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Navigating Christmas and the New Year: As a runner

"It's the most wonderful time of the year". If you overindulge this Christmas, you could set your training back a few weeks. However, prioritise your training over everything else, and a lump of coal is all you deserve in your stocking this year!


How do we find the line between maintaining a quality training routine yet not becoming a Christmas Scrooge?


We've broken this down into Training, Nutrition, Partying and Family to give you ideas on how to have it all in 2021!


Training

You’ll want to be a lot more flexible during the holidays and may need to miss a session or two to fit everything in. That’s perfectly acceptable. What you can't do is arrange to run when the in-laws are coming over, or your eccentric aunt pops by. That isn’t fair on anyone. 


Take the pressure off by trying out a new session instead of going on the same tempo run. Try a Kenyan Fartlek session. After a warm-up, run a minute hard followed by a minute easy and repeat as many times as you think you can. The 'hard' section should start around steady effort and gradually increase until you work at 5k effort (perhaps not pace) towards the end. The 'easy' section should be run easy. After 10-12 of them, you'll be wanting to stop!! 


Get your running done early that way, you have the rest of the day to spend with everyone and aren't thinking about your session in the evening.  This will also help cut out all the excuses you'll find later in the day to avoid your workout!


Move your training days around. Just because it’s Tuesday and that’s your regular Threshold day doesn't mean you have to do the run then, especially if you have other commitments. As long as you don't try and cram a week's worth of training into 4 days, you'll be grand.


Here’s a couple of rules to help:

Never do two hard sessions back to back

Never do a long run and then a hard session 


If you’re travelling and not sure where to run, do some research first. Ask locals for any routes or tips, see if there’s a local running club training, perhaps you can go and join in. Or use an online tool to find a local route. Possibly use any initial runs to explore trails and keep the runs at an easy to steady effort. I would find it terribly anxiety-inducing to do a Threshold session and not know where I am running. Take the pressure off yourself


If you have some time off work, don't use that as a reason to massively upping your mileage. Use the extra time off to get a bit more rest in, add some conditioning or yoga in. You can do some more running but keep it realistic. You don’t want to leave this period with an injury.


Consider a total rest, the year we’ve had has been incredibly tough. Why not just use this time to totally rest and recharge. Something runners are terribly bad at - I assume because if you stop, you'll suddenly get unfit and forget how to run. There really is nothing like a good rest. You’ll be so thankful you took this advice.


Nutrition

If you can't wait to get stuck into some mince pies, Christmas pud, and a lot of bread sauce, remember if you have too much, then you'll be piling on the pounds.


Make good decisions early on in the day.  If you start off with a healthy breakfast, the decisions you make early in the day are likely to snowball later on.  Starting with a fry up and croissants may sound delicious, but you'll be grabbing cakes and biscuits for the rest of the day.  Make good decisions early on, and you are likely to build on that.


Have a little bit of everything, not a lot of any one thing. If you’re lucky like me, you'll have a mother who cooks better than Delia, so the food will all be delicious. Avoid stuffing your face with stuffing or drowning in gravy. Instead, eat a bit of everything, and you'll feel full without resembling the turkey.


Treat yourself now and again. It is Christmas, after all! I’ll be eating a good amount on Christmas Day.


That means I'll use some of the days in the build-up and afterwards to prepare for this. I will make sure that I don't become neurotic about food and get into a cycle of binging and starving. That isn’t healthy. The last few months have seen me trialling a 5:2 diet (eating restricted calories 2 days a week). I’ll be writing more about this in 2022, but I will likely have a restricted food day in the build-up to December 25th.


Partying

A time to celebrate means a few drinks. Perhaps that won’t be as raucous as previous years due to the COVID-19 restriction.


Remember, alcohol will dehydrate you and lower your performance the next day. If you have a few drinks, you can get out for a run the next day. Whilst an easy run might help flush out some of those toxins, a full-blown session isn't the right tonic! If you plan your training around these extravagant outings, you'll be fine.


Family

Get them involved in your activities so you can exercise simultaneously. It could be a nice long walk; you could create a little conditioning circuit for them all to do or a friendly kick about. Whilst you won't be working at your lactate threshold or improving your V02 max, you'll be having fun, and that’s what life is all about.


Bank some brownie points by spending time with the family. Then when you want to go off galavanting on some muddy cross country course, they'll come along to support instead of letting you go alone (or they'll let you go and not complain!).


A run on Christmas day...

Do you go for a run on Christmas day? There's no need to, but if it’s in your plan, then you can undoubtedly get yourself out there. As long as it doesn't interrupt everyone else's day, you’re good to go. 


I'll be up nice and early to get mine done, along with the 2 dogs and my girlfriend. Then it’ll be opening some presents (I hope!) and spending the rest of the day helping with the cooking … and eating!


New Year...New You?

Often, the dawn of a New Year can be a time to refresh yourself and go again. These next few weeks can be an excellent time to reflect and review. We’ll cover more of that in next week’s blog!


Enjoy your holiday season this year, and best of luck with all your events in 2022. We hope that Full Potential can be a part of them.


Why not check out our Coach for Christmas Package if you are looking for a gift for the runner in your life…or grab it for yourself…we won’t tell 😉