Across Britain, football is a huge part of Christmas for players and fans alike. But if you’re a player, you have a responsibility to your coach and your teammates to maintain a reasonable level of fitness. Of course, this is easier said than done.

There are hundreds of distractions and indulgences around at this time of year. While you don’t need to completely avoid them all, you do need to ensure they don’t leave you well below your best on the field of play.

Alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle and the biggest enemies of match fitness at this time of year. But you also need to be wary of fatty and sugary foods, as well as late nights and the sleep deprivation they bring.

But there are a few practical tips you can adopt in order to remain match fit at Christmas. While they do require an element of sacrifice, they don’t mean you have to forego all your favourite festive treats.

Eat a Healthy Meal Before Going Out

Don’t “save yourself” for that family buffet everyone has been looking forward to all year. Before you head out, eat a healthy meal as you normally would. This will ensure you aren’t tempted to stuff your face with a load of calorific foods when you’re out. Over-indulging on fried foods, cheeses, fatty meats and pastries could add a pound a day to your frame. So, over the course of Christmas week, you might put on half a stone — or more.

Follow the Alternate Drink Rule

No one, probably not even your coach, is going to expect you to abstain from your favourite tipple during the festive period. But you do need to moderate your alcohol consumption. One simple way of doing this is to drink a large glass of water after every alcoholic beverage you consume.

Stop Drinking Two Hours Before Bed

Maintaining a healthy and regular sleeping pattern is crucial at this time of the year. If you’re sleep-deprived on the pitch, you simply won’t be able to perform at anywhere near your best. Stop drinking alcohol two hours before your bedtime — which should be no later than midnight. Also, avoid the temptation to have a few festive lie-ins. If you start sleeping later through the day, getting back into your normal routine could take weeks.

Get Your Cardio Workouts Done in the Morning

Christmas is a time of fun, but it’s also a time of unpredictability. Gatherings, parties and family events often take place with little or no notice. And if you’ve left your cardio workout until late afternoon, you may run out of time to squeeze it in. Get into the habit of rising early throughout the Christmas period. Whether you’re hitting the road with your running shoes, cycling or training, it’s always best to get the hard work out of the way before breakfast.

Maintain Your Strength and Conditioning

There’s nothing better than lounging on the sofa watching Christmas telly. And while you can enjoy your sofa at this time of the year, it’s important to maintain a reasonable level of strength and conditioning. You don’t need to be in the gym to do this, however. For example, you can use a leg toner, a resistance band or a set of kettlebells while you watch your favourite festive movies. Or if you want to get a bit of fresh air, why not take a speed rope outside?

Look for Opportunities to Stay Active

Most people look for ways of doing as little as possible at Christmas. But as a footballer, you have a responsibility to stay active as much as possible. You can do little things such as some festive housework, walking to work or using your household stairs as often as possible. Building toys, playing with active gifts such as footballs and doing your share of the shopping are all ways to keep moving at Christmastime.

Accept That Your Fitness Will Suffer a Little

Unless you’re a professional, you shouldn’t worry too much about staying in peak condition throughout Christmas. In fact, worrying about things could harm your game — and ruin your enjoyment of the festive period. Accept that you probably won’t be firing on all cylinders during your first training session after Christmas. But as long as you enjoy everything in moderation, the limit of your difficulties should involve nothing more than getting out of breath a little quicker than usual.