If you play football for a local team, the chances are you’ll be playing more than once during the Christmas period. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in a few festive treats, but what you don’t want is to have your fitness levels and weight fall back.

Being out of shape means you won’t be able to perform anywhere near your best on the field of play. Thankfully, you don’t have to sacrifice a merry Christmas in order to stay on top of your game.

Here are some practical tips to maintain a reasonable level of fitness during the Holidays.

1. Don’t skip meals

The temptation is often to skip meals in a bid to save calories. However, for a footballer, this is a terrible idea. Starving yourself can do strange things to your body, including playing havoc with your energy levels. What often happens is the body ends up craving calorific foods later in the day — which leads to binge eating and eventual weight gain.

2. Stay active

And this doesn’t just mean attending your usual training sessions. You can stay active throughout Christmas in a number of ways, including by taking long walks, doing lots of work around the house and playing games with the children. Even little things like getting off your bus three stops early or parking further away from work than usual will keep the calories burning.

3. Eat before parties

Yes, that’s right… eat BEFORE you go to parties. This will fill your stomach up, which will deliver two very important benefits. Firstly, you are far less likely to binge on calorific party foods. Secondly, a full stomach is great for slowing down the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol. And there’s nothing worse than training or playing with a hangover!

4. Limit your alcohol

There are a few tricks for limiting your alcohol intake at Christmas. A good method is to drink water and alcoholic drinks alternatively — which will keep your sober for longer and well hydrated. Stick to one drink where possible… spirits with diet mixers will minimise the number of additional calories you consume. It’s also a good idea to set yourself a limit in advance, particularly if you have a match or training session the next day.

5. Maintain strength and conditioning work

Staying active and attending all of your usual training sessions during the Christmas period will help you to maintain a reasonable level of match fitness. However, eating and drinking too much, along with longer than normal periods of inactivity, could affect your strength and conditioning. If you’re not getting the workouts you need, schedule visits to the gym in the mornings — before your days get going.

6. Create your own mini-gyms

Try to make most rooms in your home ready for exercise. That way, you can perform strength and conditioning work while you’re watching Christmas movies, or when you’re preparing a few festive treats in the kitchen. There are several items of fitness equipment that are perfect for use in the home, including leg toners, dumbbells, resistance bands and suspension trainers.

7. Limit the carbs

The chances are you won’t be nearly as active at Christmas as you are at other times of the football season. If you eat a lot of carbs, these may be converted to fat for storage, as you won’t be burning sufficient calories. Try to limit your intake of white carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread and pasta. Wherever possible, opt for protein-based festive treats, which will help you maintain muscle mass and fill you up faster.

8. Be realistic

There’s very little point trying to squeeze in two-hour gym sessions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. You might try, but the process could become tedious and stressful — which could stop you from exercising altogether. Be realistic about the exercise you can fit into such a busy time of the year. Around 30 minutes of exercise a day should be sufficient if you’re pushing yourself every time.

9. Play for fun

There’s nothing more enjoyable for a footballer than a Christmas kickabout at the local park… or even the back garden. You’ll get the workout your match fitness needs, and you’ll have fun with friends and loved ones at the same time.

10. Be adaptable

The worst thing you can do to manage your fitness at Christmas is schedule all of your workouts in advance. This is a very unpredictable time of year; plans change all of the time. Be prepared to move your workouts around… just make sure you find the time somewhere. Take the same attitude towards your food. Temptation is never more than Christmas party away, so try to count calories and make the appropriate changes to your physical activity.