How to hack the Christmas break as a student athlete


For many student athletes, the Christmas holiday is often the first long break from the pressures of college or university, as well as training and competition.

It’s a chance to switch off from the demands placed on you in term time, take advantage of home comforts, and enjoy some well-earned festive food.

However if you’re not prepared, the fortnight will pass in a flash and any good intentions to get ahead on uni work or squeeze in some extra S&C sessions will be forgotten.

Lifestyle practitioner Luke Allen reveals how planning can help you make the most of the Christmas break…

Wants vs needs

The idea of balancing your ‘needs’ versus your ‘wants’ can be taken and translated to all aspects of life when making choices. Naturally there will be things that you ‘want’ to do over the festive period such as catching up with friends, eating lots of chocolate or maybe doing extra training while you have more time on your hands. If you ‘want’ to go out and socialise, ensure you know what you ‘need’ to do from a sport or study perspective during this period. Alternatively, if you ‘want’ to get loads of training in, remember that you may ‘need’ more time for recovery, so you don’t overcook things for potential competitions in the new year. If you meet your ‘needs’, you’ll get the things you ‘want’ – bingo! 

Achieve your goals

When it comes to using your time wisely, a great way of making the most of the festive break is by setting goals. Knowing what you’re aiming to achieve during the time off will give you direction, focus and motivation. To get started, try asking yourself these three questions:

  1. What is important for you to achieve over the holidays in the areas of study/work, sport and general life?
  2. Why are those things important to you?
  3. How can you ensure you achieve them?

Going through this process can be really useful to ensure you go back to college or uni having got what you need from holiday. If you know the ‘why’ for ‘what’ you would like to achieve, this will help you work out the ‘how’. Committing things to paper will help you to lay out a plan and stick to it when there’s a temptation to go into hibernation.

Make yourself a priority

Setting your goals for the break is key, however within that plan it’s important to schedule in time for yourself. The year may have been a busy one so take the opportunity to have some quality down time – whether it’s seeing friends, taking the dog for a walk or watching a festive film – take a break from the norm. There’s no better time than Christmas to change up your routine, change your environment and reconnect with the friends and family members that you might not get to see all the time. Make the most of it and use this time as an opportunity to refresh and recharge your mind for the new year.

Don’t forget about finances

Being at home means you might not spend as much as you would at college or university on certain expenses like travel and food. Hopefully this will leave you with a little bit of extra money for Christmas presents or social activities. It’s time to enjoy yourself, however it’s also important to minimise financial stress next semester as this can ultimately impact other areas of your life such as your sport. Give some thought to what your financial demands might be in the first few weeks after Christmas. When is your next rent payment due? Do you have any competitions coming up? If you can, factor these into your spending and ensure you go back to uni with some money set aside for the first weekly food shop!

A moment of reflection

The festive period is also a great opportunity for reflection on the previous year and preparing for the next 12 months. You don’t have to set new year’s resolutions as such, but consider what next year looks like for you, and think about what you can take away from any challenges you’ve encountered this year. What lessons have you learnt that can serve you well and help you reach your goals in 2019?