Feel like you're in survival mode this holiday season? Me too. Most endurance athletes are creatures of habit, and the last few weeks of the year never fail to deliver complete disruption wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow. Even if you're not actively training for an event, the stress of holiday preparation, travel, unfamiliar food, and your long lost step-uncle's vocal concern for your knees can make it difficult to prioritize basic physical activity and nutrition. But Christmas cookies aren't tests of your moral fortitude and that party on New Year's Eve isn't just part of some conspiracy to ruin your morning workout. Don't fight the season. Embrace it - but do it on your terms. I ground myself in three small habits and let the rest ride. Try it yourself and I'll bet you get through the holidays without compromising your fitness, health, or good cheer.
Small habit #1: Prioritize a high-protein, high-veggie breakfast Many endurance athletes have significant anxiety around holiday foods. Whether you fear weight gain or a dash behind the bushes during your next long run, you may feel tempted to think about restricting food. This is the wrong approach. Instead, plan to indulge in your favorite special foods over the next several weeks, but prepare for this change in eating habits by anchoring each morning with a filling and nutrient-dense breakfast. I prefer to eat eggs, spinach, and fruit, but the exact meal doesn't matter. This small habit ensures I'm getting in at least one "normal" meal in what can be otherwise nutritionally chaotic days. Since we're less likely to be in a social or celebratory setting in the mornings, it is easy to draw a hard boundary around breakfast. The holiday foods can wait. And eating a nourishing breakfast means that we're less likely to be ravenous later in the day, meaning that we can avoid that "out of control" feeling at the dessert table. Bon Appetit! Small habit #2: Make time for one hour of physical activity Depending on where you are in your training cycle, an hour may sound like a lot or not enough. For those enjoying the off-season, remember that movement has value beyond its associated training stress score. If you're not up for a workout, try filling this time with a walk or a family hike. Going outside is good for you. I shouldn't have to explain this. For those in the midst of a build right now, make getting in one hour of training a "win" and anything beyond that a "bonus." Your kids may never forgive you for spending 4 hours on the trainer on Christmas Day, but they'll probably never know you got up extra early to get in a quick run. If missing a workout due to holiday obligations makes you anxious about future performance, sit with that anxiety. One or two workouts won't make or break your fitness - we're playing a long game with consistency over months and years. When that holiday busy-ness really hits, get in your hour and show up for the other parts of your life. Small habit #3: Remind yourself who you are I mean write it down on paper. Put it on your mirror. Keep it in your pocket. "I am a strong athlete, an awesome dad, and an unforgettable karaoke performer." Or whatever you are. Because if you're spending time with extended family, chances are good that you have at least one in the bunch who cannot fathom your commitment to an endurance lifestyle ("I don't even like to drive that far!") and maybe even a few who are hostile ("How do your kids feel about you taking so much time away from them to ride bikes?"). Or maybe you're an adult-onset athlete whose family loves to rehash the time you scored a goal for the other team in Pee Wee soccer or threw up during the 100 yard dash at field day. But a family member's resistance to understand your motivations or to keep you wedged into a role that no longer fits doesn't change who you are. And if it makes you happy, your life and training doesn't have to make sense to anyone else. When your step-uncle balks as you lace up your running shoes, remind yourself who you are - an athlete, a goal-chaser, a great parent, etc. And what does an amazing athlete/goal-chaser/parent do? Whatever you're doing right now. Keep being you. You got this. Happy Holidays from Coach Erin at Trillium Endurance.