Hot Topic: Managing the Festive Period

Christmas is well and truly upon us, with trees decorated, TV specials on the box and Mariah Carey on repeat. But what is the festive period like for an elite swimmer?

For this month's seasonal Hot Topic, we caught up with Max Litchfield - fresh from 400m Individual Medley gold at the European Short Course Swimming Championships in Glasgow - to find out what Christmas looks like for him.

Dinner with all the trimmings?

A healthy and balanced diet is key to a swimmer's training and preparations - and it provides that all-important fuel in the pool. So when the platefuls of turkey and tins of chocolates come out over Christmas, does that mean a radical change of intake? Not quite. For Max, it's all about moderation and keeping things the same - while making sure he gets still to enjoy a tasty Christmas dinner.

"Over the festive period, I would try to keep my diet pretty similar," he says.

"Obviously training loads would be down considerably compared to a normal week, so intake of calories and stuff like that would decrease.

"It's just about making sure you stick to a similar routine to normal, but watching how much you are consuming during the day. I wouldn't really make too many changes to seasonal food over Christmas time. I'd make sure to enjoy the day, enjoy the family aspect of it and the food and everything that comes with that, but just enjoy everything in moderation and just be really sensible with how you go about your Christmas meals."

Max Litchfield ESC Gold 3
Max Litchfield

Staying in the rhythm

It is easy to lose track of the days at this point in the year, as Christmas and New Year's celebrations take over. With most people off work at some stage of the festive period, there are late nights watching seasonal films - and then the subsequent late lie-ins that follow. But while that might be the case for plenty, a couple of extra hours in bed each morning is not something Max will be getting in the habit of.

"I think staying in a routine and keeping that routine similar to normal is really important at Christmas," says the Rio 2016 Olympian.

"Obviously you're going to have some time out of the water over Christmas and New Year, but it's making sure that once do you get back into the rhythm in between Christmas and New Year, and then post-New Year, you get back into the rhythm as quickly as possible. I guess the best way of doing that is probably to stay in a similar-ish rhythm throughout the period. So it's not going to bed crazy late, and making sure you're waking up at similar times to normal."

A Litchfield Christmas

He might not have the frankincense and myrrh, but Max is heading off for Christmas with some gold in tow after triumphing in the 400m Individual Medley final in Glasgow earlier this month.

Attentions for the Loughborough swimmer and his British Swimming teammates will soon turn to the prospect of Tokyo 2020 in the New Year, so a break at the end of 2019 is important to recharge the batteries after all the efforts of the past 12 months.Chilling with friends and family, and enjoying the festive celebrations, is something Max is looking forward to.And he knows how important that 'downtime' can be - even if there may be the odd competitive board game contest with brother Joe thrown in along the way!

"Christmas and New Year is a great time for downtime and having a little break, which is a massively important thing," he says.

"Like I said before, it's making sure you enjoy the festive period with your family and friends. Then it is about using it as a reset for a new year, making sure that once you do come back in January, you are ready to hit it hard and to go into the next cycle fully prepared for the hard training that's going to come.

"Our Christmas Day is pretty normal. We'd all come round to my family house at home, our family would come round there and we'd have a pretty awesome day, eating the normal Christmas dinner and just enjoying spending time with family and friends during the festive period.

But what about that sibling rivalry?

"Myself and Joe are always obviously pretty competitive but I can't imagine there's that many stories of us being stupidly competitive over Christmas! But obviously any time we get any board games out, we're both going to want to beat each other, for sure."