Christmas Health Tips

Matthew Powell

by Matthew Powell

A Body Aware Specialist

A few years ago I reconciled that with regard to training, fitness and thus health, Christmas was akin to injury. It was a period of time where my fitness dropped off, my strength reduced, and my general sense of well-being abdicated for its own sojourn, perhaps sent somewhere warm and wholesome by Health and Fitness Travel.

Being the type of guy who strives to obtain cake and ingest it (whilst no one is looking to judge me of course), I needed to come up with a plan to make me feel like I hadn’t written off December completely. Something that would sate my need to show face in the gym; something so silence the judge and jury inside, condemning me to 3 months hard labour in the new year trying to get back to November’s shape. And the simile to injury was born.

Injury is the bane of any athlete’s, recreational exercisers, or sportsperson’s life. Alas it is also an inevitable result, to some extent, of our plight to be active. The beauty of fitness is that there are many facets of it, many areas of the body to train, and a myriad of training systems with which to do this. So trying to stay positive is a must. An injured hamstring might mean 3-4 weeks of comparative inactivity, but it doesn’t mean that my flexibility, my upper body strength, my core stability, or my postural realignment can’t all be improved upon whilst it is healing.

And it’s the same during Christmas. Already some of you will have been to your first mediocre, mass produced turkey lunch and will be gearing up for 3-8 similar offerings in the coming weeks. All are, of course, washed down with cheap plonk before alighting to a local watering hole where the drinking, and bad dancing, can begin in earnest. Come 7am the next morning, where we drag our sorry butts out of bed to ready for work, exercise is an old friend from school – not forgotten exactly but you never miss the person these days. 

So, before you become too entrenched in the silly season consider the options. Firstly, there’s abstinence. This is a season to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ, a time for family, a time for reflection, and a time to look ahead and forge plans in the sand. 

Then there’s the abandonment of everything healthy, a month to throw yourself from the mountain of fitness you have painstakingly climbed over the past 11 months; but it’s a fall from grace that will take a long time, and a lot of hard work (pain) to recover from.

Or there’s the other option… Some cake, a little eating of it, and the balance that we all need in life…

My advice then is to write a new training plan for December. Recognise what is inevitable, be honest with yourself about what has happened in years past, and change up your focus. The thought of getting to the gym for your usual cardio killa (sic) session is almost enough to defeat us when we are full of the joys of spring, with a hangover deep into December, it may well be a bridge too far. December can be a month to work on your weaknesses however. 

Postural alignment work is something we all need to do. It doesn’t take the form of rinsing ourselves physically, it’s a process of lengthening some areas (upper chest etc.) and we strengthen others (upper back etc.). 

Flexibility work is something we all need to do, and if you’re male you almost never bother with! Getting up to the gym to lie on a mat and stretch for 30-40 minutes has but one pit fall – falling asleep.

And there lay my training plan for December. I’d work on some small muscle strength to aid in injury prevention when I start back in January. I’d walk, in perfect posture, on the treadmill for short periods before hitting the crash mats for flexibility and isometric (holding the body in a strengthened position without moving) positional work. I’d keep going to the gym, albeit 3 times a week instead of 6, to ensure my habitual patterns weren’t fractured beyond repair.

And when I got to the New Year, as I geared myself up to hit January with everything it deserves, whilst my CV fitness wasn’t what it was, whilst my overall strength was a little lower, I was stronger in areas I hadn’t been before, I was walking taller and more efficiently than before, I was more flexible than before. And I had made almost all of those gains with a headache, cringing about the dad-dancing I had engaged in the night previous and remonstrating with myself about the round of Sambucas I had insisted on.

So as I write this from my pious tower of sobriety, enforced upon me by the government of Kuwait, I’d like to wish you all a merry Christmas, and hope this has inspired a slightly different view on what can be gained in December, other than liver failure.


Matthew Powell

Matthew has managed health and fitness teams and operations in 5 star resorts in the Caribbean and Middle East, run a personal training business for over 15 years and currently owns a fitness consultancy in South Wales and the West. He has worked with celebrities and some of the wealthiest men in the world whilst still keeping his hand in group exercise, teaching Indoor Cycle, Circuits, Fitness Yoga and combat based classes. Follow Matthew on twitter @mattypowell. www.quantumphysiques.co.uk
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