Caroline Bailey

Coach's Corner by: Caroline Bailey, PhD

Keeping the Dream Alive : A Runner’s Guide to Coping with Christmas Excess.
Caroline Bailey.

Seems like we’ve hardly seen the back end of the Easter bunny and already Christmas is upon us. Whilst it’s a great to have some down-time, and restore a bit of life back into your work-life balance, Christmas do’s and holidays at this time of year can reek havoc on your diet and sleep patterns and so your  motivation to train. Whilst it’s important to have less intense periods of training in any twelve month block, it can be all too easy to start making excuses and skipping runs.  Here’s a few things to bear in mind, to keep you on your toes, and stop your running shoes gathering dust….

Adaptations to training occur so quickly that in humans it is possible to detect improvements in VO2 max within a week of beginning an intensive training program. However, an opposite and equal effect is seen when training stops; estimates from various studies suggest fitness is significantly lost after 5-7 days of inactivity. Now is a good time to revisit your goals. Whilst Christmas may not be the best time to improve speed or endurance, you can at least maintain your hard-won fitness . Be realistic and work out in advance what runs are essential in the next 3-4 weeks to keep you ticking over, and when exactly you are going to fit them in: then anything else is a bonus. Write it on the family calendar, put it as your status on facebook, even send yourself an email reminder to trigger a guilty conscience. Your fitness was hard won – and you are only letting yourself down if you let it slip away.

Once you’ve committed to a run, make sure you do it!! If necessary, arrange to meet running buddies, take the kids with you on bikes (or bring them to the track and run around them), run reps up and down the beach, whilst the kids are surfing… even sleep in your running clothes, if it helps you get up and go in the morning! Whatever it takes for you to get out the door – you  know you’ll be feeling like a rockstar by the time you jog back up your driveway. Generally studies have found that people who exercise early in the morning are more likely to stick to an exercise regime; as the day progresses, more obstacles to exercise are likely to present themselves (around this time in the form of people offering champagne cocktails and sausage rolls, or alternatively, large amounts of glazed pork). You will not be able to run after 5 beers and three hours of grazing at a seafood buffet. So if today is the day you have deemed ‘a run’, set your alarm, get out the door and you’ll be back before the rest of the house have even woken up. What’s more, you’ll feel the benefit of the endorphins until at least lunchtime, and have worked up an appetite to really make the most of that buffet!

Being away with family/friends on holiday can pose difficulties if you don’t know the local area, and want to run for a certain distance. However, you can still work out running routes, using free on-line mapping tools such as those provided by ‘’ or ‘’ .Variety is the spice of life, and you may well find that being in a different environment and testing yourself on different routes will rejuvenate your running mojo.  Make sure you take enough running gear with you though (including socks) - you don’t want to be known as That Stinky Bloke from Byron, running laps of the campsite in the same singlet every day!

If you are heading to the big smoke, do a google search, and see what running clubs are in the area ( or  for listings in Australia), as you may be able to join in some training sessions (runners are usually a pretty friendly lot). Also look out for local fun runs – Park Runs are becoming increasingly popular (, and there always a variety of Santa runs, Christmas Pudding races and other novelty events  around this time of year that you can get involved in (even if it does mean running wearing elf ears). 

Finally, think about the 2013 season, and what fantastic results you will achieve, if you maintain your fitness over the summer months. Whilst next season may seem like a long time away, already race directors are posting events. For example, the Corporate Challenge series (the official lead-up to the Gold Coast Marathon Festival) begins on 17 February, and the Twilight 10k in Brisbane is set for just four weeks after that. This is only 12 weeks away - the exact duration of most training schedules – so really there is no time to lose! This is the time of year when it is important to believe (not just in a big fat blokes with beards), but also that you can have your (Christmas) cake and eat it – just plan a bit, be realistic, and you’ll be looking at a fitter, faster you for 2013.

Wishing all Byron Bay Runners and families a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.