While the holidays are an enjoyable time of the year, they are often a contributing reason our training consistency comes to a screeching halt during the six weeks encompassing Thanksgiving through the New Year. While it can be tough to consistently find time (or make the time) to stick to our training program during this time of year, with some pre-planning the number of skipped workouts can be minimized. Throughout the years, I have found that if I apply the following three basic principles, I can substantially improve my consistency and keep my training motivation strong through the holidays.
1. Be Realistic about Available Training Time:
If you know in advance that you will be spending a lot of your holiday traveling and visiting family, then maybe signing up for that January Marathon is not the best option for you. I have found that using a portion of this time of year as my “off-season” is one way to help alleviate the time crunch. It also allows me to focus on my family and other priorities during this time by strategically placing training with a lower priority– without feeling like I am missing out on anything or losing fitness.
Whether you are self-trained or using a coach, make sure to incorporate a plan that does not have you over-extending yourself. Reduce your training duration and focus on quality or skill work during a portion of the holiday season if time and energy to train are diminished. Furthermore, when planning your race season for the following year, make sure you have a clear understanding of goal training load over the holidays.
2. Apply the Theory that Something is Better than Nothing:
When it comes to training, sometimes just getting out the door is often the most difficult task, but try to take those first few steps. If time got away from you, and you still have 20 minutes for what was a 45 minute scheduled run, then get out for those 20 minutes. If energy is low, but you are not sick or injured, then give yourself 10 minutes…start your training and if after 10 minutes you are still fatigued and not feeling any better, then end the workout.
3. Try Something New or Different:
Sometimes our lack of motivation is related to some boredom with the same training routine, so try to incorporate something new or different to your routine and focus on training effect versus having to specifically swim, bike or run. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, mountain-biking, or a strength training focus are just a few examples of incorporating other forms of exercise to help maintain some fitness and avoid boredom by only training the same disciplines year in and year out.
As athletes we like to check things off (or if using Training Peaks, see that a training block turns green upon completion). Missing too many scheduled workouts eats away at our motivation, and may only contribute to our stress by adding yet one more “thing” to do in the day. However, with some planning and application of the aforementioned principles, we can keep our motivation high and stay consistent through the holidays.