The holiday season is right around the corner. Starting off with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, it will be filled with family, feasts and for some of us, missed training (we will stay open but for a select couple days). As amazing as the anticipation of the holiday season can seem with its lure of time off from work, from school and from our normal routine, we must be careful that we don't derail the progress we've made by straying too far from our routine we’ve kept all year around and lifestyle we follow throughout the rest of the year. Here are just a few ways that training jiu jitsu can help ensure that your holiday season is the best it possibly can be this year! By applying a few of the aspects of the BJJ lifestyle you follow year round can make the holidays more festive and healthy for you.
There are so many causes of stress during the holiday season. First off, the changing of seasons and the onset of the cooler weather tends to force people to be indoors much more which can lead to periods of relative inactivity compared to the rest of the year. In addition, the shorter days, especially if you're in the part of the world where daylight savings time brings utter darkness by dinner time, the lack of sunshine can be very depressing and can actually lead to conditions like Vitamin D deficiency and seasonal depression.
As wonderful as our families may be, the annual social gatherings filled with people you don't see the rest of the year can be stressful in itself. Holiday classic films like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Christmas Vacation come to life for many of us as we spend extra time planning, traveling and visiting with as many family members as we can during this special time. Even if you enjoy this process, it is still stressful. It is still a change to your normal routine and can impact your health and well being.
How can jiu jitsu help us during these hectic festivities? Science has long shown that physical activity of any kind can help relieve stress by helping to release excess energy and release endorphins. BJJ can also do so much more because of the community that surrounds you at your academy. Chances are you have friends and peers who also train. Being around those folks can help fight off the winter time blues and give you a welcome break from the Aunt Marthas of the world.
With that said, it's important to try to be as consistent in your training as you possibly can. Your instructors and coaches have families and responsibilities too, so there is a good chance that your academy may be closed during some of the holiday season more than usual. Do you best to get in training while the gym is open. Rearrange your schedule if Thursday (Thanksgiving) is a typical day you plan to train and your gym is closed. Some academies also offer Open Mats in lieu of regular classes during this time. This can be a great way to squeeze in an extra hour or so of training, when your gym was supposed to be closed.
So what do you do if your gym is closed or you're traveling for the holiday season? If you're planning to travel, it's always to see if there are other gyms in the area that you might be able to check out. Most BJJ academies are amazingly hospitable and if they're having classes or open mats, will welcome you. But let's say you've tried that and there is no one open in the vicinity where you find yourself. What can you do? Anything you want, do another physical activity of any kind to keep yourself moving. Yoga and BJJ-related body exercises (shrimps, bridges, etc.) are something you can do anytime with limited space. A short weight training circuit can do wonders for your stress level even if you have to utilize the limited options at a hotel fitness center. Twenty minutes is all you need to make sure the rest of your day is festive.
Jiu Jitsu and Holiday Overeating
Coupled with the stress that the holiday season can bring, the prevalence of huge feasts can be a daunting obstacle to your jiu jitsu goals. Whether it's the potluck buffet at work, or the holiday dinner with relatives, the chances of overeating are high this time of year. You just spent 6 hours in the car listening to Christmas Carols on your way to your relatives house. What better way to numb your suffering but through a pile of mashed potatoes and half a pumpkin pie.
Sticking as closely to your jiu jitsu training schedule can help with these holiday binges by helping to burn off some of the calories you may be consuming. It has also been shown that physical activity can sometimes curb one's appetite and help minimize the amount that you eat. If you are lucky enough to be able to train on the morning of Thanksgiving for instance, there can be a truly satisfying feeling having just rolled for an hour or two before sitting down to dinner.
What are some other things you can do to help control yourself and possibly minimize the damage should you veer off course?
DRINK LOTS OF WATER
This is one of the main tips that Tom DeBlass gives out when giving someone any type of nutritional advice. He has stated in the past that he's seen dozens of people lose upwards of 10 lbs of weight making no changes to their nutritional approach except adding one gallon of water intake to their daily plan.
DON'T LET YOURSELF GET HUNGRY
When you're rushing around and dealing with the hectic holiday season, it's easy to skip meals or go long periods without eating. This makes us prime targets for binge eating and will make even the toughest, most disciplined athlete weak in the face of that cookie and dessert table. Plan in advance and have plenty of healthy snacks available. Protein and healthy fats can be some of the best items to snack on. Eggs, nuts, greek yogurt, and low fat cheeses can be quick snacks that will give you a few hundred calories to keep you satiated and possibly save you a few thousand calories of mindless binge eating later.
The Holiday Season and BJJ Community
The holiday season is predicated on the importance of gathering together with your friends and families and enjoying quality time. This goes for your jiu jitsu family as well. Perhaps your school plans holiday get togethers. Do you best to support and get everyone involved in these events. We cannot be successful without our teammates and this time of year can be a great time to acknowledge them.
Jiu Jitsu can be a life changing art that can inform your life year round, especially during the holidays. It will help you stay calm under pressure, burn off some stress and extra calories. By staying consistent you will eliminate the holiday layoff and the challenging return that can sometimes follow. You will also get a jump on those New Years resolutions and be way ahead of the competition!