Start a Training Tradition with a New Year’s Day Workout

By Chris Carmichael

Progress. It’s what we’re all after, what athletes train hours, months, and years to accomplish. You might have personal or competitive goals driving you forward, but behind all of those there’s the necessity to make progress. And so we test ourselves. We do field tests, lab tests, test ourselves against our buddies, and of course test ourselves in races. But there’s one ritual that I really like when it comes to measuring progress: It’s a New Year’s Day Workout.

Put simply, a NYDW is a chance to create a tradition for yourself and set a performance benchmark on an annual basis. Your performances in your NYDW from one year to the next seek to answer one simple question: Are you better now than you were a year ago?

Hopefully the answer will be “yes”. That would mean the last year of training has been productive and beneficial. It would mean that you’re going to build on last year’s foundation to reach even greater heights in the next year.

What if the answer is no? What if your run and/or swim paces are slower, or your power/pace numbers are lower on the bike? Before chalking the past year up as a failure, review the past year – and particularly the past two months – for some reasons why you may not have exceeded your performance from the previous year’s NYDW. Remember that training is not linear; you won’t always move forward/up in terms of performance. For many athletes, a mid-year injury or an extended period away from training necessitates a rebuilding period, and you simply may not have fully rebuilt to the level of the previous year… yet. It gives you something to shoot for over the next 12 months.

What makes a good NYDW? Well, you want something repeatable, so a pool swim and an indoor run/ride is a good combination. However, if you have the ability to run/ride outside on New Year’s Day it’s hard to pass up that opportunity. Go outside and do your best to mimic the conditions/course of last year’s workout. If this concept is intriguing to you and you decide to start the NYDW tradition this year, then 2012 will be a baseline year. (And if you want to delay the workout by a day so that your New Year’s Eve partying doesn’t skew your results, that’s fine. We’ll just call it a NYD+1W…)

Here’s my suggestion for a NYDW, but you can modify it to fit the conditions/weather in your area: (One other great modification is to use a locally or regionally famous workout. Outside of Colorado Springs we have The Incline, a retired cog railway that ascends approximately 2000 vertical feet in 1 mile of steep railroad ties. Outside of Tucson, AZ there’s Mount Lemmon, etc.)

New Year’s Day Workout
Swim/Run Brick (approx 2 hours total time)
1000m mixed warmup (400 Swim, 4×50 Kick, 4×50 Drill, 4×50 Build)
2x1000m Swim Time Trials with 60sec rest between them
200m cooldown

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2mile warmup
3x1mile Time Trials, 4minutes recovery between them
2mile cooldown

A New Year’s Day Workout sets a great tone for the coming year. It’s a celebration of what you’ve accomplished in the previous 12 months and a statement of your intent for the next 12. Whether you use the workout above or create one of your own, it’s a tradition I encourage you to adopt in 2012! Happy New Year!

Chris Carmichael is the author of “The Time-Crunched Triathlete” and CEO/Founder of Carmichael Training Systems, the Official Coaching and Camps Partner of Ironman and Ironman 70.3. 

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