November 27, 2015In TrainingBy Sean Lerwill10 Minutes

“Silly Season” is upon us. Black Friday today and the 1st December on Tuesday. If you haven’t already, then I’m sure the local Christmas market or festive pub will lure you in for a Mulled Wine or Cider. Next up is the run of Christmas parties, the night out to enjoy the atmosphere and of course the catch ups with friends returning home from working and living abroad. Let’s not even get started on the boxes of biscuits, chocolates  and whatever else arrives in the office over the next four weeks. Training up to Christmas can be a challenge or a source of stressful decisions. But it doesn’t have to be!

The question is then, with the added social calendar events in the evenings and added Calories in office snacks and evenings out; how on earth do you stay on track for your fitness goals at this time of year? In my opinion it’s not actually that complicated. The first question you have to ask yourself is “do I really want this?” The old saying “if something is important to you, you’ll find time. If it’s not; you won’t” fits perfectly here.

Therefore, I see it relatively simply. Either keeping fit and on track matters to you in this period or it’s not so important. If it’s not so important, that’s fine. Just be honest with yourself. Fit training in as and when you can around nights out and social events, but don’t stress about it. If you want to enjoy life and enjoy the festive period then fitness and healthy eating takes a back seat ready to be thrust forward in January. Don’t stress about that decision, but at least contemplate it, accept it and move on. Life’s less stressful that way. We can all do with making life less complicated.

If keeping on track is important to you during this period, all it takes is a little planning week to week. Most of the time, you know if there’s a social event in the evenings or at the weekends. Therefore you can plan around it. If you normally train in the morning or at lunch time, there’s no difference; you train as normal then head out for the events later in the day. If it’s a late one and you don’t think getting up early to train the next morning is a good idea, then don’t. Plan to do it at lunch time or later in the day. At least you aren’t completely off track.

If you normally train in the evenings and you have social events in the diary, plan around it. Get up early that day and head to the gym first thing. You’ll be surprised how energetic and self-righteous you’ll feel in the office all day post a morning session. You can take anything on that day! Lunch time is of course an option too. Just plan a session at a different time and make it happen. Again, “if it’s important to you you’ll find a way. If it’s not. You won’t.” Your choice.

The tricky ones at this time of the year are the office gifts and the like that get brought in; cakes, biscuits, treats etc and the last minute social events. How you deal with these is your choice, but again, planning is best. That way you have an SOP (Marine-ism for Standard Operating Procedure). SOPs allow you to make quick decisions; they also mean that after explaining yourself (not that you have to, but if you want to) to colleagues a couple of times (and taking some flack) they’ll then leave you alone. Probably commenting later in the festive period how impressed they are and they wish they had such strong will.

So set your SOP. An example might be, you don’t eat ANY treats in the office. You take one with and have after the gym session in the evening. If you don’t train, it doesn’t get eaten. Or it might be that you can have ONE office treat at 3pm with your mid afternoon snack. Maybe you drop the kcals of your afternoon snack for the added kcals on the festive treat; your call. But have an SOP and – here’s the crux – STICK TO IT! Don’t be bullied. Don’t be attracted to creamy, chocolately goodness. You’ve had it before, you’ll have it again. Big deal. Don’t be greedy. Stick to your SOP and you’ll be very proud of yourself come the actual week of Christmas.

Last minute social events are always a tricky one. Especially for those of us that are single, new to a job or wanting to socialise with the work crowd a little more for whatever reason (promotion, acceptance etc). It becomes a challenge then to turn the group down when there’s a last minute call for a “run ashore” (Marine-ism for a night out) on a random night. Again, have an SOP. Either you can do 1 or maybe 2 of these a week MAXIMUM. So if someone calls on a Monday, that would be one of yours taken, you may regret it later in the week. Personally, that wouldn’t be my choice of SOP. The way I tend to work is to agree but say you can’t make it until a little later. Leave work and head to the gym (as planned), smash a HARD session, lots of intensity, but a little quicker than your normal/planned session. Shower, change and out to meet them (after post-workout shake or food obviously).

That way, you get your training in. You may well miss their choice of cheap takeout (or likely skipped meal) and you won’t be matching people drink for drink. You’ll also have that post-workout glow and will have changed clothes and showered (which the others may not have). If you are single and this prompts the going out after work with certain individuals, this is all the better. Again, it’s choosing an SOP that works for you and having some planning alongside it. My advice is to leave a set or two of nice clothes at work. You can wear the same coat, so a shirt, jeans and shoes for guys and a couple of dresses and shoes for girls. Take them to the gym, quick session (as planned), shower and head out; if the group is at a restaurant, great, eat there. If not, eat sensibly on the way, then join for a drink or two (not 10!). It is silly season after all.

If you currently use MyFitnessPal or another Calorie counter, then carry on using it over the period to help you stay (roughly) on track. The reality is that a few drinks and festive treats will see you going over your needs. Don’t cut down other macros to allow for alcohol. Yes, overall Calorie intake is of utmost importance, but eating 5% protein in a day to allow for a couple of bottles of mulled wine won’t help your health and fitness goals at all. Everything in moderation, remember. Enjoy a few glasses and then make some sensible choices to balance things out.

Silly Season is there to be enjoyed. It’s a lovely time of year which can really show the fun, enjoyable side of human nature. Just ask yourself what you want from it this year. If fitness is going to take a back seat, great, enjoy yourself. If fitness is still up there in terms of priorities, then set some SOPs and make sure you stick to them to allow for fun and festivities with fitness still winning overall.