There are few darker / harder times of the year than when the average, endorphin-obsessed athlete can’t exercise. Somehow having time off but not being able to exercise is almost worse than being injured…but don’t let your healthy obsession steer you wrong this holiday season. Here are a few positive ways to handle the down time from regular training.
Plan Ahead to Take Time Off
If you already know what your holiday schedule will most likely be, do yourself a favor and put your thinking cap on right now. Planning ahead will make sure that you have all the right stuff for when you need it. The only thing worse than spending 45 minutes finding a pool that’s open in East Bumblemuck is subsequently discovering you have no suit or no goggles.
The most important thing for Team Endurance Nation athletes is deconflicting the holiday season with relevant training. Some of our Members are already into a re-testing phase, and we absolutely want to capture our fitness gains before significant downtime. Other’s are only about to get started, so this final week before the January OutSeason® Start is a last-minute chance to get back into a slight training groove.
The most important thing to be aware of is over-doing it. There’s no need to pile on extra work before or after the holiday week. Or rather, an extra bike before you leave for seven days is okay; five extra bike workouts, or five extra hours of cycling in one week is not.
Okay, on to those holiday options!
#1 — Zero Training Option
Let’s assume that for whatever reason, you have a solid block of holiday time that involves zero activity — aka Training Jail. We all have to accumulate Spousal Approval Units (SAUs), consider this a bonus opportunity — family time AND a holiday wrapped into one.
Make peace with your training self that what’s about to happen, while not great for your fitness now, is a great investment in your overall year.
Instead of training your cardiovascular system, you can make use of this down time to work on other areas critical to your fitness: flexibility and core strength. Both options can be completed in less than 30 minutes in any given day.
Combine either (or both!) of these elements into your holiday cycle and you’ll be more than rested when you return to your regularly scheduled training cycle.
#2 — Run Only Training Option
We go with “run only” mode inside Endurance Nation because it’s the easiest logistical option for the holidays. All you need are your sneakers and the appropriate outwear. You can get a great workout done in just 30-minutes if need be, or you can extend the run by dropping the intensity and take a nice tour of your vacation spot. And of course, there are plenty of options in between.
We use a running challenge during the week between Christmas and New Years, where TeamEN Members are encouraged to run daily to accumulate bonus points for consistency. Given that the big races are more then a few months away, there’s no need to be super flashy with the intensity or volume at this point.
Don’t go too crazy choosing your challenge goal!
For many, logging 45-minutes for eight straight days is a really solid achievement. It might not sound that tough to you right now at your computer, but wait until day six or day seven to really make the call.
#3 — Volume Training Option
Not everyone has the flexibility inherent in this third option, and not everyone should choose it either. You should only be considering volume early in your year if you have an early season race (Say March or April for the December holiday) or if you have the discipline required to take some downtime after the training block. Otherwise resting is the better option for 95% of folks out there.
So what to do if you have the time? I recommend a focus on two out of the three disciplines, with a priority placed on the bike and the run. Consistency is still best, so pick a daily target of something simple like 90 minutes of cycling and 45 minutes of running….across a full week that will be a combined 15:45 of training!
Be cautious with the intensity and instead use your gearing choices (range of cadences) and terrain selection (flat to rolling hills) to add variety and make any individual session more challenging.
Why not swimming? Swimming is usually really hard to find access at this time of year, and the gains don’t stick as long given it’s such a technique-oriented sport. Instead, save this swim focus for a period closer to your race…the only exception to this rule would be someone who’s swim technique needs so much work (think bottom 20% finish time in age group) that a few days of quality drills could really help.
What Will You Do This Holiday??
What’s on your docket? Please share with us in the comments below and feel free to ping us on Facebook with your questions!