Here are ten tips to ensure you enjoy the festive season and maintain your cycling fitness.
1) Schedule in some down time
If you are following a structured training plan, be realistic about the festive season and, if necessary, take a week or two off structured training and just fit in whatever you can manage. If you only miss a week over Christmas but manage some training, you can probably just pick up where you left off. If you miss more and aren’t very active, just ease yourself in by going back to the last recovery week you managed and repeating the block.
2) Good days vs bad days
It is almost inevitable that there are going to be days over the next month when you eat and drink too much and are unable to train. Try to alternate these “bad days” with “good days” where you eat healthily, drink plenty of water and get some exercise. If you have a run of several bad days, try to follow with an equal number of good days. Keep a tally over the festive season and, although you might not quite end up in good day credit, it will be better than if you weren’t keeping count.
3) Something is always better than nothing
A bit of psychology and a good reason for giving yourself some time off from structured training. If you try and stick to an over-ambitious training plan and find yourself failing to live up to your expectations, it is easy to fall off the wagon completely and do nothing. However, if you take the pressure off yourself and just do what you can, even if it is just five minutes on the foam roller, you will probably end up doing more.
4) Be flexible, be ready and be creative
If you keep your kit ready to go and have an idea of what you can do with any spare time that might crop up, you can take advantage of it and get something done. If you are travelling to friends and family, how about riding all or part of the way? Set your alarm half an hour earlier, jump on the turbo or even go for a run. Rather than coming up with reasons why you can’t exercise, find ways to manage it.
5) It doesn’t have to be riding
Again, just because you can’t do your normal 4-hour ride, that is not a reason to not do anything. Running can be a really time efficient option or, if you can’t leave the house, a daily dose of mobility work over the festive period could have a significant positive impact.
6) Ride indoors
Your indoor trainer is your best friend if you are pushed for time. Try to have it set-up and ready to go and check out our twenty indoor sessions.
Even if you have only got 15-30 minutes, there are still worthwhile sessions, try the following:
The British Cycling 20-minute Warm-up: A great standalone session and, if you have got a few extra minutes, just add extra 6-second sprints.
Tabata: Do the British Cycling 20-minute warm-up or even just the first 15 minutes and then do 4 minutes comprising 8 X 20 seconds as hard as you can with 10-second recoveries between each effort. Cool down with 5 minutes of easy spinning.
Pedalling technique: Set resistance/gearing low and do the following, trying to hold a cadence of 90-95 rpm:
0-5 minutes: Easy warm-up
5-6 minutes: Left leg only, focus on scraping through bottom of pedal stroke
6-7 minutes: Both legs, focus on smooth and even pedalling
7-8 minutes: Right leg only, focus on scraping through bottom of pedal stroke
8-9 minutes: Left leg only, focus on pushing over top of pedal stroke
9-10 minutes: Both legs, focus on smooth and even pedalling
10-11 minutes: Right leg only, focus on pushing over top of pedal stroke
11-15 minutes : Both legs, focus on smooth and even pedalling
7) Don’t overdo it
With time off work, some riders have the opposite issue over the festive period and, rather than being short of time, have time on their hands and end up doing too much. Avoid suddenly ramping up your training and simply doing mindless junk miles just because you can. Stick to your normal structure and, rather than piling on the training, take a more “pro” attitude to recovery.
8) Enjoy your Christmas lunch
Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of a Christmas dinner blow-out, it is a one off and, if you are following the rest of our tips, won’t do any lasting harm. What tends to have the biggest impact on your waistline over the festive period is the constant grazing. Whether it is canapés at a party, chocolates in front of a Christmas film or just one more mince pie, it soon adds up to a prolonged calorie overload. Be mindful of your eating outside of meal times and don’t just let your hand reach repetitively for the sweet tin. If you are sat watching TV, keep snacks out of arms’ reach so you have to stand up to get them or, even better, make a rule that you are only allowed to eat in the kitchen.
9) Keep hydrated
If you are able to get out on your bike over the festive period, even though the temperature may be low, it is still important to stay well hydrated. This especially applies if you have indulged in a few alcoholic drinks the night before and might be starting the ride a little dehydrated. If you are out for a few drinks, a good strategy is to match every alcoholic drink with a glass of water or an alternative low sugar soft drink such as lime and soda. You will be thankful in the morning and less likely to make poor food choices.
10) Plan ahead
Even if your festive season is a complete cycling write off, do some planning to ensure that you start the New Year as you mean to go on. Check out our training plans to find one that suits your goals and ability.