No-one expected to be working from home again so soon, but what seems like an annual request has finally arrived from the UK government for those who can work from home to do so. This may indeed alter your Christmas wish-lists and I can already hear the Christmas tills ringing with Peloton and Zwift purchases for the ultimate home setup. There are, however, opportunities to continue your outside rides in place of your commute over Winter if you are willing to ignore the weather, bear the cold and sacrifice some time in bed during the holidays to get outside and ride.
Athletes often talk about the mental and physical importance of training whilst others are not doing so. To gain that competitive advantage while others are not even considering getting into their lycra. Most of us however are not athletes that demand this level of dedication. We will be faced this Christmas, however, with the inevitable choice – to train or not to train. Do we take time out to rest and recuperate, leaving the thought of training for the January push? The older I get, the more I realise that I can’t adopt this point of view. Indeed, many of us have committed work schedules and the holiday periods are really the only time to train for an extended period without the concern of changing into a suit and the distraction of work. Throw in family commitments and suddenly early mornings during holiday periods seem like the only opportunity to indulge in some prolonged physical torture to shed calories.
What if we don’t train? What actually happens to our bodies? Outside of inevitable weight gain, assuming calorie intake remains stable (at Christmas!?), what is the impact on our fitness?
A 1989 article in Sports Medicine found that VO2 max decreases start to begin after two to four weeks fully off, tied to reduction in cardiac output and blood volume. Follow-up studies generally found around a 5% reduction after two weeks, and up to 20% at 8 to 10 weeks.
So, in general two weeks out of the saddle shouldn’t have too much of an impact. The real issue at this time of year is diet and calorific intake. An increase in the quantity of food consumed - starchy meals and high sugar consumption can really impact not only our physical but also our mental well-being. I have often sat at the Christmas dinner table and thought that ‘this is going to be hard to work off come the New Year.’
When the weather sets in it is extremely hard to get motivated especially when it seems like your focus should be on enjoying your downtime. If you’re anything like me, your mince pies and box of celebrations in front of the sofa while watching the inevitable rerun of The Great Escape will feel a lot less impactful if you have braved the early morning physical exercise. In fact, I always feel better for getting exercise out the way early allowing me to enjoy the day, especially around periods of festive celebration.
What can we do for inspiration? Yes, we can bring cycling indoors. Some say indoor miles are easy compared to outdoor miles in the elements. Only people who've never tried to ride serious miles indoors will say that. The challenge is just different. Instead of darkness and rain the challenge is that you can at any moment step off your bike. There's no rescue needed because you are already home. Just stop pedalling and go and take a warm shower. Having that constant devil on your shoulder is one of the hardest things you'll ever have to contend with. But what if the pull of the outdoors is too much? Getting a small group together to pound the tarmac over the festive period can be hugely beneficial to your motivation. If you are a part of a club, this becomes far easier. If not, consider taking on a challenge such as the Rapha Festive 500 if you really fancy crunching some miles.
First conceived on the snowy roads of Kent in Southern England, the Rapha Festive 500 started out as one man’s personal battle against the elements. But in the 12 years since its inception, it has grown to become a riding rite of passage for cyclists around the world. Last year, over 65,000 went the distance!
The Rapha Festive 500 is hosted on Strava. After all, if it’s not on Strava… Once the challenge begins, you can watch your miles mount up and, if you manage to go the full distance, the coveted Festive 500 finisher’s digital roundel will be added to your trophy cabinet for posterity. From photo albums to poems, hand-drawn maps to freshly baked pastries, riders have commemorated their experiences of the #Festive500 since its inception.
Some of the Torch team will be following the Rapha Festive 500 as inspiration to try and discover new commuting routes. This not only provides some valid reason outside of the fitness benefits but also adds value to developing the 2022 commuting plan. Whether the 500km distance is achieved or not, the opportunity to continue cycling is the key. Perhaps a hybrid of indoor and outdoor miles is a good compromise? 200-300km outdoors to discover your best commuter route and 200-300km indoors to ensure we stay injury free to be able to get back to work in January? The Torch500 perhaps...
Whatever you decide to do, we hope you have a safe and festive Christmas and as part of our growing community we would like to offer you a £20 voucher to say thank you and Merry Christmas. Simply follow this link to activate the discount directly to your basket.
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