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How to Hygge (as an Athlete)

December 7, 2017

How to Hygge (as an Athlete)

As athletes, it can be tough to walk between enjoying the holidays, hygge and the season while still being…. fast and in shape. Last night, I was talking to Ellen Noble, the pro cyclocrosser who’s been my housemate for the last month, about the sadness that can be cyclocross season. Each year, those of us racing or working on the weekends (she races, I run the team, in this particular instance), don’t get to do the traditional ‘fall $hit’ that we used to love.

I admit, we were watching this Iliza Schlesinger sketch at the time:

When you’re racing every weekend, you miss pumpkin picking, Christmas shopping is more harried than fun, and it’s freaking hard to deck the halls when you’re traveling to races around the state/country/world, depending on your level. Case in point: we’re in Belgium right now, have been for a month. Sort of tough to get a Christmas tree when we leave on the 18th. (And this will be the first time in three years that Peter and I will be at our family’s houses for holiday week!)

To extrapolate on fall, though, it gets even tougher as an athlete as cold weather sets in. Last year, we were introduced to something even sadder for those of us still in spandex in December: Hygge. The Danish/Scandinavian concept of general coziness and indulgence. Try feeling that at a 35-degree CX race at 8AM on a Saturday… Or at 6AM, pre-race, when you and the mechanics are out for the #StaffShuffle run. Yeah, you don’t really feel cozy.

“Take hyggebukser: These are the one pair of pants you really should never wear in public but are a favorite anyway because they’re so comfortable,” writes Judith Newman, adding, “Or, as I call them, pants.” She penned an epic review of the hit book Little Book of Hygge for the New York Times, and I freaking loved it. So much so that I opened this post to start drafting.

It really sunk in, that conversation last night, then this article on hygge (which, weirdly, Peter sent me…).

As athletes, we sometimes find it a little hard to get cozy. Hygge, holidays, or straight up fall $hit tends to mean sleeping in, indulging in an extra glass of wine or second dessert, spending time binge-watching shows or holiday movies, cozying up in cashmere. It tends to exclude salads, ice baths, burpees and long runs on the weekend. So, for years, I’ve had a hard time reconciling my intense introverted desire to hibernate in the winter and embrace coziness now that I live the spandex-clad life.

I think there’s room for both, though. Especially since, clearly, Hygge (and Judith Newman) and I all seem to have the same feeling RE pants.

This is about coziness, and how to embrace that feeling of hygge, even in a little way, as the athlete that you are. You don’t need to spend a fortune on cashmere socks to do it.

Embracing Hygge As an Athlete

Warm up your recovery drink

Personal favorite? Hot chocolate, thanks to the protein and carb content—especially nice if you make it with milk, cocoa powder, a bit of vanilla and sugar. Mmmmm! But Skratch Labs also makes a *hot* apple cider drink mix that I love. (Or, you know, you can also make hot apple cider.)

Have a cozy blanket on hand

Post-ride, make time to sip that recovery drink AFTER you’re showered and in comfy clothes. When we moved into our new place, my favorite thing I bought wasn’t furniture, it was a really comfortable throw blanket for our couch. Nothing special, just soft.

Stew. (Seriously.)

I’ve been feeding athletes all season and my #1 go-to meal on cold days looks and smells amazing, but takes about 10 minutes to make. It also features lean proteins, tons of veggies, the option for more healthy carbs, plus good fats. That’s right, stew is basically a super food. And it doesn’t get much cozier than a steamy bowl of stew when it’s cold and rainy out. My tactic: brown ground beef in a pan with some chopped up onions and garlic. Add two cubes of vegetable boullion, a can of diced tomatoes, and a ton of veggies—I like frozen veggie mixes to save time, personally. Tons of spinach, then broccoli, peppers, whatever, plus a can of white beans if I didn’t use much meat, and a couple of diced up potatoes and an Italian seasoning spice mix. Add water til your Crockpot is full, let it go for 8 or so hours. The house will smell amazing, and you’ll look like a kitchen genius. I do a baguette on the side, but for the gluten-free people out there, rice or extra potatoes work too.

Designate ‘hygge’ time

Plenty of us tend to use down time as a chance to … do more work. I’ve been trying to shut down and enjoy my down time lately, though. For me, that means after dinner (or after the first glass of wine, if I have a call or something after dinner and have to do more work), it’s hygge time. That means a book by myself or a Netflix show with Peter most nights, and trying to really let that quiet, indulgent time happen.

Also, designate ‘holiday’ time

I know when I’m home for the week ahead of Christmas, I have some choices to make. I’m planning on designating at least two days—probably three, Saturday through Christmas day—where we’ll do a short run in the morning, work for an hour or two, and then… Nothing but family chill time. I don’t get to see my crew as often as I’d like, so I know it’s a big priority for me to put athletics to the side and just maintain my fitness while embracing time with them. And holiday doesn’t have to mean over-eating or drinking too much. For me, it’s mostly about getting cozy, having a cup of tea, and crushing through holiday classics and gossip with the family. (OK, and some eating and drinking, obviously.)

Let me know in the comments: Do you struggle with letting go of athlete identity long enough to get cozy?




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