December has come around as rapidly as ever, bringing all the usual holiday activities around every corner with parties and social events filling our calendars. That results in compromised training opportunities for all of us. This is the Season to be Merry and that means not getting stressed about missing a little training when life gets in the way and simply adapting your sessions so you can make the most of the festive season and enjoy all it has to offer!
I like to call this the Festive Taper as we are essentially doing the same as when tapering to race, just this time instead of reducing the aerobic load to allow the body to recover and energy levels to build pre-race while maintaining fitness, we are freeing up more time to spend with family and friends.
Here are some tips to take forward into this month.
Our body is an amazing machine and its ability to maintain fitness gains with very minimal training is something we want to use to our advantage this month. When looking to maintain fitness we want to look at the areas of fitness that take the longest to build up because that is where we want to focus our efforts.
Speed and strength are the two areas of fitness that take the most time to develop while endurance takes the least amount of time. So let’s concentrate on maintaining the speed and strength gains we have made and take the endurance that comes with it as a bonus, knowing that we can get our endurance back very quickly in the New Year when everything settles down again.
Speed and strength maintenance
As mentioned above, speed and strength take a long time to build up. Following our training methods we are constantly looking for small but continuous gains. As we always say at ironguides: build slowly but constantly - brick by brick.
So how do we maintain this developed speed and strength without completing our full sessions and taking a step back in our development?
- reduce interval length
- reduce interval number
- maintain interval effort
This is very similar to what you would typically do during a taper. The aim here is to maintain the motor patterns built up in our muscles but in this instance we are not doing this to reduce the aerobic load on the body as in a taper but due to lack of time. The end result is the same; we maintain fitness and freshen up. That’s a double result for family and friends as we have more time for them and we are not constantly fatigued.
Let’s say you arrive home planning your usual track interval session. This session would normally take 90 minutes in total, door to door, but when you get home you find out plans have been made that you can’t get out of. Say you’re now faced with 30 minutes of possible training time, instead of your normal 90. Don’t dismiss the session thinking 30 minutes is not long enough, get moody and spend the evening thinking about your lost session and not enjoying yourself. Use the time you have available. Let’s look at what to do.
20min easy/strides - 10x3min HARD +2min / 20min cool down
So you can’t do the session above but you can make sure that in the 30 minutes available you work the muscles at the effort and speed you would have completed in the normal session. The end result may not be building fitness but you will have maintained your fitness and be in a better position next week for your full session.
30 MINUTE SESSION ALTERNATIVE
The 30-minute session to maintain fitness would look something like this:
5min easy/ 5min building to moderate effort - 5x2min HARD +1min - 5min easy
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
By keeping calm and knowing how to maintain fitness levels with a reduced training load you can enjoy the festive season without the constant threat of holiday events interrupting your training. You will find that the extra energy and happiness you have from this will be noticed by family and friends and they will appreciate the extra time and energy you can give them this holiday season!
Enjoy your training, all the best for the festive season from everyone at ironguides.
Alun "Woody" Woodward, Certified ironguides Coach – UK/Hungary
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