HOLIDAY TRAINING: Plan Ahead to Stay On Track During the Holiday Rush


by John A. Ruibal

One of the hardest times of year to keep your training on track is during the holidays. Research shows that Americans typically gain 1-2 pounds during this period. That extra weight can make a difference if you have a half marathon or full marathon planned in January or February.

The key is planning ahead, so here are a few tips to keep your training plan on track.

Holiday Eating

First, enjoy your traditional holiday meal, which is a major production involving many people. Take time to run or exercise earlier in the day so you can enjoy the good food and good company guilt-free.

Holiday parties can be more challenging. Here’s some guidance to plan ahead:

  •  Offer to bring a dish. Bring a healthy alternative so that you have something guilt-free to graze on.
  • Don’t go on an empty stomach. Eat something light prior to attending so that you can make better choices when you arrive.
  •  Watch out for the alcohol. In addition to the extra calories, too many drinks may cause you to skip the next day’s workout. Drink a glass or bottle of water between alcoholic beverages.

Holiday Training

Eating, of course, is only part of the battle. You’ve still got to train. Here’s how:

  • Work out in the morning. This may mean getting up a little earlier than normal, but it ensures that you will get your workout in for the day.
  •  Recover the day AFTER social activities. Schedule your easy or recovery workouts for the day after holiday social commitments. Your coach can adjust your schedule if he or she knows your schedule in advance.
  •  Plan ahead to get your key workouts in. Know your key workouts for the week and make it a priority to get these workouts in. For a half or full marathon, for example, the long run is going to be your key workout.
  • Be accountable. Keep your training partners accountable, and make sure they do the same for you.
  • If you miss a workout, let it go and stick to your training schedule. Each of your workouts is designed for a specific purpose, and trying to make up workouts may not give your body the proper work rest cycle. Doubling up workouts could increase your risk of injury.
  •  Wear appropriate safety gear. Make sure you are seen while running on the roads. If you are distracted this time of year, so is the person behind the wheel, and the one on two legs never wins if there is an accident.

Remember to think about the real meaning of the season, and know that come January “taper time” is right around the corner.

iRunJohn Ruibal is a registered dietitian and is board-certified in sports nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. He coordinates the distance running classes available at both iRun Texas locations in San Antonio. He has been running for more than 40 years and coaching for 25. To connect with John or learn more about his classes, visit

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