Let’s be real, it’s December 1st, the Christmas parties are in full swing, there’s probably a few extra beers in the fridge and your struggling to maintain some level of Strength & Fitness. The reality is the Holiday season is not the time be striving for massive Strength and fitness goals and it’s ok just to set some small targets or even just maintain for a few weeks. You can (and should) allow your body a small break (which I will tell you how) however with some smart planning you can get through the season without completely wrecking all the progress you have made throughout the year.
Before we get into the 3 Simple Steps, let’s cover tapering and why you should continue to train and not just use December as a 31 Day rest!
Tapering, for those ex-Athletes reading it is a process of reducing your training over a period for your body to go through a process of realisation and regeneration so you come out of the taper in peak physical condition and ready to race or compete. Taper for too long however and your body will gradually begin to lose condition. Studies have shown positive effects of Low Frequency/High Intensity training versus Low Intensity/Moderate Frequency and complete rest tapers*
What does this mean to you? Keep training over this period with a few tweaks and you can retain your strength and fitness, Let’s get into how! So here are 3 simple steps for planning your Holiday training taper to not lose all your gains from the year just gone!
#1 DECREASE FREQUENCY
Frequency is the total number of workouts in a given period (i.e. four sessions per week) The purpose of tapering is to give your mind and body a rest so therefore we should see a reduction of frequency. If your used to doing 3-5 sessions per week, you really only need to tick off 2 quality strength sessions at the gym per week. This leaves 5 other days to rest & recover, spend time with your friends/family and get out and enjoy yourself. Example – Johnny usually Trains 4 x Per week doing an Upper body/Lower Split. For the 3weeks over Christmas/New Year’s Johnny will train Full body just twice a week.
#2 REDUCE TRAINING VOLUME (jUST A BIT)
Volume is the total amount of work completed in a given session (i.e. 6 exercises x 4 sets = 24sets) During your holiday taper training it is fine to reduce training volume by up to 30%* What this will do is allow you to provide less stress to your muscle fibres, ligaments and tendons and this reduction in volume will actually improve neuromuscular adaptations (you may get stronger by training less) If that’s not a good enough reason to taper off your training smartly then Santa is bringing you a bag of coal for Christmas! Example – Johnny usually smashes out 6 exercises for 4-5 sets every session. Over his 3-week training taper however he will reduce the volume of each session by about 25-30%. So he will do 6 exercises for 3-4 sets.
#3 KEEP INTESITY HIGH
Lastly, ensure to maintain your intensity. Intensity is the actual weight lifted/reps performed on a specific exercise (i.e. 100kg for 3sets 5 reps on bench press) This will be critical in maintaining your performance during the taper training. By keeping your intensity high during the period of reduced frequency and volume you will increase your muscle power and output which may result in some small strength gains. Example – Johnny can do 4 sets of 6 reps on Bench press using 100kg. During his training taper however he will reduce to just 2 sets of 6 reps with 105kg.
Follow these simple training taper steps and combine them with a few extra calories over the Christmas break and you may find that not only does your body freshen up and recover but you may even get better! Most important you don’t start next year back where you where 12months ago.
If you would like further information or guidance for your training over Christmas be sure to contact us at The Fit Lab.
*Shepley B, Macdougall JD, Cipriano N, Sutton JR, Tarnopolsky MA, Coates G. Physiological effects of tapering in highly trained athletes. J Appl Physiol. 1992;72(2):706-11.
*Meeusen R, Duclos M, Foster C, et al. Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013;45(1):186-205