You've been counting down the days to winter break since Thanksgiving, and it's finally here!
For most people, this time of year is filled with a whole lot of nothing. No school, no work, no sports, no NOTHING!
But as a high level gymnast, that's never the case...
With competition season right around the corner, you want to stay on your A-game.
You might think that means:
Skipping holiday parties because your nervous about being around more food
Avoiding holiday sweets and treats
Waking up extra early to get an extra workout in (gotta burn off those Christmas cookies)
But, the reality is, doing this will only leave you feeling guilty, stressed, and drained (instead of refreshed).
Instead of stressing, here are 5 simple ways you can really make the most out of this time and head into the new year (and competition season) feeling your best!
5 Ways To Make The Most Out Of Your Winter Break
With competition season right around the corner, I know you're worried about all of these holiday treats and large, festive meals. Realize that your body is smart. It knows what to do with these foods, just as it knows what to do with your "normal" foods. A few meals or days of eating differently will not have a major impact on being competition ready in a few weeks. All food is fuel and can play a role in energy and recovery.
It's important to remember that nutrition (like gymnastics) is all about balance. Nutrition is not "black" or "white", "healthy" or "unhealthy", "vegetables" or "cookies". Swap the word or for and in your vocabulary and find the middle ground that makes you feel most comfortable. You can eat salad and Christmas cookies. Roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.
So, relax a bit! Enjoy a Christmas cookie (or two) if you want them! With the busiest time of your year just ahead of you, try and make the most of this slower time with your family and friends. Instead of stressing about food, be present. Years from now, you'll want to remember the memories with others and not what you did or didn't eat on one specific day.
Get Enough Sleep
Without school and homework taking up so much time, winter break is the perfect time to catch up on sleep and make it a priority! Sleep is SO IMPORTANT for your recovery, since it is the time when your body is able to prioritize building strength and healing! You should aim to get enough sleep each night:
6-12 year olds: 9-12 hours per night
13-18 years old: 8-10 hours per night
18+ years old: 8+ hours per night
Inadequate sleep will not only make you feel tired and sluggish, but it can also lead to increased injury risk and/or increased recovery time from an injury since you're not giving your body enough time to recover. Actually, studies show that:
Teen athletes who get less than 8hrs/night have 1.7x greater risk of getting injured compared to athletes who sleep >8hrs a night.
Athletes who get 8+hrs of sleep AND eat 5+ servings of fruits and veggies per day are 64% less likely to get injured.
Prioritize sleep by going to bed early enough! If you have trouble falling asleep, building a bedtime routine can help. This may include things like:
Using blue light blocking glasses for screen time
Setting a tech curfew 60-90 minutes before bed
Taking a hot bath or shower
Writing daily gratitudes
Preparing for the next day (pulling out snacks, setting out clothes, making to-do lists, etc.)
And, practicing your bedtime routine now (when you're less busy) will make it easier to transfer when your schedule gets busy again.
Eat On A Schedule
Whether you're practicing during break or not, you still need to keep up with your fueling needs. But without the structure of school, it's easy to fall into irregular eating patterns, meaning it's likely that you'll miss a meal or snack and come up short or feel your body's hunger signals later in the day.
Even on a day without gym, still try eating every ~3 hours. Your day may look something like this:
Breakfast (this is the perfect no-pressure time to practice eating breakfast to make it easier on meet day)
And if you do have practice, make sure you are fueling before, during, and after!
Practice Self Care
Having a little break means you have time to do things you wouldn't normally do. Take a little time to check in with yourself and see what you need. Instead of spending all that extra time scrolling social media or watching Netflix, put that time to good use:
Schedule that doctor's appointment or therapy session you've been putting off (ask for bloodwork to test things like Vitamin D and Iron levels)
Get that extra massage or pedicure
Read a book (that has nothing to do with school)
Stretch or do yoga
Spend time with family or friends
Take a long, hot bath
Go into the new year feeling 100%, both physically and emotionally!
Plan For Season
Once school starts up again, it's back to the crazy schedule of being a competitive gymnast. Use this time off to set yourself up for a success in the coming months:
Fill out your planner or calendar with competitions, school deadlines, and other important events
Come up with your daily routine, including schedule of meals and snacks
Make a plan for easy weekly grocery shopping and stock up on non-perishable items
Be prepared to fuel on-the-go and make sure you have access to what you need! The after-Christmas-sales are the perfect time to get a new lunchbox, food storage containers, a thermos, or hot holding carriers.
Batch cook and freeze some easy meals and snacks (some of my favorites are breakfast burritos, chili, meatloaf, baked ziti, and chicken tortilla soup)
If fueling your body right is a priority for you heading into the new year, The Fueled Gymnast Academy kicks off on January 10th, 2022 (for gymnasts 13+)! This is the simplest way to as a gymnast to learn how to fuel your body to stay healthy and perform your best THIS SEASON!
Fueling your body doesn't have to be a guessing game. And you don't have to figure it out on your own.