The holidays are upon us. Festive cheer is in the air and there’s a good chance it is throwing a wrench in your riding schedule. Especially if you’re on a roll from a great autumn training season, the holidays can be met with more anxiety than excitement. Nevertheless, we cyclists deserve to let our hair down from time to time, so here are some tips for not only surviving but thriving amid all the festivities.

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Give yourself a reason to take a break

First of all, it’s definitely not a bad thing to use the holidays to allow your body to recover, catch up with friends and family, and get some much-needed R&R. But be warned, missed rides will soon take their toll and you’ll be surprised how quickly fitness can fall away – especially if your diet and sleeping schedule are also getting completely derailed. The best way to avoid this is to build yourself a buffer zone so you have a little more flexibility when it comes to holiday downtime.

In the days leading up to what you believe will be an extended layoff, the 23rd-26th December for example, really push yourself on the bike. Clock in some extra miles, commit to taking on that threatening hill you’re inclined to avoid or attempt to beat a personal best on Strava. You have the added motivation of knowing a break is on the horizon and, having established a buffer, you won’t find it so tough to get back out there when the Christmas madness has wound down.

Cycling Anatomy by Shannon Sovndal

Learn something new about the sport you love

If sneaking out for a ride isn’t really an option, use some of the downtimes to get better acquainted with the science and culture of cycling. Two great titles that came out this year include Shannon Sovndal’s, Cycling Anatomy: Your Illustrated Guide for Cycling Strength, Speed, and Endurance (2nd edition), and the anonymously written, The Secret Cyclist: Real Life in the Professional Peloton. Sovndal is a former Garmin-Sharp team physician who is also an emergency physician, firefighter, and sports trainer. Her book features illustrated examples of 89 strength and conditioning exercises, each with a ‘cycling focus’ section to explain how that particular exercise will help you pedal more effectively.

The Secret Cyclist, on the other hand, features an anonymous pro cyclist dishing on life in the pro peloton. The author has ridden for World Tour teams for 10 years and has achieved top-10 finishes at Grand Tours, so he’s got plenty of material to draw from. Inside, you’ll find insights on pro cycling’s pay structure, sponsors, doping, contracts and agents, crashing, handling the media, retirement, and the unwritten rules.

Set some goals for the new year

Say what you will about new year’s resolutions, we’re talking about setting some realistic goals that will give you something to look forward to working on when the holidays are over. Having a target in mind will help you stay focused and make healthier decisions while taking in the festivities. Or, if you’d rather set some goals over the holidays themselves, you could sign up for the RaphaFestive 500. This is a challenge for cyclists around the world in which you can try to get as close to 500 km under your belt over the festive period as possible.

Get the family out for a ride

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you don’t need super high-performance gear to enjoy some winter riding, why not try to convince the whole gang to join you for a ride over the holidays? Look into bike-sharing programs or short-term rental if not everyone has a set of wheels. Just remember that if you do manage to get a ride together with family, stick to a route and pace that works for the least experienced or least able rider.

Family trip during the holidays. © christopher jones / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia

Set yourself up to make smart food choices

There’s a lot working against your healthy diet over the holidays. Marketing, nostalgia, and seasonal traditions all play their part in making sure the sale of cheese, cakes, champagne, liqueurs, and chocolates have a substantial boost this time of year. Although it is definitely within reason to treat yourself, having a house full of goodies can easily lead you to overdo it. Try to fill your home with your regular, healthy staples to stay on track.

And if you’re heading out to party, take precautionary steps like eating a small, nutrient and protein-dense meal before leaving the house. It might seem counterintuitive to eat before but trust us, if you starve yourself all day in anticipation of the event, you’ll end up with no self-control as your body will be craving sweet foods due to low blood-sugar levels.

The cycling spirit of Christmas © dpa picture alliance / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia

Try to go with the flow

Making plans and taking precautionary steps should be part of your strategy but not all of it. Over the holidays, you’re bound to experience last-minute invites, unexpected visits or weather, and it’s all liable to disrupt your schedule. You’ve probably worked hard all year, and it’s okay to take a breather. If cycling is normally a part of your daily routine, don’t forgo it entirely but if you miss a session, don’t hit a particular training target or overdo it on the eggnog one night, don’t beat yourself. Remember that a little holiday cheer is good for the soul and you’ll be crushing mileage again soon.

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