thanksgiving cyclist

A Pre-Turkey Pep Talk For Cyclists on Thanksgiving

Nobody wants to talk or hear about training and workouts on Thanksgiving Day. I get it. Enjoy turkey day, and the next few days of leftovers. But come Monday, it’s back to work!

Athletes train year round

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 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 an ultrarunner, a cyclist, a triathlete. You’re an athlete.

There are no shortcuts

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.” There are, and you have, and it is an excellent idea to plan some periods of rest and reduced focus on regimented workouts. But those should be part of the plan, not an escape from the plan. Skipping intervals and workouts isn’t part of the plan and it’s not helping you, so complete your workouts, and if you want time off, figure out how to incorporate that into your plan.

Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready

There are plenty of bloggers and columnists out there making it easier to indulge in excuses. They say this is the time for long, low- to moderate-intensity workouts to build an aerobic base. They warn against making January heroes who are zeros by May. But those aren’t the only two options. Time-crunched athletes who train 8 hours or less per week don’t do enough volume or create enough workload with moderate-intensity rides to build the aerobic base those bloggers are talking about. Going easier requires you to go longer, and if you can’t then you have to use some intensity to generate that workload. You don’t have to prepare for a peak performance in January, but Tempo and lactate threshold intervals during this period are a better use of your time if you’re a time-crunched athlete.

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.

All workouts count

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.

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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.

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

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Comments 23

  1. Chris,

    I was already on my trainer this mornning, getting “it” done, when your Pre-Turkey Talk email came thru.
    Too frigid in N.J. for an outdoor ride.

    Enjoy your day all.

    Ben Rocco
    N.J. USA

  2. IDK about all y’all, but more than anything, I need a mental break from ‘training.’ JRA with your buddies, seeing the scenery, chatting away the miles makes riding not seem like drudgery.

  3. Chris,
    I enjoy the cold temps, and riding BUT I GET TIRED OF SINUS INFECTIONS……
    40 f degrees and BLUE SKY…..
    Do you have any tips to ward off sinus infections?
    More trainer sessions inside?

    1. David,

      It might be worthwhile to have a consult with an ENT doctor that specializes in “Rhinology”. It is normal for nasal mucosa to swell when exposed to cold air. If the ostium mucosa swells, the mucus cannot escape the sinus and sets up a potential infection due to the stagnant mucus. There is a procedure that can be done to enlarge the natural ostium and allow for better drainage. See Careful, not all ENT docs are proficient in the procedure, look for the rhinologist sub specialist

  4. I use to quail hunt Thanksgiving morning and now I walk or ride if possible. I always feel better if I exercise before the big Thanksgiving dinner and I am thankful that I am still able to ride at 74 at a good clip and distance! Happy Thanksgiving to All!

  5. Thanks, living in Tucson, we do have those 70 degree days to ride, swimming early morning in the cold before cycling takes an adjustment! And getting over to ride Mt Lemmon takes up early in the dark! Thank you : just the kick I needed, as I mentally started to slack .

  6. “Always” appreciate the articles.

    The facts: 1) I’m always a little behind my goals. 🙁
    2) I have 5 or so CTS DVD’s (& use them).
    3) I need 2days rest (cuz I’m old).

    Question: If I need 8hrs of work each week (through the winter months), and my training tapes are about an hour each, what would be the other 3hrs of training look like? 5hrs of interval work per week plus what else?
    Add another couple intervals? Add a sustained 30min effort?

    Maybe this is why I’m always behind the 8 ball in the spring time. I must be under working myself. :/
    I hate it when I’ve missed a key detail.


  7. Love it, ! I got up this morning with mind made up TO ride 1 hr indoors, tomorrow I turn 57 and I ll be on indoor bike for 2hrs of HARD riding (moved from So Ca. to Idaho no cold weather gear yet) so no out doors riding.I cannot give myself a better bday.
    Thanks, Chris

  8. Thankful for our always ride-worthy weather here So Cal and a little less work time during this season to get some extra training in. Looking forward to maintaining some intensity through this season to see the benefit to my over all performance.

  9. Didn’t read this until now because I was on the bike creating a caloric deficit – 1544 kj worth – to offset some of the damage from later today.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  10. As someone new to the triathlon scene and has lost 47 pounds in the last 7 months ( 25 more to go), I know being consistent works. It’s very easy for me to say oh, I deserve a break and I have earned it, true I have earned it, but I have also earned the desire to keep going. my coaches ( I train with Full Throttle Endurance, at Chelsea piers in NYC), have doubled down on making sure I and others don’t slack off too much during the off season, because I are just one excuse from going back to my old ways, back from being a current 38 waist and going back to my old 44 waist! Articles like this helps, to get me out of the house to do that slow 5 miler as I think of the next 25lbs to come off.

    Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.


  11. Thanks for the push. As a ‘CTS couple’ we are running together today at a Turkey Trot, before pie! But it is definitely easy to gravitate to the mulled cider over running in rain or locking yourself up in the Pain Cave.

  12. 6am in Bay Area and I’m doing my 1 hr zone 1 ride and getting. Ready for mt Diablo on Saturday. Got a bit of sniffles. It is 41F outside. So many good stuff reasons to zzzzzz a n but was out of bed at 510am for a cappuccino and trainer session. I’m crazy. I’m an athlete

  13. Man do we hate motivational speeches, especially when they’re true and needed.
    I’m up at 0530 getting ready for a 30 miler with a friend half my age who only rides with me on Thanksgiving Day morning.
    He says it makes him thankful he’s not my age.

    Happy Thanksgiving Chris.

  14. I’m helping to lead a 30 mile “Turkey Trot” ride this morning and another “Black Friday” one of similar distance tomorrow.

  15. So, I was sitting here on the east coast at 7:00Am trying to decide if I should go do the Thanksgiving club ride at 8:00 and this newsletter popped in on my email.. Wasn’t feeling so good this morning and was wavering on maybe not going, until I read ,”Suck it Up and Get It Done.” So, with that in mind, I’m heading out and Thanks for the push!!!
    NJ, USA

  16. Chris, ….your words came as I sit in my kitchen, drinking my cup of coffee trying to conjure up reasons for not jumping on my trainer bike this Thanksgiving morning. There are a lot of things to do before packing up and leaving for the “family get-together”….but I could both. Thanks for the words of encouragement, I needed them. Now I’m going to “get it done”.

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