The holiday season is stuffed like a stocking with mouth-watering food and temptations aplenty, but with the right tactics, you can bypass the usual winter bulge and use this time to supercharge your size and strength gains. Strongman Colton Leonard has your back with these smart tips to help you stay on track and gain significant strength!
Implement Smart Flexible Dieting
"During the holidays, it seems like calories are everywhere," says Leonard. "Holiday cookies at work, Grandma's famous pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving dinners overflowing with six different side dishes and four different desserts, hot chocolate tempting you nightly—there's no shortage of opportunities to eat."
In the midst of all this binge-worthy food, Colton stresses that you need to keep a cool head: "The most important element going into the holiday season for any athlete is a solid diet."
November and December can quickly turn the edifice of your perfect diet into rubble, so the key to surviving is to disregard rigidity and adopt flexibility—a la flexible dieting.
"Flexible dieting takes into account your total caloric and macronutrient needs for the day, and gives you the freedom to choose what foods these macros come from," explains Colton. "It gives you the freedom to enjoy some of Grandma's pumpkin pie without breaking your diet so long as you stay within your macronutrient targets."
Leonard states that it's important not to use flexible dieting as an excuse to shovel heaps of pie into your mouth, but to apply a bit of common sense. Opt for 90 percent of your food to be nutritious choices that give your body the right nutrients and energy to be at its best, and leave 10 percent open for treats.
"Using this strategy, you can enjoy the holidays without completely breaking your calorie bank over and over again," Leonard says.
Once you've laid the foundation of a flexible diet, you can start tinkering with your total daily calorie intake. Instead of constantly struggling against the abundance of holiday fuel, you might even bump up your calorie intake and harness the holidays for size and strength! Think of the extra calories as delicious morsels that accelerate recovery and promote worthwhile strength gains.
Set Firm Goals
If you want to ensure progress after you've defined your diet, set some specific and measurable goals. Not merely, "I want a big bench press," but more concrete targets like, "I want to bench 225 pounds by January 3."
"Basic human nature tells us that, when we have tangible goals laid out in front of us, we are more likely to achieve them," says Colton. "Over the holiday season, choose a smart, achievable goal within a particular timeframe. This will keep you more motivated and active in the gym."
Leonard believes that the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to establish performance vs. physique goals, change up your training routine, and introduce a strength-focused program, especially if it's not something you're accustomed to.
If you want to really put your body through the wringer, try his hardcore "Holiday Strong" program on for size. This is what Colton prefers to follow over the winter months to prepare him for the upcoming spring season.
Special Holiday Workout
If the above program isn't enough, Leonard also likes to devise workouts specifically for big meal days like Christmas and Thanksgiving. To make the most of these holidays, he suggests getting in an intense group workout.
"We get a big group of friends together and find some way to get a workout in on the days of those big feasts," he explains. "This can be hard to do with most gyms being closed on holidays, but fortunately for us, we have enough personal equipment to get a good garage training session in."
Of course, not everyone has this luxury. Whether you're traveling or don't have access to any equipment, you can try this effective bodyweight workout or any of these within the Bodybuilding.com archives.
If you do have access to a gym, below is one of Colton's favorite Christmas day leg workouts:
Crush a celebratory holiday workout and the strength program above, and you can be sure any extra calories you ingest will get put to good use.
Once the holidays are over, don't forget to review your achievements over the last year and set some new goals for the year ahead.
"It's important to review progress, setbacks, and achievements to continuously make improvements and get closer to your long-term goal," Leonard says. "And of course, never forget to give thanks for your health and athletic achievements to date. Health is a blessing!"