Great Christmas Expectations

I had heard, somewhere, sometime, that decathlete Daley Thompson explained that he trained on Christmas day because he knew his rivals wouldn’t.

Looking for that quote again today, he is now quoted as saying he trains twice on Christmas day as his rivals may only train once.

Soon, everyone will be training twice save for those training three times. And so on.

Unless maybe now the new edge is not to train on Christmas day, to rest and recover and use that day off to fuel motivation for the next week’s sessions. If you have followed this blog for a little while now, you’ll know I’m a fan of less standing in for more, and you’ll know which end of the spectrum I lean to.

Funnily enough, as I stopped in on my reader before writing this post, I saw that Nicola Joyce, whose blog The Fit Writer I really enjoy for its thoughtful, measured, and articulate posts, had beaten me to it! Which is fine when you want something to argue with, but I actually agree with everything she says. Still, I think amidst the jungle of “Grrrr I train twice a day on Christmas day because I’m twice the man you are!” statements and “I don’t need to train on Christmas day because I’m already better than you” confidence and the odd bit of “I’ve trained hard all year and now I just want to get drunk on gravy” honesty, I think the Internet can do with all the moderation it can get.

I don’t think I have ever trained on Christmas day. Not because I don’t want to, but because my family doesn’t really allow for flexibility in its schedule and I don’t really allow for earlier than necessary wake-up calls in mine. Typically, we all get up at a somewhat reasonable time lest anyone comment on how lazy we are, have a normal breakfast like any other day, shower and get dressed like any other day. Then someone will mention presents, and we’ll begrudgingly tear ourselves away from whatever we are doing for a few moments of awkward family time. 1 part atheist, 3 parts fun-sponge.

Around midday, at least one of us will complain that we don’t want a big meal, before joining up with the rest of the family for Christmas lunch. At this point I will suddenly get very hungry, but have to make do with olives whilst everyone else has champagne which unfortunately I just have never developed a taste for. Fast-forward to the end of the meal and it is getting dark and I am too full and comfortable to contemplate getting changed and moving myself with any sort of speed or enthusiasm. I might, at this point, take myself for a walk just to prove a point and to justify eating dessert for dinner.

Anyone who has trained regularly will know that all of that is a bit irrelevant as obviously you can always make time for training if you want to. We can all make excuses until the day has passed us by. So, should you stay or should you go?

In an ideal world, everyone is practising a sport that they are passionate about and which should factor into their vision of any perfect holiday. These people probably aren’t even reading this post because they know what they will be doing.

Unfortunately, some of us practise a sport that can’t be practised alone or without facilities. Out of those people, some love the associated conditioning and will derive some sort of satisfaction from training on Christmas day. In that case, if schedules allow, why not? If it’s something you enjoy, it has its place on your day off! Don’t think it will make you a better athlete than those who don’t train on Christmas day, apart from any psychological benefits to confidence. Others really hate the conditioning and put up with it because it allows them to practise their sport. But if you are of a high enough level and your year’s training planning is so complete that an additional session on Christmas day is necessary, then you’re not even asking yourself whether or not to train. If not, enjoy your day off, and think about how much you will enjoy getting back into your full training regime, when conditioning becomes more bearable alongside technical sessions in a week.

For everyone else who isn’t in love with physical activity, chances are that every day is a struggle to stay active. I hate to be the bad guy here, but I’d say Christmas day is as good a day as any to get your limbs moving. I think it’s important to stay moderately active throughout each day – even if it’s just getting up and having a stretch during ad breaks on TV, getting up to do the dishes, or the old “get off the bus a stop early and walk”. If you’re unlikely to train regularly, or at all, for the rest of the year, these rules apply. And as they are rules for sustainable, healthy day-to-day living, they apply on Christmas day and other bank holidays. Sorry. Good news is, if you hate physical movement that much, you probably don’t care what I think. If you are concerned about what I’m saying, then you will probably feel better for getting on your feet at some point during the day. Take a dog for a walk, or in my case accompany an elderly relative, or just have a gentle stretch.

If Christmas day is special to you, do whatever feels right for a special day – if it is of no particular interest, then do what you would on any other day. Sorry you read through a whole post for such a groundbreaking conclusion. More interestingly, check out this compilation of various athletes’ activities on 25th December.

For what it’s worth, there will be no running or circuit-training for me tomorrow. I would actually love to go for a run (especially now I’ve written this post!) but my foot health simply won’t allow. I will probably do some combination of bodyweight exercises in the morning, perhaps a walk in the afternoon, and undoubtedly some stretching in the evening. I won’t be making any gains but I won’t watch myself turn to mulch either.

Whatever you do, have a wonderful Christmas day, full of peace and wellbeing!