The Festive Fitness Challenge: Keeping Match Sharp This Christmas

It’s the Festive season again; the twinkling lights are up, the mince pies are baking, and the smell of mulled wine fills the crisp December air.

Christmas is a time for indulgence and relaxation with friends and family. But for us footballers, letting fitness slide over the holidays can mean starting mid-season short of match sharpness.


As an ex-professional player, coach and coach educator with over 50 years of playing, training and educating experience, I know the Festive period presents a unique challenge.

Form is temporary but class is permanent. So let’s make sure a lack of winter conditioning doesn’t dull our edge going into 2024!

In this article I’ll share my top tips on staying fit and match-ready this Christmas, to give you a headstart on your teammates when the season resumes.

Maintain Your Base Fitness Over Christmas

Christmas is no time to lose the conditioning base you’ve built up over the first half of the season. Maintaining aerobic endurance over the holidays will make it easier to regain match fitness in January.

Aim to do 30-60 minutes of zone 2 cardio three times a week. This lower-intensity exercise keeps your engine ticking over.

Going for a jog, using an exercise bike, or even getting out for a kickabout with friends or family is ideal.

If you’re struggling for motivation training solo over Christmas, why not buddy up with a teammate? Having a training partner can make early morning winter miles fly by.

The Festive season dinner, lamb, turkey and trimmings

Watch the Festive Treats…And Stay Hydrated

‘Tis the season for indulgence. The Christmas period often derails even the strictest of nutrition plans!

Whilst it’s fine to enjoy some festive treats in moderation, be wary of overdoing it. Excessive calories, fat, sugar and salt can quickly blunt your edge.

Try spacing out treats across the holidays rather than binging them all at once. And stay properly hydrated when consuming foods or drinks high in salt and sugar, to avoid fluid loss.

Make sure you’re getting sufficient protein too for muscle maintenance and recovery. Dairy, eggs, poultry, nuts and legumes are all great protein sources.

Check out The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard for whey supplements to support your training. Click this Link now!!

Maintain Mobility and Muscular Endurance

Even if you’re keeping cardio fitness ticking over, remember match sharpness depends heavily on soccer-specific conditioning. CLICK HERE to read my article on position-specific coaching.

Ensure you maintain mobility, balance and muscular endurance in your legs and core.

Aim to replicate soccer movements wherever possible in your home conditioning. Squats, lunges, lateral shuffles and single-leg balances are all easy to perform without equipment.

Mimic shooting and passing motions using everyday objects for added weight.

Yoga and pilates sessions are another great way to maintain core strength and flexibility ready for your return to play.

For inspiration try Tom Daley’s 30-minute Yoga Flexibility & Mobility video on YouTube. Click this Link.

Stay Sharp With Regular Ball Work

One of the biggest drops in performance over Christmas comes from a lack of touch and technique work. Make sure you spend plenty of time with a ball at your feet over the holidays.

Juggle, dribble through cones, pass against a rebound wall and practice shooting into a small-sided goal whenever you can.

Master the fundamentals to set yourself up for success in the new year.

If space is tight at home over Christmas, CLICK HERE NOW to check out the SKLZ Star-Kick Football Rebounder.

This versatile piece of equipment allows you to work on close control, passing, shooting and first touch from the comfort of your back garden.

Conclusion: Embrace the Festive Fitness Challenge

Christmas is a time for indulgence. But with a bit of discipline and some careful planning, you can maintain fitness over the holidays while still enjoying quality time with loved ones.

Follow the tips above to give yourself the best chance of starting the 2024 match sharp.

Set weekly conditioning goals, monitor nutrition and hydration, maintain mobility through bodyweight and yoga flows, and integrate regular ball work into your festive free time.

Embrace the Festive Fitness Challenge with a growth mindset. View the Christmas period as an opportunity to build your physical and mental resilience ahead of a big push in 2024!

What fitness goals will you set this Christmas? Which areas of conditioning will you focus on?

Share your festive training plans and top winter workout tips in the comments below!

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