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  • Michelle Howell

How to: train through the holidays

December is here friends and I am not about it. Wind I can handle, rain I can make due with. Cold weather? I am not a fan. Throw them all together and add in flurries and snow and you get a fairly unhappy Michelle.


Maybe I'm being a little dramatic toward the whole winter thing, but can you really blame me? Who actually likes that stuff for weeks at a time? Surely not I, especially not when I spend hours outside in it.



With that being said since booking my flight to head south in early November I have been literally counting the days till my flight out of DCA to West Palm. My bags are packed for warmer days and with only a few days left between me and sunny south Florida, I am over the thirty-five-degree temps.


As much as I love going home, the holiday break coming this is probably the hardest time of year for me and it's not because of the weather (the only weather issue is going to be that sunburn on my uber pale skin the first few days). It's hard because of training in relation to everything else competing for my attention: family get-togethers/ obligations, making time for friends at home, trying to squeeze in activities / see things I've missed out on since the last time I was home, and perhaps the biggest obstacle for me at least; controlling my sweet tooth. I've already started plotting the holiday treats I want to make this year and it;s not looking good for my scale (if you haven't checked out the NY times cooking cookies list you should, it's got some real winners this year).


While all these things are good in moderation as with anything else, the problem is that running is a year-round sport. It doesn't discriminate the holiday season from any other and with indoors peeking its head from around the corner now is not the time to drop the ball for two-plus weeks. This year I'm home just shy of a month to avoid the winter here as long as I can, but doing the logistics of making sure I can get in the training I need is no small feat and I am already starting to feel anxious about the list of "things I should be present for" beginning to pile up. But this isn't my first rodeo; I've got a game plan and I'm going to survive this holiday training season!


The Approach

In my mind, there are two approaches to holiday training the guilty grinder and the rug sweeper. The guilty grinder feels that missing a workout is the make or break of that training segment- anxious to make sure they can get in every training day and guilt-stricken if they have to miss. The rug sweeper (aka me in high school) coasts through the holiday season not worrying about missing workouts because it's the holidays, because they have better things to do, because they can always make up what they've missed, because they won't lose fitness that quick, because running by yourself is hard, because coach won't know if I BS my training log. It's easy to just sweep training under the rug and come back to the mess at a later time. (PSA these rug sweepers do not exist solely in the holiday season, there's also a spring break, summer, and weekend warrior variety). These days I tend to skew more guilty grinder, but finding that balancing is really the only way to manage- be a grinder, but be flexible.


Get on the naughty list

Being selfish is the complete opposite of the holiday season and will probably end you up on the naughty list it's how you're going to get stuff done. If you don't make training over break a priority, make sure your family/ friends are aware of what you need to accomplish and take the time out to do it it simply won't get done. Running is now my job, but in college it wasn't and sometimes it felt hard to justify training over other things. This made altering the suggested aka mandatory training easy to do since I felt other things outweighed my training. When I started to get more serious and really embrace the lifestyle things changed. I stopped skipping or altering things and stuck to the plan and added in extra and found myself coming back from holiday break not only feeling strong, but confident that I was ready for indoor- a huge jump from half-assing training and sweeping things under the rug in high school and the first part of college. Be a little selfish make a plan of where and when you'll train. Try to stick to it the best you can and make time for you to get stuff done.


Share your Goals

The biggest help to ensuring you'll stay on track is telling the people around what your goals are for the coming season. Chances are people will be asking you what your up to anyways so use this as an opportunity to keep yourself accountable by sharing your coming season goals and what you're doing to accomplish them.


Be Flexible

There's no real designated offseason as I've said before, but there is time to not be a complete workout robot. Going home is a big challenge for me always because my schedule gets all kinds of screwed up (read: my parents wake up at 4:30 am and sleep at 6:00 pm). So I have to be flexible in adapting my current day to day routine every time I go back in addition to the normal commitments that come this time of year.


Knowing this I plan ahead, but make sure I factor in extra time in case things don't go the way I expect them to (read: last year when every single public track I drove to was locked and had to rearrange my workout days to accommodate). With so much going on during this time of year having a plan of action and being flexible with it you can make time on the big days and take advantage of the opportunities you have to see family and friends while getting the work you need done. It's okay to be a rug sweeper a little bit. If you have to miss a workout it's not the end of the world. Missing one long run or one workout will not make or break your season.



While I've not skipped a Christmas run in over six years (that's right I go for a run every Christmas morning), we'll see if I can continue my streak this year. Keep an eye out for some upcoming training vlogs feat Maddie (she's escaping the cold too) and a spicy mile time trial this month