For many, 5pm today will represent the carrot that has been dangling in front of you for the past few weeks, months even. That's right, it is time to celebrate Christmas with what may be the jewel in your December crown - a 4 day long weekend! Lots of eating, drinking, being merry and catching up with friends and family (you know, those people that you tend to avoid when knee deep in triathlon training). So the big question - how do you balance all of this celebrating with maintaining your training plan?
From my experience in training to find the holy-grail of balance, that the answer is this... there is rarely such a thing as a perfect balance at this time of the year and you need to pick one and work backwards from there. For me, it's a no-brainer. My family and friends tend to get the tired, distracted, "let me fit one more session in before dinner" version of me during the year. So at Christmas, they get the spritely, attentive and energetic me (ok, so that's not entirely true; while rationally it's a no-brainer anyway, my triathlon-brain does tend to interrupt from time to time and distract me - I tend to block it out by eating another rum ball). Without family and friends, life would become lonely and boring. Unless you're a pro, ease up and relax a little.
So, if you pick training as the priority, life goes on as normal. Although I would recommend the following:
- Put some thought into a few really good excuses as to why you need to train instead of going to the family breakfast.
- Put some top-notch thought into expensive presents to use as negotiating tools.
- Get up super-early so you can be home before the action kicks off. Warning: this may wake up your kids who will be excited about Christmas and will then bug your partner until you get home - thus this strategy may have an adverse affect.
For me, I will plan my training routine around family and friends. For example, this week I have gone into a bit of 'training overload' for 6 days so I can take Sunday off without any worry. All day to hang out with family and play front yard cricket with my niece, nephew and the crew. Other tips and tricks that may work for you:
- Enjoy the rest! How often during the year do you say to yourself "I wish I could just have a few days away from it all"? Guess what? You can! A few days of R & R is not going to undo all your hard work. It may even act as a good recovery period for you.
- Stay active - find something that you can do as a family and enjoy the opportunity to do something different. I have done more yoga (my wife loves yoga) over the past 2 weeks than in the entire year! Front yard cricket is always good, or even just a walk together after you've indulged on goodies.
- Be sneaky - if you are at the beach tell your family / friends you are going for a splash. Build your open water confidence by running through the waves and swimming out 50 - 100m (count your strokes - about 37-40 is 50m for me). Trend water for a minute or so, then swim back into shore, catching waves on the way. Do this for as many times as you can before you get called on it!
- Make the most of having time for quality time. Take the time to notice the face of your kids or family when they open presents, to compliment those who are doing the cooking, to listen and create some memories for when you return to training and they complain ("remember how nice it was at Christmas time when we sung Kylie Minogue songs and I wore the apron with 'kiss me I'm the chef' on it?").
- Indulge (not over-indulge). Eat, drink and be merry. Have that pudding, beer, wine, trifle, and other goodies. However, as boring as this sounds I recommend setting some limits. These can be basic, such as "Christmas day is a free day, whatever goes", "no snacking on lollies between meals but everything else is ok" or "6 beers over the break". I suggest this because the human mind tends to develop unhelpful patterns when we are 'being naughty' that lead to what-the-hell behaviours ("I've stuffed up now, 6 beers in, I might as well finish the carton!).
- Pick some quality sessions and plan with your family to fit them in. A few key quality sessions will keep you going over the break. Trust me. Maybe shorter but higher intensity, or focusing more on technique? In the pool, I might do 3 x 300m, 3 x200m and 3 x100m as easy, moderate, hard. With a cool down, this is 2km and about 40 minutes - done. For a run, I might do a negative split - run to a point for 22 minutes, then turn around and try and get home in 18 minutes. Again, 40 minutes of quality work.
- Volunteer to do the last-minute shopping run to one of those 24 hour shopping centres - what better workout than pushing through crowds of people and fighting for the last pair of socks?
Most importantly, stay safe. Be careful on the roads if you are out and about (especially if you are up earlier to fit in with everything else) and be overly cautious.
Merry Christmas guys and gals, have a run-tastic festive season and keep on smiling.