While any month of the year can be alcohol-free, catchy monikers like Sober October and Dry January offer people solidarity and motivation to try a stretch of sobriety. And the benefits are clear: better sleep, lower blood pressure, no hangovers. Moreover, says fitness trainer Elise Young, the mental clarity that comes with sobriety can be a secret weapon for making fitness progress.
Here are five of Young’s best tips for nailing Dry January this year.
When making any lifestyle change, it’s paramount to first name the reasons driving that change. Cutting alcohol out is a prime example. Start by asking yourself questions: Why do you like to have a drink? Why is the idea of doing Dry January a little intimidating? The answers will help you get to know yourself better and help you determine your why behind deciding to cut out alcohol for a month. “I’m very conscious of my why behind so many things,” says Young.
Whether you just want to see if you can do it or you’re curious about the potential sleep and performance benefits, the closer you are to your motivations, the higher your chances for success. During difficult moments (they will happen), think back to that why. “I think it’s just about trusting your own personal reasons, and just remaining solid in that,” says Young. “Why am I choosing to do this? And what is on the other side of it?”
The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of your life and what you want out of it. “In January, when there’s a lot of heightened pressure about fitness and wellness, it’s so important to have that self-inventory,” says Young. Learn to listen to your body and mind, and be honest about the information that comes back. Whether your goal is the best version of yourself or just a few discrete improvements, the start of the year is a good time to do a bit of reflection. What’s working for you? What’s not? It’s also a good time to take a critical look at your relationship with alcohol. Are your habits OK? Do you reach for alcohol when you’re in a certain mood? Are you drinking a bit too much for your liking? Once you’ve got the information, you’ve also got the power to do something about it.
In moments of weakness it can be easy to wonder: What’s one glass of wine really going to do? Young knows the answer to that. She loves to pore over the data logged in her fitness tracker. “My quality of sleep is so much better without alcohol,” says Young. “When it comes to sleep or recovery or performance the next day, or how fresh my thoughts are, it just outweighs much of what I’m trying to get from alcohol.”
By tracking your progress, you can focus on the benefits of cutting out alcohol instead of the feeling of deprivation. Young says the first ten days are the hardest. After that, she says, it becomes more of a mind game and you get enjoyment out of better fitness results. “You start to get into this really good space of how good you feel when you don’t have it,” she says.
Young is no teetotaler—she loves craft beer. “I know that when I’m going to grab a beer, I’m going for the taste, not because I want to get drunk. I like the routine and the ritual of having a cold beer,” she says. That’s why she loves Athletic Brewing Company’s nonalcoholic brews: she gets to have a great-tasting beer with none of the negatives of alcohol. “It’s a win-win.” Young’s go-to brew is Run Wild, hop-forward session IPA—but Athletic has varieties for every palate. The bottom line: rather than simply cutting out your evening drink and hoping for the best, find a worthy replacement that satisfies. If you’re a beer lover like Young, Athletic’s award-winning brews make it possible to go dry without going thirsty.
When you embrace a longer challenge like this, you get the obvious proximal benefits, but you also get the mental growth that comes with sticking with something hard. It can be empowering to set a big goal and meet it.
“You just have to commit. Nothing that you commit to for 30 days is going to be easy—nothing you commit to for 30 seconds is going to be easy,” says Young. “But on the other side of that there’s such a huge sense of accomplishment. You’re going to notice your physical and emotional capacity grow in that period. It will give you a framework of what it is to step up and step in each day, and that’s also where your fitness gains grow too.”
At Athletic Brewing Company, we are pioneering a craft revolution. We believe you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your ability to be at your best to enjoy great beer – so, we created our innovative lineup of refreshing, non-alcoholic craft brews.