Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Day: To Train or Not to Train

This seems to be an annual question: should you train on Christmas Day, when your rivals might be taking a day off, or should you sit back, relax, and enjoy the festivities.

The purpose of this post is not to tell you what you should do. I don't know your life, so it would be wrong for me to advise either way. Like everything to do with 'lifestyle' you've got to decide what works for you.

When I was a teenager, we looked forward to Christmas Day because it was the only day that we were sure would have a 'REST' next to it on our training programmes. There was usually even a few exclamation marks, reiterating the fact that we could have a guilt-free day off.

But as years passed by and running became a bigger part of my life, I realised that I no longer 'had' to take the day off. With Christmases devoid of little people and the associated excitement, we found that we needed something to fill the Santa-shaped void in our Christmas mornings. And so, for myself and my brother, the long Christmas morning run on the beach has become an important ritual.

Last year, due to a number of factors (and in the absence of my regular Christmas morning running partner), I even ended up doing a fartlek session on Christmas morning. Did I feel guilty for training hard on Christmas morning? Of course not! Why should I? Do I think that everyone should train hard on Christmas morning in the fear that if they don't, their rivals might be streaking ahead?  Absolutely not!

A much used quote at this time of the year is the one by double Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson who once said 'Train twice on Christmas day! Your competitors may only train once.' While I appreciate Thompson's sentiment, I don't believe that we all have to listen to him. Firstly, 99.99 percent of us are not Daley Thompson, nor will we ever be. Secondly, it's not that one day in the year that makes the difference - it's the other 364. And thirdly, it's no coincidence that a considerable number of athletes don't make it to the Olympic start line. In an effort to do more than their rivals, they forget the importance of rest and recovery and end up injured. This is, of course, the fine line that every top athlete walks along, and a balance that is difficult to strike, but 99.99 percent of athletes - serious or not - won't be affected by taking one afternoon off in the whole year. In fact, relaxing might just be what you need to improve your performance.

I love to run, and I don't see why I should deny myself a 10 miler on the nicest beach in the world on a day that has become all about over-indulgence. But I'm not everyone, and not everybody has access to the most beautiful beach in the world.  And so, I just have one piece of advice - if you do rest on Christmas Day, don't feel guilty; and if you train, enjoy it!

Merry Christmas.

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