Weekend Reading: Why Every Workout Counts Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s

As of this Saturday morning, I’m about 150 miles into my Thanksgiving Challenge, and it’s going to be touch-and-go as to whether I’ll make the full 250. In case you missed it, I decided last week to launch a Thanksgiving Challenge: ride 250 miles between Monday, November 19 and Sunday, November 25. It’s been quite a popular challenge, judging by the emails, Facebook messages, and tweets I’ve been getting from athletes all over the place! Some of you are going to be beat me by a long shot, and I think that’s awesome! More than likely I’ll hit the full distance by Sunday afternoon, but I might have to use the “flat tire” excuse to squeeze in the last few miles and still have an explanation for being late…


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This is the time of year that defines an athlete. Anyone can get excited about going for a ride on a sunny, 75-degree day in the spring or summer. It takes quite a bit more dedication to bundle up and head out the door on a cold Saturday or Sunday morning in November/December/January. And when the weather keeps you indoors, it requires a similar level of dedication to sequester yourself in some corner of your home, garage, or basement to ride the trainer. You don’t call people who train through the winter “enthusiasts” or “casual exercisers”. You’re a runner, a cyclist, a triathlete. You’re an athlete.

All the same, even dedicated athletes are tempted to take short cuts at this time of year. The thought is, “What’s the harm in riding 30 fewer minutes, running one fewer mile, or skipping that last interval?” “There are plenty of months between now and my next goal event.” “There’s plenty of time to make up for those lost miles.” “I’ve done plenty already.”

You sure got plenty of excuses.

The truth is that this is one of the most precarious periods of the year for athletes who train year-round. For the vast majority of athletes, your fitness level has declined – at least slightly – over the past two months. That’s pretty natural, especially for summer-season cyclists, triathletes, and runners. You just can’t let that slight decline gain momentum and turn into a free-fall descent.

Each workout – and each interval and mile within those workouts – counts at this time of year because the weather, the short days, the illnesses, and the relentless succession of Holiday events will conspire to knock you out of training for a few days, a week, or more at some point in the next six weeks. It happens. It’s one of the realities we go through with our athletes every year.

So, when you’re cold and tempted to cut 30 minutes off your ride, or it’s getting dark and you want to skip that last interval, suck it up and get it done. At this time of year it’s important to bank as much high-quality training time as you can; it’s an investment against the workouts you’re going to have to miss or cut short for legitimate reasons. 

Have a great weekend, and congratulations to everyone who completes the Thanksgiving Challenge!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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