What training should I be doing over Christmas?

Christmas is the wonderful time of gift-giving, luxury food, work parties and mince pies. But how are you going to fit in your week’s training in between visits to see distant relatives, Nativity plays and last-minute Christmas shopping? Athletes can often find Christmas a stressful period; how many of you have felt lazy when missing training, but then guilty when prioritising training over family time? I know the feeling so well. So, how can you stop yourself feeling so torn? Here are my top tips:

1. Prioritise

My number one tip would be to have a think about what really matters to you this Christmas. Is it to get a KOM in a local strava segment, or to catch up with family that you haven’t seen in years? For me, it’s more important to relax with loved ones than be in peak form. Having a couple of weeks with a more relaxed mindset right now isn’t going to affect your races in six months time! Once you’ve accepted that you’re going to be a little slower (and slightly more squishy) come January you can relax and adopt a better attitude towards your training/life balance over the festive period. The first few sessions in January might be a bit harder, but you’ll soon be back into the swing of things. And mentally, the rest will have almost certainly have rejuvenated you! (And if the rest hasn’t, the mulled wine will almost certainly have!).

2. Take part in fun festive events

If you’re planning on doing some training, why not mix it up a bit with a Santa run or mince pie dash? A few weeks ago, we raced a Christmas Pudding Run which combined six miles of trail running with mulled wine at the aid stations; stream crossings, boggy fields, fancy dress and climbing the highest sand dune in Europe - it was so much fun, I almost forgot I was working hard!

3. Shake off the routine.

Do things differently. Make the most of your days off work. If you’re normally an evening trainer, why not try a morning run and be finished by the time your family have woken?

4. Saying that, enjoy a lie-in!

If your alarm is set for 6am every weekday, then you have a “lie-in” of 7am at the weekend for club runs, races or family commitments, you need a break!

5. Make the most of empty gyms/swimming pools/leisure centres

I’ve never seen my gym so empty as it has been over the past few weeks. But, be warned, come January, it’ll feel like you’ve chosen to exercise at the same time as the rest of your local town. Enjoy the luxury of being able to choose which piece of equipment to use next.

6. Quality, not quantity

When training over Christmas, there’s often not much of a time-gap to squeeze it into. Wait a minute, “what’s new?”, you’re thinking; we are triathletes - we are used to fitting three sports around a job, family and social life! At this time of year I find that turbo sessions are really good at cramming in a hard hour of cycling. And it massively cuts down faff-time too; I swear I sometimes spend more time organising how many layers I’m going to wear to face the cold and then getting dressed than I actually do on the road. Focus your training so you can then enjoy the rest of the day with family, or God-forbid, you hit the Boxing Day sales!

8. Relax your diet

I think this is so important. And not just because I train to eat. It’s not healthy to be super-lean all year round, so what better time to relax your diet than when there’s unlimited pigs in blankets on offer…?

9. Use this opportunity to train with new training partners

Can’t train with your best tri buddy because your shift patterns clash? Make the most of the Christmas break and catch up over a long run. Join in the club ride that normally clashes with your children’s swimming lessons.

And finally…

10. Don’t channel all your competitive energy into family board games.

I’ve been that person. It didn’t go down well.

Happy Christmas to you all!