Knowledge Level: Intermediate
It’s going to be a very different festive period than what we’re use to this year but, although there won’t be the office parties or New Year get togethers, there will still be the mince pies, the alcohol, the lure of the sofa and the cold and wet of the British winter. Here are our top 10 tips for keeping, and maybe even gaining, fitness, avoiding piling on the festive pounds and staying healthy.
Lower your expectations
The reality, for many of us, is that maintaining consistent training over the festive period can be a struggle. If you accept this and recognise that anything you manage over those 4 weeks is a bonus, it’ll really take the pressure off. It’s unlikely that you’ll do nothing and, although you might lose a bit of fitness and maybe put on a little weight, it’s not likely to be significant and, especially if you’re aiming for a spring or early summer event, you’ll still have plenty of time to prepare. Also, if you have trained consistently through October and November, you might find backing off a bit actually gives you a bit of a form and motivation boost.
Choose the right plan
The bad old days of high volume/low intensity winter training are thankfully behind us and, especially through December, a time effective approach that puts the emphasis on intensity rather than girding out big miles is far better for most riders. Our 8-week Indoor Time Efficient Training Plan, which is based around three indoor rides, is ideal for seeing you through December and January.
Something is always better than nothing
Don’t slip into an all or nothing mindset. Even if you can’t do the ride you wanted, you can still get some benefit from a 20-30 minute on the turbo or rollers. Just working through the British Cycling 20-minute Warm-up or a short and sharp TT or Crit City race on Zwift is well worth doing. If you can’t get on the bike, you’ll definitely notice the benefits if you do 5-10 minutes of mobility work each day.
There’s no real harm in having a blowout on Christmas Day but it’s the constant snacking that can do the damage. Avoid sitting in front of the TV with snacks in reach as this just facilitates mindless eating. If you’re going to have snacks out, put them in the kitchen so at least you have to get up each time you fancy one.
Don’t try to undo at home snacking damage by restricting food on the bike as all you’ll succeed in doing is limiting your performance and risking an energy crash which can be dangerous in winter conditions. Download our free Cycling Nutrition eBook to find out how to fuel your rides.
Don’t overdo it
If you do find yourself with more time to ride than usual over the Christmas holidays, don’t be tempted to overdo it. Look at what you’ve consistently managed over the last month or so and, although you can up things a bit, don’t try to go from cycling zero to mile munching hero. Be sensible as you can easily risk injury, overtraining or compromising your immune system.
More than ever this year, you want to do everything you can to stay well and to avoid passing on bugs and viruses, including COVID, to other people. Make sure you follow any restrictions for your area and check out our cycling guidelines.
As mentioned above, don’t suddenly ramp up your milage and there’s also little doubt that late nights and over indulging can also lower your immunity. Taking a probiotic can boost immunity and aid digestion, don’t forget your Vitamin D and be fastidious about washing your hands.
Get into the habit of alternating each alcoholic drink with either a soft drink or water. You’ll find this results in you drinking far less, you’ll stay more hydrated and far more likely to get up and out on your bike the next day.
Maintenance rather than progression
If you know December is going to be a struggle, view it as a month where you’ll maintain your fitness rather than build it as this takes a lot less effort to do. For example, if you’ve been following a training plan with three main rides each week, take the two main workouts from your final week in November and simply aim to complete these each week through December. You can then pickup your plan in full again from where you left off in the New Year.
Sit down on New Year’s Day and review what you did manage during December. If you managed to stick to your full training plan through the festive period, great job and crack on.
If you opted for the maintenance option or found yourself missing a session or two of your plan, re-start from where you left off at the end of November.
If you really struggled or just opted for a bit of a break. Go back to the last recovery week of your training plan, repeat it to ease yourself back into training gently and work back through your plan from there.
If you’ve made a resolution to start training, do it right by checking out our Digital Training Plans.
Wish list for Santa
If you’re making your list for Santa or shopping for the cyclist in your life, it pays to be a British Cycling Member. You’ll get a range of great discounts across a number of brands and retailers.