It’s that time of year… Christmas, New Years… all that good stuff. Holiday’s are great, except they create some unique challenges when it comes to training.
Runners are creatures of habit; we create routines for ourselves to manage stress and stay on top of all the variables associated with training. Basically, runners build their own micro ecosystem.
If there is one thing that can disrupt that ecosystem, its travel – which is why you will regularly see runners’ hotel rooms looking like a workout room. The bare necessities for normal humans are a suitcase and a bathing suit. For the runner it’s a foam roller, stretching rope, lacrosse ball, theraband… the list goes on.
Chances are this holiday season you will be travelling, and that your family will still never be able to comprehend why you are “going for a run”, or why you can’t just “fit it in” some other time. Then there is trying to explain why you are so tired all the time, and telling Nana as politely as possible that you already eat a lot and don’t need “fattening up”. Add to that the fact that you’re likely going to be either sharing a room with three other relatives or sleeping on the sofa. Last but not least you’re probably going to be in a place that you don’t do a lot of training in. There is no 4 mile loop that you can shut your mind off on and just lap a couple of times, or your trusty favourite workout spot.
Just like exam time during University, the above is all added yet underrated stress on the body. Runners are constantly dancing around and across a very thin red line of peak fitness or injury and illness, and it often only takes a few new variables for the scales to quickly tip. With this in mind, we have put together some simple yet effective tips to help you manage training during the holiday season.
For those lucky enough to be runners in America, annual leave virtually does not exist, so chances are you will be back home in about two or three days.
Sounds simple, yet it is one of the easiest things to forget about. It often feels like Christmas is the day after Thanksgiving, and you go from your Turkey Trot to having lunch next to that weird Uncle who still wants to teach you how to wrestle.
Finding good training spots in new areas is now more accessible than it has ever been, particularly with the rise in popularity of applications like Strava. Look for some popular loops, parks or paths and plan your training accordingly. The data will give you a good sense of where you can run fast, and where you can run without dealing with traffic or a lot of people. University campuses are usually a pretty good starting point, as even if you are in the middle of the town where they made ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ you will probably find a track or some bike paths to run on.
GET GOOD AT RUNNING LAPS
There is no point taking any risks while you are running in a new area. By that I mean if you find a decent little park or grassed field somewhere, run it to death. There is nothing worse than trying to do a recovery run and also figure out where the hell you are: stopping and starting, looking down at your phone and trying to navigate out of iTunes and into Google maps. If Bowerman TC can do a 15 mile run on Ronaldo field at Nike WHQ (which is 3 laps to the mile) then you can run around a shitty high school football field for an hour.
GET A TRIAL GYM MEMBERSHIP
24hr gyms are everywhere, and they all offer free-trials for a couple of visits. Set one up in advance and head there before and/or after runs. That way you can get into your tights and lay around on the floor with your various shaped balls and stretching ropes without your family thinking that you’re some kind of burlesque performer.
By heading to a gym you can dedicate all the time you need to pre-hab and re-hab and not need to worry about any running-related activities while back at the house. Not only is this easier logistically, its also a lot less stressful as there isn’t any chance you can be made to feel bad for doing your bum exercises while Nana is fisting the turkey with stuffing and everyone else is pottering about the kitchen.
REGULATE NOISE & LIGHT
It is perfectly acceptable for people aged 50 or over to fall asleep absolutely anywhere, yet runners often have the energy and motivation levels of the elderly. The advantage Grandad has is that he can turn his hearing aid off and instantly be in nap-heaven.
If you are not lucky enough to require the use of a hearing aid yet, buy some earplugs from the supermarket. If you are a seasoned traveller you will likely have some noise cancelling headphones. Add to this a sleep mask and you have a ripping day-time sleep set up that signals your intentions for a nap and will make people feel bad about trying to wake you. If you can add to this a feet-up situation that involves a blanket and/or a pillow you will have successfully mastered the task.
Target your most important daytime sleeps for after meals when there is a higher likelihood of your family doing the same after they have eaten themselves halfway towards diabetes.
MINUTES NOT MILES
Once again, sounds simple, but it can be a huge help. Don’t worry about pace or distance. If you normally cover about 10 miles for a 70 minute run at home but are now somewhere where you are still not quite settled, just do 70 minutes rather than trying to hit an exact pace or distance.
GPS watches are a great tool but can often be more harmful than helpful. Don’t try and force the pace and distance of a run you know inside out back home in an area where you aren’t as comfortable.
TAKE A DAY OFF
Getting fit is about a balance between stress and rest. Chances are you will probably be going to sleep later and up earlier than you normally would be. Being surrounded by people every minute of the day can often leave you feeling a bit drained from being ‘on’ so much.
Play it safe and schedule a day off during the week so you can enjoy a lunchtime beer and kick back like a normal person for 12 hours. This will help to restore your reputation as something more than the fanatical ‘exerciser’ in the family.
Toeing the party line like this for a day may cause temporary insanity, given it will be a consistent recycling pattern of sitting, eating and the same stories over and over and over. Still, it will be good for the body and is also a great chance to bank some emotional capital that you will need for leaving early during the opening of presents for your tempo.
Enjoy the Holiday’s, and don’t forget to hydrate!