long day of sitting. 

This is demonstrated in the 4th slide of the post above.  

 

Get your heart rate up with full body conditioning. 

For your training session, I prefer to attack a full body conditioning session. Not that a true resistance training session is bad, but if you’ve been fasting (like you should), you likely won’t be able to put in the effort necessary to stimulate a true adaptation as you will fatigue a bit quicker. 

For this reason, getting after a lighter resistance conditioning session that elevates the heart rate as well as attacks all of the major muscle groups is best. 

This could be a body weight circuit, or my favorite, some sled pushes/pulls and battle ropes.

The sled push and battle ropes will fulfill the full body attack as the sled push challenges mainly the lower body and the battle ropes challenge mainly the upper body. I say mainly because both of these will challenge the core to a great extent, as well as upper body and lower body respectively to a lesser extent. 

So if you want a quick and efficient full body conditioning session, try pairing together the sled and battle ropes…and you can do different variations of each if the standard push (sled) and waves (ropes) won’t do it for you in a given day. 

This is shown in slide 5 of the post…and if you have a furry friend that can add an additional challenge go for it!  

 

Get the extra crap out of the house. 

While this one is simple and nothing new, I can’t reiterate it enough!

If you have plates of cookies on the counter, tupperware of sweet potato casserole in the fridge, and/or stuffing with mashed potatoes layered in bowls just waiting to be broken in to, it is going to be that much harder to get back to your “clean” routine.  

Even if you have incredible will power, the double chocolate chip cookies staring you right in the face every time you go to get a glass of water, will likely make you trade that glass of water in for some milk and crush a few cookies…so get rid of them! 

 

(bettycrocker.com)

If you don’t want to throw them out, try pawning them off on some of your neighbors, co-workers, etc. as a gift :)…just give them each a few at a time. 

 

Plan your meals for the next couple of days. 

Again, here is another point that is talked about a TON, and for good reason!

If you plan out your meals and snag the groceries necessary to construct them, you will be able to put together some solid meals instead of relying on some quick grab and go options…like leftovers!

So the day after a holiday, make it a point to get up and go to the grocery store immediately. Not only will this take some of your fasting time and keep your mind busy, but it will guarantee that you will be able to get back on the nutritional wagon right away. 

Fill your cart with lean proteins and veggies and throw together some delicious meals conducive to achieving your health and performance goals…and torching a little body fat! 

 

SLEEP!

This is the last point, but may be the most important!

Holidays usually end up being early mornings and late nights. Because of this we tend to be lacking in the sleep department. 

When we are a little (or a lot) sleep deprived our cognitive abilities are negatively impacted (rationale), and our energy/will power are compromised. 

This is not a good combination if you are trying to mitigate the damage from the holidays. 

So make it a priority to get at least 8 hours of sleep for the days following the holidays. You will be able to recover better, as well as replenish energy stores in order to make better decisions and get after it with your training. 

 

The Wrap Up  

The actions you take during the holidays will definitely impact your health and performance outcomes. But it is the actions you take during the days following the holidays that will make or break your progress and results. 

One day will never completely destroy your efforts (so enjoy the holidays), but if you let that one day transpire into 2, 3 or more days, you will be sliding down a slippery slope to “sonuvabitchville”. 

Put the above steps into action immediately following the holidays and you will be right back on track to your optimal body. 

If you need more specific help don’t hesitate to reach out…kyle@theathelticway.com!