Surviving the Festive Period

mincepieI could have picked a better month to start tracking my weight. Since my new Withings Scales arrived on the 1st I have watched my weight lurch from party to party instead of the steady downward trend I hoped to see. A sharp zig-zag from Monday peaks to Friday lows and back again with worrying indications of a subtle trend upwards over the month. Add to that the knock-on effect of Christmas excess: the days of lost training when the body – frankly – doesn’t want to play. Christmas is not the easiest time to make gains towards your goals.

Not that I’m alone. The “I wasn’t able to complete this session because…” email is all too common. In response I offer calm words and sensible advice that I have to admit I am not always following myself.

It’s December, it’s cold, and it is months until we are aiming to be at peak fitness. In real terms the impact of an individual session is small – our goals will survive a few disruptions around Christmas. That said – and I aim this at one athlete in particular, he knows who he is – we do need to train because what we do now will affect what we can do later. Far from saying, “do what you like, it’s Christmas”, I’m offering the age grouper a buffer, room to balance their sport with the rest of their life and still achieve their goals. If we are doing everything that’s planned, fantastic, but if 90% – actually I’ll allow 75% – of the work is getting done then we are on the right track.

On balance, I feel that there is room for training, mince pies and mulled wine in my life so I need to adapt a little to ensure I stay above that 75% line. I know, for example, that there will be no quality training the day after a good night out, it makes sense to plan accordingly – these are prime recovery days, even if it isn’t training I’m recovering from. Between each evening out I try – and I’ll admit it’s getting increasingly hard – to return to normal both in training and diet. It is slowing my progress, at least over what I’d planned, but so far I’m still getting fitter and I’m not getting fatter. Fitness is surviving.

On January 2nd (there is little chance I’ll be productive on New Year’s Day) had I been more focussed I would be fitter. I will have sacrificed some of my potential progress to enjoy a few evenings out and I’ll have eaten far too much during Christmas week. It’s a choice I’ll have made in the knowledge that apart from being fun the overall impact on my season ahead will be small. I may need to tweak the timings of a few of my goals, but I can still work towards them.


  • Great, great, great article. It’s much easier to think of Holiday training in the terms you gave it. “As long as I complete X% well, then everything is fine”, instead of always feeling like a failure for not completing each workout as with every other month.

  • Thanks Brennan,

    Very much the point I was trying to go for – the extra stress and sense of failure when a few sessions are inevitably missed is completely unnecessary. Absolutely need to keep training, but getting too obsessed about every detail at this point of the year isn’t a healthy approach.


  • Stuart J

    Wonderful post.

    Succinct and highly relevant to someone who sadly tends to go through periods of self learned (from coaches in the late 90’s) moodiness & anxiety etc etc when missing workouts through work commitments, illness, holidays and such.

    This Xmas may very well be my first in years where for the most part I wont be offsetting the thought of each missed workout and mince pie consumed with my watts / kg ratio for some event due in September of next year….

  • Tim

    Great blog post – it’s getting particularly difficult this weekend as Christmas Parties really start kicking in and the tins of Quality appear at work. It’s not lack of motivation to train, but the sheer logistics of fitting it all in.

    I’m finding I can resist most temptations (and all sweets) when I remember I only have 8 weeks to get in some sort of shape for Lanzarote!! Looking forward to the rest day on Dec 25th though 😉

  • Stuart,

    Those periods of anxiety seem to be quickly bred into triathletes. Yes you want to do as much training as you can and get fitter, but often we lose perspective. Learning to accept that this may be a period of the year when you don’t train your best can be hard – been there myself. Now I’m enjoying a more relaxed approach and the realisation that I can get fit without quite the same level of obsession. So I try to do as much as I can, and weeks like this mean that’s not as much as I might have wanted, but it’s enough.


  • Tim,

    Each day Christmas gets nearer the temptation to eat increases! I’m still mostly holding out, but I’ve accepted I can’t expect any real weight loss towards my target until the New Year. If I can break even I’ll be pretty pleased because I know what I’ve been doing up until the mince pie season was working.

    As you say logistics is half the problem – trying to squeeze in Christmas parties, shopping, work and everything else is not that easy!