Triathlon Training Through the Holidays

November through December pose a few specific challenges for the dedicated triathlete. Not only is the weather turning sour and the daylight short at this time of year, but family obligations can quickly take over your winter training plans. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve sometimes feel like a one-two (or three) knockout punch that throws you out of your routine just when you were getting into the groove of training again. On the other hand, ignoring your family to train five hours a day might not be a wise choice. Luckily, we have a few tips so you can put the work in this holiday season without shunning your spouse, significant other, kids, or parents…too much anyways. 

Make The Mornings Your Own

The best time to train, particularly if you have a busy day, is in the morning when your body and mind are still fresh. The key is to let your family know that you have a big ride, run, or swim planned for the morning, and that you’re free afterwards by a specific time in the day. Get up early to make the most of your day.

Include Your Family

The more the merrier. Even if your spouse, kids, or parents can’t keep up on a run, that doesn’t mean they can’t come along. You can make your long Sunday run an enjoyable family trip if you all start together at a park or trailhead. You can run while they walk or hike. You can even circle back around a few times to truly make it a shared morning, and finish by hiking with them back to the start.

Or, make a turkey trot a family tradition

Pick One Sport Per Day

It may be tempting to get in two or three sessions on Thanksgiving weekend since you have the time off from work, but this is probably a good way to piss everyone off and cause unnecessary stress. If you really want to make the most of your time, instead of riding two hours and heading to the gym for a 3K swim, just add an extra hour to your ride. You’ll save a lot of time without shortening the total duration of your training day. 

Try Not to Obsess

Even if you have to skip out on a few workouts, chances are that will have zero effect come later in the season. Keep things in perspective, and remind yourself that less is more at this time of the year anyways. The less you stress about missing a swim or ride, the more mental reserves you have to spend on the workouts that you do do. Haha. Do-do. 

Don’t Over Do it. You’ll Get Sick

Training too much during a long holiday weekend is a good way to get sick. Why? Just think about the conditions your immune system is up against:

  • Extra stress caused by having parents, in-laws, or other family members staying under one roof;
  • Stress of plane travel and the germ-filled airport and airplane environment;
  • Close exposure to more people than normal, and therefore more viruses;
  • Everyone else, including you, is already stressed out by the holidays, leading to more viruses; and
  • Communal dinners are a perfect way for viruses to spread. 

By training extra hard, you weaken your immune system and expose yourself to a land-mine-littered weekend of sicknesses. 

Dealing With The Excess Calories

An American holiday wouldn’t be complete without gorging oneself on fattening, sugary foods. Eating in excess not only ruins your workout for the day after (if you have a run anyways), but the food situation during the holidays is extra stressful for those calorie-conscious athletes trying to lose weight or trying to maintain. One gluttony avoidance method doesn’t work for everyone, so there are a few trains of thought. If you’re simply trying to maintain your weight during the holidays and you know from past experience that you don’t have a hard time getting back to your normal race weight, it might be fine to just not worry about eggnog and an extra large dinner or three. Those calories will be burned off by April anyways. For athletes more concerned about adhering to their regular diet routine for their mental/emotional health as well as their physical health, here are a few tips:

  • Enjoy yourself during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners (for example) without setting calorie rules, but be strict about avoiding the cookies and excess stuffing before and after, as well as the weeks in between. After all, the weight gain you experience from one or two large dinners is almost all water weight and gastrointestinal bulk that will go away in a few days;
  • Tell your family about your goals. If everyone is on board, they can help you make healthy choices (maybe they’ll take note and join you). Moreover, they will be less likely to pressure you into seconds or thirds, or make you feel bad if you decide to make your own meal (like a salad);
  • Keep bad food out of the house. This might be a general rule of yours. Just remember that you don’t have to make an exception for the holidays; and
  • You don’t have to eat those stocking stuffers and sugary gifts. Throw out candy and other junk that people give you. Better yet, push it on someone else, like a racing rival. 

Advice From Coaches Who’ve Been There

The above advice comes from multiple decades of combined experience navigating the holiday season. As coaches and athletes, we understand the difficulties that this time of year can present, and we can help you through it without shunning your family or your training goals. Contact Be The Beast Coaching today to learn more about coaches Adelaide and Kennett. 


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