This is a quite common question that I get asked year after year, and it’s actually a difficult one to answer. In fact it’s probably the epitome of the ‘it depends’ answer. The truth is that training over the festive period will look different for everyone based on their individual circumstances: work, family, race plans and other life commitments. Therefore, all you can do is make sure that you spend enough time giving appropriate consideration so that your plans are realistic.
Once upon a time, Christmas for me was actually a time to do more training: no work, a chance to build up credit for, and/or burn off the indulgence that lay ahead. I know this is the case for many, particularly those who may not have young children, and it can also be a tradition for some. Until becoming a dad, my Christmas Day pre-lunch run was something I looked forward to and it became a staple part of my Christmas Day itinerary, as did my Christmas Day pudding race, wherever I may have been based at the time. I used to love the peacefulness of a Christmas morning run. The streets were silent, and I found it very cathartic (although once upon a time they were jammed with youngsters riding new bikes, skateboards or kicking new footballs – but that’s a rant for a different blog!). For some, it’s a timely opportunity to back-off a little and recharge for the new year. A chance to take stock midway through winter training and review, revise or simply rest up for what lays ahead. For me, things have changed over the last 8 years.
It’s entirely about the kids these days and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Until they’re old enough to want to join me in creating a new family tradition of Christmas Day runs, I’ll enjoy factoring my training around them.
So, hopefully you can see that my point is it’s very individual, and there really isn’t a right or wrong way to think about it. What are you training for? Do you have a race early in the year that needs you to train more over Christmas, for example? This unfortunately won’t be the case for many this year, and even those still wishfully training for Spring races may well find it a challenge to keep their training up. What I would suggest is that whatever the volume or frequency of your Christmas training plans, try to factor the other things in your life into the planning. Nothing becomes more stressful than worrying about getting your training in and also making sure you can do all the other things you have planned. So, a bit more time than usual, maybe thinking outside the box a little more than normal and finding novel ways, times and methods of training may help. The mistake I often see is people trying to juggle too much all at the same time, programming a heavy week’s training on the week that they have Christmas commitments. Maybe split up your usual training regime to factor this in, bring a recovery or lighter training week forward, or indeed, push it back if needed. But for others, maybe putting the feet up, enjoying an extra mince pie and making training a lower priority for a week or two is the solution. Remember to factor the New Year’s training into the plan.
You don’t want to start training like a lunatic in January to make up for a relaxing Christmas and then have problems in February or March.
Finally, my other consideration is for those who may train out of guilt. Guilt for the overindulgence that leads to us adding extra training to our sessions, adding extra intensity to our sessions, or possibly training when you didn’t plan on training. Sometimes the easiest way to control this is to control the indulgence. That’s not saying don’t have fun, but be honest with the reasons why you may alter your training and see if you can affect those.
Thanks for reading and have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!