When recently asked to discuss nutrition “worsts” for athletes, I zeroed in on one. But I think it applies to the holidays, too. Let’s take a look.
Taking an off-season with food is as energy-damaging as it gets.
My endurance coach, Jim Karanas, used to say, “Endurance athletes don’t mind expending energy, but they don’t want to waste it.”
Wasted energy is energy spent with no performance payoff. And the wasted energy of a food off-season is considerable:
- It wastes physical energy for your body to deal with junky food.
- It wastes time and energy to get things back on track for the next athletic season.
- It wastes effort to correct bad habits, weight gain, mood swings, loss of motivation – and to re-create the right training state.
What stress on body and mind?
It reminds me of the terrible habits professional sports teams used to have when I was a kid. They’d actually stop all training during their off-season and then have to use the pre-season training period to get back in shape. Really. Think of the time, effort and money that took. Fortunately, pro athletes no longer do that.
But some non-pros may still do it with food.;
How Can Indoor Rowing Help with Food?
In the book The Stress of Life, Hans Selye defines stress as anything that takes the body out of homeostasis. If clean eating is your habit during your sport season – whatever that may be – then letting your nutrition slide is stress on your body.
And once you’ve established the new, junky pattern, shifting gears to get back to healthful habits again is additional stress on your body.
A few years ago, I learned a concept from the best rowing coach I know (and I’ve had several). Because he’s such a talented instructor and coach, he deserves a shout-out: Duncan Kennedy, who rowed with the U.S. national team from 1993 to 1994. He knows his stuff and loves to teach.
Duncan suggested that his indoor rowers use an outdoor rowing technique called Battle Paddle. In a crew boat, even during recovery moments, the rowers need to be in sync to prevent an 8-oar free-for-all.
So the strokes are just relaxed paddling, but the team stays in formation. Most importantly, the rowers are ready to drive into action as soon as they receive the signal. That vigilance underlies the relaxation at all times.
How about an athletic off-season that mirrors this concept with food – and becomes the nutrition equivalent of Battle Paddle?
Keep food intake – quantity and quality – under control, perhaps allowing an occasional dessert, say, once a week. From that point, driving into action for the next season will be a simple and disciplined matter.
How Can Battle Paddle Work for You?
Why can’t non-athletes use this concept during the holidays? Too often, my clients let food pandemonium take over – with all the stress that puts on the body, and all the effort they have to go through to undo the damage when January gets here.
Ideally, we’d all avoid troublesome foods all year. But choose your Battles, right?
If you can’t bring yourself to avoid holiday goodies this season – and if you really believe you can handle it (although that may not be true!) – stick to your healthful guidelines just 99% of the time.
Like rowers on the water, maintain the discipline of good form. Relax only enough to have the occasional – and that’s the operative word – treat.
Please keep in mind that this plan may backfire for anyone with an addictive reaction to specific foods, especially foods with sugar. I’m in that category, so my holidays will NOT be done in Battle Paddle mode. It’s better for me to stay away from trouble altogether. I encourage my clients to do the same, but the decision is theirs.