As many of us have completed our goal races for the year or are in the final stretch before that big event, we start to look towards the off-season. Now whether your goal race was a half-marathon, marathon, or an Ironman, chances are you went through months of hard training and sacrifices to make your goal a reality. At this point you probably feel mentally and physically drained and need some much deserved time off. Guess what? You are right...you deserve it. This is a great time of the year to take some time off. The weather starts to get cold, plenty of holiday feasts and parties to enjoy, probably much needed vacation time from work..etc.
The big question is...Can we enjoy the off-season and re-charge our batteries without gaining weight? The answer is NO. Now you may have read a hundred articles about this subject and you may have got a candy coated answer about how you can avoid gaining weight. I am telling you it is impossible and you will gain weight. The real question is will you gain 5-10 lbs or will you go crazy and gain a ridiculous amount of weight.
If your big race is over and training for your event is done then guess what? You have started the war against weight gain. Make no mistake...you are in a war. Denying it will not keep the pounds off. I look at the battleground as the day my final race ends in the fall until after the New Year. Usually this is 2-3 months of time. My goal is to enjoy every party, holiday feast, and family gathering and weigh no more than 10 pounds heavier than I was before my end of season event. Ten pounds is manageable. What you don't want is to step on the scale and see 20-25 pounds or more on January 2nd...then you are looking at a major struggle to begin next season.
10 simple ways to avoid gaining crazy amounts of weight during the Holidays
1) Slow down your training....but don't stop! The off-season is a time to scale back...not completely shut it down. If you were running 5-6 days a week cut it down to 3-4 days a week. I try to run at least 4 days a week and I run 4-6 miles every time. I don't care about pace and I don't care about distance. I have set a mental minimum of 4 miles. If I want to run more I do. If I don't, then I run the minimum of 4 miles. Simple.
2) Try something new...some people like playing hockey, hiking, hunting, skiing, etc. If you have a sport you couldn't fit into your life due to your training, now is the time to enjoy it. Keep in mind hiking one day on the weekend does not replace a week's worth of maintenance runs.
3) Everyone has holiday parties to attend. If you are the host, here is a simple tip. As people leave give them something to take home. Get rid of the leftover cakes, pies, candy, rolls, etc. Anything left behind will be eaten by you...no question. Do not let people leave empty handed.
4) This goes against #3. If you are not the host, then do not accept anything to take home. Anything you take home usually does not last the car ride home or is eaten in the middle of the night. Politely refuse to take any food home with you. Instant savings to the waist line.
5) If asked to bring something to a party offer to bring a healthier dessert such as a fruit salad or some other low calorie dessert. Just about everyone is battling weight gain and although they won't ask you to bring something healthier they probably won't object if you offer.
6) If you know you are going to chow down at a big meal (such as Thanksgiving) then try to take it easy on the desserts. Maybe just a small piece of pie (just to be social). Limit the damage by choosing to overindulge on the meal or the dessert. Not both. The flip side is if you are at a work holiday party or another small gathering you could choose to eat a lite lunch and then have a big piece of pie. This is basic math folks...everything has calories and they all add up.
7) If you know you are having a huge meal, pie, snacks, etc. at a series of upcoming parties then limit the damage to just those days. It is nice to not have to think about calories or dieting and just be able to eat anything you want at Christmas Dinner. That is fine. Just don't turn every day into Christmas Dinner. Once the dinner is over, it is time to go back to normal eating habits. Don't allow any carryover into "normal" days after the parties are over.
8) Enjoy the parties and dinners but know when to say when. There is absolutely no excuse to have the second, third, or fourth piece of pie. It is OK to let yourself go a little bit, but don't commit dietary suicide. No one enjoys the third piece of pie anyway. Let's be honest. How do you feel later that night?
9) Don't forget that beverages also have calories. Try not to grab the big glass of eggnog with that piece of pie. Again it is all about the math and adding up the calories...one or the other...not both.
10) The Holiday season is the time that chocolates, candies, and baked goods start to show up at work. You must avoid workplace "grazing" at all costs. This is where you could really start to lose the war. You can overcome several parties spread out over a month or two but you will not win the war if you start eating 200-500 additional calories a day from candy jars at work. I know how it starts...you grab a piece of chocolate out of a dish at work and next thing you know you are having one every time you walk by. Then you are finding reasons to walk by the dish so you can have another one.....and then before you know it...
The bottom line is the off-season is a time to relax and re-charge your batteries both mentally and physically. It is also an opportunity to enjoy the Holiday season and spend time with family and friends without strict dietary restrictions or workout plans. The reality is you will go back to training and when you do it will be a lot easier if you have only gained a few pounds. Good luck.