Season’s greetings ! For me personally, Christmas has always been a good time to get a hard block of training in; I’m on holiday, I can do more running off-road in the light and I have more time for rest and recovery. That said, I don’t have any small children of my own to jump on my head at 5am on Christmas morning! For many people it can be tricky to balance the demands of family and friends with a training schedule over the festive period. So with that in mind, here are my five tips to tackle Christmas training;
Be flexible Be prepared to be flexible with your training over the festive period. You don’t have to be a slave to your schedule and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you’re not! You should do what training is realistic with your other commitments. You may have to shift your sessions about a bit within your week to accommodate your plans. If you are really pushed for time but want to get some faster, quality running in the bank, then you could try one of these time effective sessions:
- 10 minute warm up, 20 minute tempo run (run at a comfortably hard pace), 10 minute warm down.
- 10 minutes easy, 10 minutes steady, 10 minutes at tempo pace, 10 minutes easy.
- Out & back run: Run out in one direction for 15 minutes and try to return in a faster time.
Plan ahead Busy periods always require that little bit extra organisation. Try, if possible, to plan when you are going to run and preserve that time in the day. If you dedicate a time slot to training, you are much more likely to get out of the door and you also give yourself the opportunity to organise some childcare if necessary.
Everything in moderation At this time of year it seems that everywhere you go there is that fatal tin of Quality Street and you can never eat just one! How do you cope with the endless temptation at Christmas? You don’t need to count calories it’s just a matter of being sensible. Everything in moderation! It’s easy to eat a lot of food containing ‘empty calories’ with little in the way of nutrients. Don’t worry about the amount of food you’re eating, just keep an eye on the quality. You should still ensure that you’re eating enough quality carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals to support your training. Pass the sprouts!
Remember to hydrateIf you enjoy a little tipple at Christmas then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but you will need to make sure that you offset the diuretic effect of alcohol with plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can have a fairly significant negative effect on your performance, recovery and immune system.
Don’t over compensate Missing the odd run or eating one mince pie too many over Christmas won’t do you too much harm but trying to make up for it will! If you do miss a bit of training or over-indulge, don’t be tempted to try and play ‘catch up’ by training extra hard or embarking on an extreme diet after Christmas. This will more than likely result in illness or injury. I hope these tips help! Happy training and happy Christmas! Ho ho ho!
Top diet Tips to have a healthier Christmas
Make time for a good breakfast and never skip meals Always start your day with a good quality protein breakfast which will set you up for the rest of the day. Look to include foods such as eggs, salmon or chicken. It’ll regulate your appetite and prevent energy dips too. The worst thing you can do is to just have a coffee on an empty stomach – you’ll almost certainly crave something naughty later on.
Avoid skipping meals too. At this time of year, many people think that if they starve during the day then they can go crazy when they go out that evening. This means that blood sugar levels drop too low and you won’t be able to control your cravings later on. Look to include good fats in your meals too such as coconut oils, avocados, smoked salmon, mackerel, seeds, nuts and nut spreads (such as almond, hazelnut and tahini) which will make you feel fuller for longer and stop blood sugar levels dropping too low. Always make time to have three good quality meals a day, no matter how busy you are.
Enjoy your Christmas dinner - just exercise portion-control traditional Christmas roast is actually quite healthy, it’s just the add-ons that need to be more carefully monitored. Roast turkey is a great example of a lean healthy protein which is rich in selenium and helps in the production of serotonin. Brussel sprouts are pretty much a super food in my opinion - they’re full of nutrients and recent studies have shown that they can reduce the risk of cancer too.
Try to avoid rich, creamy sauces and sugary ones like cranberry sauce as well. Instead of dessert, maybe opt for a couple of glasses of wine instead during the meal. Ultimately though, your Christmas lunch should be enjoyed, so don’t be too hard on yourself! Look to control portion sizes instead. As a rough rule of thumb, look to divide your plate as follows: 25% for potatoes and starchy foods (the ‘naughty’ section of your plate!), 50% for vegetables,25% for protein.
Experiment with desserts If the lure of dessert is too much, try making a few substitutions if you can. Instead of brandy butter, other great alternative creamy sauces could be nut cream, vanilla almond cream or COYO coconut yoghurt. Other suggestions could be a chia seed and orange pudding (which is similar to rice pudding) or an almond and orange cake instead made using coconut oil and ground almonds.
Be in control of your snacks Ensure that you have all of your health foods available to you at home or in the office so that you don't fall prey to going out hungry, or getting home and picking on junk because you’re hungry or have drunk too much. This is where the good fats like avocados, mackerel, salmon and nut spreads come in handy. If you’re hosting a party, try serving roasted vegetables instead of crisps and maybe something a little different like spicy roasted chickpeas or smoked mackerel pate, which is full of good fats and will keep you fuller for longer. Serve with celery and carrot sticks for the finishing touch. If you’re the guest, eat before you go and line your stomach with protein, so it makes it easier to say no when tempted!
Steer clear of mixers Pure vodka is actually the least calorific spirit, but once mixers are used, this goes out the window as they contain so much sugar! For this reason, cocktails are the most fattening. My recommendations would be prosecco and sparkling wine as they don’t introduce such high levels of sugar into the blood. Make sure you have a glass of water in between drinks. This will keep you hydrated so that you feel better the next day