Ah, sleeping and Caramel wafers, what's not to love?
But as the holiday season sweeps in with its glittering lights and festive cheer, it brings mixed feelings about exercise. For some, the idea of engaging in physical activities during the chilly days of December sounds exhilarating, but for others, this time seems like one to hibernate! So how much should you train during this period?
Let's have a look at some key considerations and tips to manage training, recovery, and wellbeing during the festive season, and beyond, particularly focusing on women going through the menopause transition.
Finding Your Balance
Finally away from your desk? Embrace the outdoors!
If the holiday period lightens your work schedule usually spent inside or under florescent lighting, you might want to consider using this time to venture outdoors more frequently. While your family savours festive treats, a morning workout can set a positive tone for the day ahead. Early mornings on Christmas or New Year's Day can offer a calm atmosphere for a refreshing run or a leisurely bike ride whilst the streets are quiet.
Need a Break? Embrace Rest!
Sometimes, a brief hiatus from the usual training routine can be immensely beneficial. Taking a break during this period can serve as a mental rejuvenation, especially if your race season is far off. Traveling to visit family? Leave the workout gear behind and relish the freedom from training obligations.
What does your coach think?
Communication is key—especially with your coach. This is an opportune time to reconnect and discuss your recent training experiences. Be candid about your holiday schedule and family commitments. Opting for the right choice during this time can recharge your training or rest, setting the tone for a powerful start in January.
Navigating Menopause and Recovery
The menopause transition brings hormonal shifts that impact recovery. Understanding how to support your body during this phase is crucial. There are some key protocols here that you should remind yourself of no matter how active you plan to be. Set yourself up for success in the new year!
Warm Up & Cool Down
Prioritise a proper warm-up and cool-down during all workouts. For menopausal women in particular, these routines assist in optimising blood flow, minimising stress on the body, and aiding in recovery while reducing the risk of injury. Never skip them!
Adequate protein intake aids in muscle repair and maintenance, especially important as we move through menopause and lean muscle mass starts to decline. Consuming 25-30 grams of protein several times a day, especially post-workout, can prevent muscle breakdown. Balancing this with sufficient carbohydrates fuels workouts and diminishes cortisol responses to exercise. Again, no matter how active you are during the festive break, getting into good habits in terms of your macronutrients is a good protocol. So enjoy those protein rich foods like turkey!
Mobility and Massage
Incorporate mobility exercises and self-massage techniques like foam rolling throughout your year. These practices prevent tightness, enhance flexibility, and facilitate recovery by flushing out waste products and improving blood flow to muscles. Get ahead of the new year rush by booking in a well-earned massage with your favourite therapist in January – your body and mind will thank you for it in these dark, gloomy months.
Cold Water Therapy
What can I say? You don’t need to be an aficionado of cold-water swimming like me to get the benefits of this. Cold showers and short cold baths have also been shown to have benefits not only in terms of muscle recovery but also for mental resilience. More to follow on this one in my next blog!
Respect Recovery Days
Allow your body proper rest by integrating easy training and recovery days into your routine. Adjust training blocks to ensure a balance between intense workouts and recovery periods. For women going through perimenopause and menopause, a training cycle of two weeks build and one week recovery (lower volume and/or intensity) has been shown to be much more effective in terms of good recovery and adaptations than the traditional three week build and one week recovery.
Monitoring Your Recovery
Utilise technology or listen to your body cues to gauge recovery. Devices measuring heart rate variability and resting heart rate can provide valuable insights. Get used to using these (I can recommend HRV4 Training) to understand what your normal levels are. Additionally, keep a track of your own rate of perceived exertion in everyday tasks. If you start to notice that you are more out of breath than normal running for the bus or climbing stairs for example, it can also indicate recovery levels are not optimal.
Embrace a Balanced Approach
Remember, a harmonious balance between training and recovery during the holidays can set the stage for a revitalised approach to fitness in the coming year. As the new year beckons, aim to embark on your fitness journey from a position of strength and rejuvenation. The festive period offers a chance to adapt your training regimen to suit your needs and circumstances. Recognising the importance of recovery, especially during menopause, empowers women to optimise their fitness whilst prioritising wellbeing.
Merry Christmas to you all, and here is to a strong and healthy 2024!
Denise Yeats is a coach, personal trainer, endurance athlete and avid adventurer. She is passionate about supporting women to achieve their goals, working with, not against their changing physiology.