How to Win the Holidays

Holiday break. What a blessed (stressful, frantic, busy) time of year. When you’re surrounded by mountains of homemade gingerbread cookies and older relatives asking you about “your future plans,” it can be difficult to stick to your sport performance training schedule. Luckily, there are many creative ways to turn holiday activities into training opportunities. Here are 5 ways you can hone your skills and win this holiday season.

1. Trim the Tree

Chopping down a large evergreen and dragging it into your home for decorative purposes requires considerable upper-body strength and power. Once you have secured the dead tree in its little tree holder thing, now it is time to “trim” (decorate) it. 

"And I know when those sleigh bells ring / That can only mean one thing"

"And I know when those sleigh bells ring / That can only mean one thing"

Fine motor dexterity Threading tiny hooks onto fragile ornaments
Problem-solving Untangling 14 strands of old Christmas lights
Patience Sorting through 5 million ornaments, most of which you made out of dog biscuits and/or cotton balls in kindergarten
Pupil control Not rolling your eyes when your mom raves about your gross dog biscuit ornament

2. Bake/Decorate Christmas Cookies

Mental agility is just as important as physical agility. Honing your ability to analyze situations and mitigate potential problems will translate nicely to on-field sport performance. Bonus: Christmas cookies are an excellent source of PURE SUGAR, useful for carb-loading before a big game (or a big nap).

Long-term memory Remembering where your mom keeps the baking sheets, flour, sugar, baking soda, mixer, cookie cutters, parchment paper, etc.
Visual acuity Reading and interpreting your grandmother’s cursive recipes
Self-discipline Not eating all the dough before you bake the cookies
Self-discipline: Tier 2 Not eating all the cookies after you've baked them
Patience endurance (repetitive tasks) Going to the store to get the butter you forgot, then going back to the store to get the eggs you forgot, then going back to the store to get the walnuts you forgot...

3. Watch Christmas Movies/Shows

"It's in the singing of a street corner choir / It's going home and getting warm by the fire / It's true wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas"

"It's in the singing of a street corner choir / It's going home and getting warm by the fire / It's true wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas"

Rest and recovery is an essential component of a proper training program. Christmas movie marathons are a great opportunity to engage in some light stretching, foam rolling, or slugging on the couch with the family. Toss a scoop of chocolate protein powder into your hot cocoa and baby you’ve got a delicious recovery beverage for fueling tired muscles.

Supine endurance Lying still on the couch during Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and Home Alone: 3 (the one without Macaulay Culkin and no, it's not as good) requires hours of relaxation
Quote accuracy Can you remember (and accurately quote) every line from A Christmas Story, every joke from Elf, and every song from A Muppet Christmas Carol?
Unilateral upper-body pull endurance Lifting your mug of hot cocoa off the coffee table and up to your mouth repeatedly over several hours can be tiring

4. Outdoor Snow Activities

"You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"

"You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"

Posterior chain health is a hallmark of successful athletes. Pulling a sled fires the glutes and hammies, especially when pulling it through the added resistance of snow. Sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, and other wintry activities also require a great degree of core strength and stability to maintain spinal integrity during repetitive movements. For athletes whose sport takes place outdoors, sledding will also help the body acclimate to training in inclement weather. Just remember to bundle up!

Balance Putting on layers of heavy clothing, zipping and fastening each layer, stuffing feet into snow boots one at a time without falling over in the laundry room
Hand-eye coordination/throwing accuracy Dominating your little brothers in a snowball fight
Shoulder range of motion Using proper scapulohumeral rhythm to make the best snow angels
Steering ability Avoiding trees, rocks, bumps, holes, animals, and siblings while sledding down hills at high speed

5. Shop for Gifts

While giving gifts is a time-honored holiday tradition, negotiating the mall at this time of year can be physically and psychologically dangerous. Keep your wits about you: just like in sports, Christmas shopping puts you up against opponents striving toward the same goal, and contact is possible.

Shopping can be a true test of your endurance and flexibility.

Shopping can be a true test of your endurance and flexibility.

Curse word restraint Finding a parking spot along with every single bad driver in the tri-state area
Hip mobility Doing the splits up escalators
Mathematical analytics Calculating holiday sales to select the most economical gifts (35% off purchases totaling over $50 before 11:30am on a Tuesday...what?)
Sportsmanship Not getting into a physical altercation when the guy in front of you grabs the last Xbox One
Bilateral upper-body isometric endurance Holding all your shopping bags (plus your purse and jacket and latte) while waiting in the longest line ever
Thermoregulation Acclimating the body from freezing temperatures outdoors to stiflingly hot temperatures indoors without sweating through your winter layers

You can find sport performance goals anywhere, if you look hard enough! Practice these skills over your holiday break to show Christmas who's boss and start 2016 off on all the right feet.

Merry Christmas (you filthy animals!) and happy training, from all of us here at Volt!

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Christye Estes, CSCS, ACSM-CPT, is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. She is a CSCS-certified strength coach, a certified personal trainer through the ACSM, and a Sports Performance Specialist at Volt.
Learn more about Christye and read her other posts | @CoachChristye