Staying Accountable Over the Holidays
It has been a crazy past couple of months for me, as I just accepted a full-time job as a strength and conditioning coach at Florida A&M University. I am BEYOND grateful for this opportunity and I am around some of the hardest working, coolest athletes in the country. I have dedicated my time to fully investing in these athletes and sport coaches the past couple of months, so I apologize for being away from writing for a bit, but I am happy to be back! I have felt myself grow as a coach, a person, and even an athlete in such a short amount of time at FAMU, and it is amazing.
Things are starting to slow down with this being finals week here in Tallahassee, and all of the teams that I am responsible for at this moment have received their 4 week winter programs to complete over the holiday break until I reunite with them in January. I emphasized the importance of the program with them, as all of them will be starting competition in the spring, but I felt it would be a great reminder for all softball/baseball athletes out there as well to understand how crucial of a time the holiday season can be.
A great winter program is a bridge between a great fall and an breakout spring. You can work hard all you want September - November and February - May, but if you lack in December and January, chances are you will still be playing catch up heading into your first game. I would much rather be ahead of the curve that behind the 8 ball.
For spring sports, particularly baseball and softball, this winter period is is where a lot of athletes can separate themselves from the pack, yet many ignore their training and nutrition due to the holidays and being off a structured routine and schedule. I always struggled when I was in school to keep up with days in my winter program, and not being around your teammates can make it difficult to hold yourself accountable to a decent work ethic. With this in mind, below are some tips to help you stay in shape and continue to get better moving towards January and February.
1. Find a consistent place to train. This is number one for me because I grew up in a small town where there weren't many options available. I was lucky enough that my dad invested in an indoor batting cage and weight room in our garage at home (He was a high school coach and general contractor, it was the best of both worlds for him). Especially if you are a college student, reach out to local gyms or training facility and see if they will offer you a winter pass. Bottom line, prepare early for this and find a place to go that is consistent and will aid in your accountability. Skill development has its place for the winter months, but it is CRITICAL to be resistance training in this period, as a strong winter helps an injury free spring.
2. Do something every day. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. There will always be an excuse not to train, but try your best to do something every day. Even if that is a yoga flow you got off YouTube that you do in your bedroom, a 30 minute walk with your dog, or a quick 30 minute high intensity full-body interval session. Having limited time windows during the holidays can allow your creativity within your training flourish. It's always better to pick physical activity than binge watch Christmas movies.
3. Eat a vegetable with every meal. I know it is the holiday season, and I am not telling you to modify your diet by any means on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, New Years, or any other holiday you are celebrating with your friends and family. What I am talking about is all those meals in between where we are just hanging out, resting, and not doing much during the day. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2-3 cups of vegetables per day. According to the 2018 CDC State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, only 2% of high school students meet that daily requirement. TWO PERCENT. No better time than the holidays to start implementing healthy habits heading toward your spring season.
4. Watch sugar and excess carb consumption. Use desserts as treats, drink plenty of water, and try not to let unhealthy foods take over your diet. By all means go crazy at family functions, but try your best to keep everything in moderation. Even if you are training consistently (which you should be), remember that food is fuel for your body. You wouldn't put regular gas in a Ferrari. The same can be said for you.
5. Stay mindful. This was one of the toughest parts of being away from my team when I was in college. It was difficult for me to stay mentally locked in to the training that I was doing. The holiday season is a great time for goal setting, personal reflection, and developing great habits. One of the best things I have found to stay mentally sharp is to write in a journal daily. It can be a new motivational quote every day, your goals for the season, or things you are grateful for. Try spending at least 5 minutes a day in a quiet, still, place. It's good for the soul and good for your batting average.
Staying consistent with your training in the winter really just boils down to how successful you want to be in the spring. Do you want to play catch up or do you want to be ahead of the curve?