Wrestlers are adept at overcoming challenges, and they face many over the holidays. Changes in practice/competition schedule, limited access to a gym or workout facility, family gatherings focused on food, time off from school, the list goes on.
But with planning and preparation, wrestlers can stay focused, healthy and active during the winter.
"This time of year is where you can separate your serious wrestlers from those who aren’t so serious by seeing what they do on their own," says Keith Donnelly, Cadet Director for Iowa USA Wrestling and an assistant coach at Independence (IA) High School. "Your serious wrestlers have goals in mind and a game plan on what they need to do to accomplish those goals.”
Stick to your training diet
When family members are overindulging in large meals or eating a few extra Christmas cookies, it can be hard for wrestlers to resist.
"Good wrestlers know the more they eat, the more they need to workout," says Donnelly. "Several small meals throughout the day are much better than one or two large meals."
Ty Swarm, head coach at Kearney (Nebraska) High School recommends wrestlers use calorie counter apps such as MyFitnessPal or Livestrong MyPlate to help monitor what they’re eating.
"These apps make it simple to track calorie intake and balance with exercise routine," says Swarm. "This promotes portion control and opens their eyes in regards to the amount of calories they take in when consuming sweets and other foods."
Maintain your activity level
Getting some form of physical activity every day is important. It could be as simple as a long walk, says Donnelly.
"We have a group of athletes who are into the outdoors and a lot of them go hunting and walk several miles," Donnelly explains. Winter sports like skiing or skating are good as well and even simple things like sledding or a snow ball fight can get the heart rate up.
"These types of things allow you to get exercise without having to think about wrestling or focusing on needing to work out,” says Donnelly. “These might seem a little weird but kids are kids and before you know it there are kids racing up and down the hill sledding and people running all over to hit others with a snow ball."
For some wrestlers, like Daton Fix of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, the holiday break is a chance to separate from the rest of the pack. "Most kids take the holidays off, so this is the best chance to outwork opponents," says Fix, a 2015 United World Wrestling Junior Freestyle National champion (55 kg/121 lbs) and a two-time Oklahoma 6A state high school champion.
When Fix does have some rare down time, he focuses on his nutrition and diet by drinking plenty of water. This helps curbs his appetiteand resist temptation to overeat and drinking plenty of water is especially important in winter, when the colder weather can make it harder to recognize when you’re dehyrdrated
"One way I keep my weight in check over the holidays is I always stay hydrated," says Fix. "I always make sure I'm drinking water. Wrestling season is not the time to be drinking pop."
Keep your goals top of mind
Derek Fix, Daton's father and coach, and an assistant coach at Sand Springs High School, reminds wrestlers that wrestling is a lifestyle and although it's tough, this isn't the time of year to make a few bad decisions that can affect one's long-term goals.
"I tell my wrestlers that as long as they are living the lifestyle of a wrestler that the holidays really are no different than any other time," says Derek Fix, who wrestled at Oklahoma State University. "When others are relaxing and you are working, your mind is staying focused on the goals that you have set for the season."
If there are no scheduled practices then bundle up and put on the running shoes, Fix adds. Or, incorporate body weight exercises that can be done anywhere, eliminating the need to get to the gym or have exercise equipment to workout. "Running is great for kids trying keep their cardio in check," he says. "Any kind of physical activity, such as pushups, sit-ups and pull-ups, will help keep your strength up. And, stance and motion drills can be done anywhere anytime."
Everything in moderation
Still, it’s important to accept that dialing back your training regimen a bit during the holidays can have some long-term benefits. As a coach, Donnelly says being able to know your athletes and which ones need more of a break and which ones maybe need a daily workout is key.
Swarm agrees. "The holiday break from wrestling is a good time to refocus and get your body and mind ready for the second half of the season," he says. "If kids are able to just be active a little bit each day they are going to come back much more prepared than someone who chooses to sit around and do nothing during break."
So, it's okay to enjoy a few Christmas cookies—but don't overdo it. But no matter what, find a way to stay active and focused.
Sample Holiday Training Workout Program
Mike DeRoehn, head wrestling coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, provides these workout ideas for wrestlers looking to maintain their training edge over the holiday season. These exercises can be done just about anywhere if an individual has a little space to work—eliminating the need to have to find a gym or practice room if not available.
"The idea is to simulate the energy system demands of a wrestling match without the benefit of having a partner or even a mat," says DeRoehn. "Complete the entire workout a total of 3 times and you will get a high intensity, wrestling specific workout."
1st Period (about 3 minutes)
- Lunge jumps x 12 per leg (simulates level change, explosion for leg attacks)
- Plank push Up x 10 (strong shoulders/back straight, hips in for strong core),
- Lateral lunges x 8 per leg (finish each rep toward the bent leg to simulate driving across to finish a double leg)
- Rolling pike ups x 6 (3 per side; simulates leg pass movement for folkstyle + core strength)
- Bridge to a base, stand up, cut away, penetrate x 4 (chain wrestling, skill work; execute correctly while fatigued)
2nd Period (about 2 minutes)
- Squat jumps x 12 (lower body explosion from a low position (i.e. finishing a shot, coming up from bottom, etc.)
- Clap push-ups x 10 (upper body explosion i.e. pops, snaps, push/pull, etc.)
Skater jump x 8/8 (lateral explosion for level changes, penetration, finishing across on head outside attacks)
- Downblock, crossblock, sprawl x 6 (stance, motion, defensive skills executed while fatigued late in the period)
- Inchworm x 4 (strong shoulders, strong core, while stretching the hamstrings from the lunges earlier in the period)
2 minutes running clock;
- Burpees for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for a total of 4 work sets
These are a fatiguing, total body movement combining a sprawl, push, and explosion from a low position just like in wrestling. Execute correct form while in a fatigued state and keep pushing hard through the 3rd period.
Set Clock for 1 minute work; rest 15 seconds; 30 seconds of work; Rest 10 seconds; 30 seconds of work;
- Hit all three movements as fast as possible and rip through them as many times as you can during each work set.
- Sprint down and back, shuffle down and back, bear crawl forward/backward (find 40 feet of open space and go hard).