Over the years I have noticed that during December and January three things seem to always occur more frequently than any other months of the year: illness, injury and low motivation.
Illness – Many of us are hit my illness which can be a bad cold, chest infections or worse flu.
Injury – Not warming up properly in the cold weather before running or cooling down properly with stretches can result in a calf injury, IT band syndrome, glute injury etc. Also, not addressing the injury properly with rest and focused exercises from an expert can prevent you fully recovering.
Low motivation – This maybe the result of numerous factors: work and/or home stress, not able to get good quality or enough sleep, poor nutrition, over training, training when ill, not addressing an injury properly etc
Here is a list of what I focus on more during the months of December and January.
- A daily vitamin D supplement from September until the end of May.
- Each morning I drink a pint of water as soon as I am up to set up a base. Throughout the day I try and keep hydrated with water.
- Keep caffeine free after mid-day.
- Eat fruit regularly especially fresh oranges.
- Keep to Base Training Level until the end of January rather than threshing every session out. The best way for me is to keep my training effort to aim for 80% at zone 2 talking pace for long cycling and running sessions and 20% for short one hour to one and half hours at a top effort of zone 4 and 5 which is at 9/10 effort at least, with short recoveries. This polarised method allows me to recover quickly and doesn’t seem to lower my immune system during the winter months when there is a high level sickness.
- I address any stresses that are building up. For example over committing myself, not having enough time to relax, getting heating up about things that don’t always matter etc
- Having a great punch of friends to train with helps keep me motivated through the dark wet days and night. If you have no one to train with join a local club. Also, having someone to train with helps you get out of your warm cosy house into the rain with someone you don’t want to let down.
- Magnesium – I take a couple of magnesium tablets three hours before going to bed each night which allows my muscles to relax and helps me get a better quality of sleep.
- My nutrition is quite simple – High good fats, low carbs and mixed protein. High fats being nuts, avocados, eggs, Greek yogurt etc. My protein may include oily fish, eggs, chicken and meat (I try to keep meat to once a week now). My carbs may include: baked potato, sweet potato, peaches, berries, vegetables, sourdough bread, porridge, bananas, apples etc.
- Treats – I will have my treats on the basis of getting 90% of my nutrition right. This may include a small scoop of ice cream, a cake, a piece of dark chocolate, a glass of wine or pint of beer (weekends only).
- I stay away from saunas, as there is a high likelihood of someone’s sneeze still being in the air.
- Use this time of the year to focus on my flexibility and core strength twice a week with drills and strength work in the gym.
- Recovery nutrition straight after any training session. Which for me means a mug of full fat milk and a banana.
- Warm up before running and fully stretch off afterward with a focus on your calves and hamstrings.
- Cycling outdoors – The rule of thumb for me is, “If I am going to be miserable or put in danger I will get on the turbo/watt bike instead.” I will always avoid cycling outdoors if there is any chance of ice being on the road, especially black ice.
- Listening to my body is extremely important and if I feel fatigued I will take time to recover.
- I always have a flu jab in October. Having had the flu only once I don’t ever want to go through the horrible experience ever again.
- If I do come down with any illness I will suspend my training, so that I fully recover as quickly as possible.
- Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Weddings, Family Special Occasions – It’s important for me to thoroughly enjoy all these occasions to the full and afterwards get back to my routine.