Ritual, a practice, is what makes you perform day after day, year after year. At Spartan, we’re never about doing a fitness feat once. Selecting actionable, sustainable rituals that power your performance, push your limits and gain results is key to living the Spartan Way. In this series, we share how to build healthy rituals that last so you can optimize (and revolutionize) your life. Think: screw resolutions—this is for the long game. Let’s make rituals instead.
Sponsored by our partner, Ritual Zero Proof
If cutting back on booze is top of your 2021 goals, good on you. Why? Going sober will only make your fitness dreams more achievable.
According to a study published by Stanford’s Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, booze messes with your balance, reaction time, motor skills and information processing, not to mention, it puts you at a more elevated risk of injury versus athletes who choose not to drink. So yeah, in our opinion, it’s worth it.
If you, like 21% of Americans, jumped on the booze-free bandwagon by giving Sober January (a.k.a. Dry January) a shot, even better. There’s no time to forge healthier habits like the present. But, if you’re dying for a cocktail or cold one, you’re not alone. Breaking old patterns and implementing new ones is sometimes easier said than done—even when you’re Spartan strong and launch over walls or chuck spears like a pro.
“Sober January is tough for some athletes because it’s fun to go out and drink, let’s be real!” says Marley Oldham Carnes, MS, RDN, CSCS. “Many people use this pastime as their way to unwind, just as some turn to cooking or shopping. Anything in life that we turn to and view as our relaxation time can be hard to avoid.” And the thing is: it’s okay to relax and let loose a little bit, she says. It’s just important you get back on track without feelings of guilt, and Dry January is a solid tool to reset your drinking habit for the whole year.
Here are some Spartan-approved hacks to ensure you finish Sober January strong and build sustainable, healthy routines that support a baller 2021.
Dry January Tips for Athletes: How to Make the Good Habits Last
1. Go Easy On The Guilt Trip
If you drank more over the holidays than you would’ve like to, (or cheated once or twice in Sober January) cut yourself some slack—you can’t undo the past. Same goes for working out. “When the holidays come around, taking time off from exercise is normal,” says Oldham Carnes. “You shouldn’t feel guilty about giving your body a break and enjoying good food and drinks with family and friends. One of the biggest mistakes people make is dwelling on this when they feel off track.”
Instead, take a more realistic, compassionate approach to cleaning up your diet and lifestyle, and come back to your original intention when the going gets tough. The key is to create lasting healthy habits to take you through the year… not binge like crazy on February 1. (Hint: A positive, encouraging, guilt-free mindset helps.)
2. Keep Your Priorities Crystal Clear
Remember why you decided to give Dry January a try in the first place. Whatever your reasons (i.e. to drink less, clean up your diet, sleep better, ditch brain fog) they’re all good. That’s the point here: pursuing health. If you find yourself running into mental snags around letting go of alcohol, sit down and weigh the pros and cons. “Make a list to see if the habit is bettering you or breaking you,” says Oldham Carnes. “If cons outnumber pros, try prioritization.” Focus on your goal and organize your life around it so that it takes the front seat, no matter what. Remember, above all, this is not deprivation—this was your choice and you made it because you know cutting back on booze is good for you.
3. Avoid Tempting Situations
Thanks to the pandemic, the option of hitting bars and parties where alcohol is a common social lubricant isn’t really on the table right now. But if you find yourself invited to small gatherings where booze is present, consider opting out. “One of the best ways athletes can cut out booze is simply by removing themselves from the atmospheres that offer it,” she says. “By doing this, you steer clear of peer pressure—it’s easy to want a beverage when everyone else around you is drinking, however if you don’t put yourself in that type of a situation to begin with, you won’t miss what you don’t know.”
Similarly, if you’re storing alcohol at home and find yourself opening that cabinet often or staring at the bottle in the fridge, give it to a friend (you can always restock later). Or, stash it in a harder to reach, unseen spot, for now.
4. Remember: Moderation = Better Performance
Look, this doesn’t have to be forever. In fact, thinking about big changes “forever” is just too dang overwhelming. Start small, and know that when you make it through an alcohol-free month you’ll be better poised to integrate moderation moving forward. Keep your newly cultivated habits from Sober January rolling into February as long as you can. When you’re ready to add alcohol back in, go slow. “It’s important for an athlete to realize how alcohol consumption affects athletic performance in multiple [negative] ways,” says Oldham Carnes. “Making January a sober month can help one to consume alcohol in moderation—a drink here and there is totally acceptable, but when you get out of the routine of moderation, you fall victim to a vicious cycle of not being able to perform at an optimal level.” No Spartan wants that.
5. Stock Up On N/A Beverages
Replacing the “bad”habit with a “good” habit helps you get that mental placebo effect without the setback. So whether your goal is to take 31 days off of drinking, or cut it out for all of 2021, set yourself up for success by having plenty of non-alcoholic drinks on hand. (That said, let’s be real: bubbly water and juice get old after a while…). To keep things interesting, experiment with different fun mocktails, says Oldham Carnes. Try N/A craft beer or shake up your favorite cocktail recipe, but substitute the alcohol for a tequila, whiskey or gin alternative. (Prepare to be amazed: it tastes and smells like the real deal, so you may never go back!)