Dear Coach: How Do I Stay Focused On Training During The Holidays?

Navigating this season can be tough as an athlete. How much training should you do during the holidays? Coach Marilyn Chychota explains how to balance training and merry-making.

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This is a common question I get asked and this year has definitely been no exception—staying focused on training through the holidays can be a challenging task. Should you opt for complete rest and tuck into the eggnog? Or should you stay on the full throttle gas all the way through come hell or high water!?

Athletes typically have a few more commitments with friends, family, and work during the holiday season as the year comes to an end. As athletes, all year long we ask those closest to us to support us and give us the freedom to focus on our sport. Through the holidays, I find it’s useful on a number of levels to give back to your support network: Give them more time. Miss a session or two and invest in them now, both as a way to say thank you and also so they feel appreciated and you have their support next season when you need it. We ask a lot of the people around us in the thick of our race seasons and when we are training hard. Now is the perfect time to give back to them.

A strategy I’ve used over the years that I’ve found works very well is spending the month of December focused on one single goal that could most impact your overall season. Get up early and get it done first thing in the morning, so it’s out of the way before your day gets rolling. Check it off the list for the day and then if holiday stuff pops up you don’t miss out.

For example, I have my team do a 25-day run challenge. We do it as a team so that everyone can have fun and have peer support to stay on task. You can get up early and complete the run session, and the time efficiency of a run challenge is good. And in regard to the impact on the season, I’ve found running 25 straight days in December can have a hugely positive impact for athletes to carry into their next season. But it doesn’t have to be running; it could be a challenge that’s specific to you. The key is to get up and get it done; you feel good, you stay active, and it has a positive impact on your year. This way, you relieve the stress and business of your normal multi-session days and commitments, but you have the satisfaction of doing some good work to keep you progressing forward.

The key at this time of year is to be creative, be flexible, have some fun, and enjoy the holidays!

Marilyn Chychota is a USAT-certified coach and former pro triathlete who is now owner and head coach at Marilyn Chychota Coaching. Find out more at

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