Photo Credit: Delaware Athletics
If your body feels off, acknowledge and validate it and make a small change if you can. Some ideas may be running in the afternoon if you always run in the morning or vice versa, or even trying to run somewhere new at home.
Jessica Stratton - Old Saybrook (CT) High School, Class of 2019
University of Delaware, senior
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Training around the holidays can be a challenging time for some people. I know personally, ever since coming back to my cozy home to nestle up for the holidays and take a break from school, I've been feeling guilty about my lack of motivation to train. This article is to remind you that you are not alone in feeling weighed down by the multitude of challenges associated with training around the holidays.
There are many things to navigate, including balancing time with family and friends, running alone if you are away from your team for break, having family obligations that may interfere with your schedule, not having access to a gym at home and generally being out of your normal routine, which can throw your body off.
Although spending time with loved ones and taking a much needed break from school are positive things, they are also small added stressors to our training that can definitely impact how we feel, though also not worth compromising.
The most important thing to guide you through this time is to listen to your body. The key to running, as always, is consistency, which means that not everyday is going to be perfect. But you want to aim to get it right most of the time.
Something I've heard many times before is that the person who gets it right most of the time, and stays consistent, balanced and happy is better than the person who gets it right 100-percent of the time but is miserable, burnt out and tired. This philosophy is supported by Steve Magness, an expert on athlete performance who states "Don't aim to be consistently great. Aim to be great at being consistent."
So if your body feels off, acknowledge and validate it and make a small change if you can. Some ideas may be running in the afternoon if you always run in the morning or vice versa, or even trying to run somewhere new at home. Sometimes driving the extra 10 minutes instead of walking right out your door is worth it to change up the scenery and feel refreshed.
Another piece of advice is to find some friends to train with. I always try to link up with high school friends or even old competitors that live near me at home to catch up and go for a run.
I've also found it helpful to work my training around other plans, instead of working other plans around my training. Sometimes your body's fatigue could just be coming from the stress of planning and trying to fit it into an unpredictable schedule. And finally, let yourself sleep in if you need to. Getting good sleep over the holidays will help you revitalize and recover and also will help you stay motivated and energized to run.
We like to train smart and efficiently over the holidays, am I right? One of the best ways to do this is to be adaptable and consistent. Over a long stretch that you are by yourself, listen to your body's cues to take an easier day, or switch around a workout day if you are feeling run down on your scheduled day. Similarly to what was mentioned above, consistency is the key, so don't get so hung up on the order of your schedule. By no means am I saying to completely change everything, but just to give the reminder that there are so many other factors affecting your training routine over a holiday break and sometimes trying to do it exactly the way it's written is too stressful.
As long as you're getting the work in, be flexible enough to allow yourself to be able to enjoy the joys of the holidays and not sacrifice other things that make you happy. Also, on the days where your motivation may be low, remember your goal for the season. Remind yourself why you do this and what you want to achieve and it might help get you out the door.
Another piece of advice is to find some friends to train with. I always try to link up with high school friends or even old competitors that live near me at home to catch up and go for a run. Or better yet, force a family member to bike with you. As much as we love a run by ourselves sometimes, there may be some days that that extra motivation is what gets us out the door.
Finally, one of the most important things to be conscientious about over the holiday season is not to change the way you eat, and to indulge if it brings you joy. It's just as important to fuel the soul as it is to fuel the body and there is no better time than the holiday season to enjoy baking cookies with your friends and family and eat all the yummy food that is prepared over the holidays.
When I was in high school, I took running so seriously that I didn't participate in doing these things with my family and friends. The holidays were so stressful because I didn't want most of the food and I felt pressure to enjoy things that everyone else was enjoying; I thought they would impact my performance.
Now, after many years of experience, I have realized that my happiness has much more of an impact on my performance than any food can. My philosophy is to fuel my soul and my body, don't overthink it. From there, you will be the best version of yourself and will make yourself happy. I know the holidays can often be known for causing stress around food for anyone, not just athletes, but just remember that enjoying and indulging in the holidays will not impact your performance.
In fact, it may be part of the joy that elevates you. Keep fueling.
Jessica is a 2019 graduate of Old Saybrook (CT) High School and a senior at the University of Delaware. She was a multiple-time CIAC State Open and CIAC Class Class S Championship qualifier and placer, and held PRs of 2:22.78 in the 800m and 5:07.42 in the 1,600m. This past spring, she was named on the CAA's Commissioner's Honor Roll. This is a monthly series where Jessica writes about important and wide-ranging subjects involving young and developing runners.
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