Holiday Maintenance


Going on holiday does not mean you have to stop training or lose your fitness, so use these handy tips and workouts to keep your legs ticking over this December, and then hit the road running in January. – BY RAY ORCHISON

Ah, the holidays. Images of dolphins playfully jumping in the waves, bronzed beach bodies and lazy afternoon naps, awe-filled early mornings as the sun rises majestically over the mountains, breathless moments as the big five make their way to the local watering hole… Holidays are a great time to rest, relax and recover from the months of long working hours and stress of the past year. They’re a great time to catch-up with friends and family. And unfortunately, they’re also a great time to get, well, unfit! (You thought I was going to say fat, didn’t you?)

The holiday season starts long before the actual days off work, with company functions and Christmas parties lasting late into the night. This rolls over into a three to four week break where our inner cookie-monster is unleashed and we end up consuming copious amounts of food, unhealthy snacks and far too many drinks. Before we blink an eye we find ourselves in January, five to ten kilograms heavier and feeling as unfit as we did the day we first started running. But the solution is simple: Keep an element of training in your holiday.

What, run on holiday?
Unless you’re going on holiday for three weeks in a submarine, there really is no excuse for letting yourself go completely during the holiday season. And even then I could argue that you could still get some form of training done. If you’ve had a long, hard training year and you have a big year ahead of you, then a little bit of additional rest will do you good, but I would strongly advise against doing absolutely nothing at all, as this simply puts you on the back foot coming into January.

For those who are planning to run an early year marathon or ultra (like the Old Mutual Two Oceans 56km), then the holiday period is a crucial part of your training and having a few extra hours in your day is great for getting some solid training done. Personally, I find it both exciting and motivating getting up early on my holiday to get my training done in new and unfamiliar surroundings. It’s also a little less selfish if your training is done before the rest of the family wakes up and you can then devote the balance of the day to them.

Surviving the holidays
Getting through the holidays without losing all that hard-earned fitness and keeping the bathroom scale from bleating is not as hard as it sounds. Here are five suggestions to keep both your family and your body happy:

1. Plan your day: Reduce your training volume and agree with your family when the best time will be for you to quickly fit your session in so that you don’t eat into valuable time together

2. Make it count: Where time is an issue and your training session has to be short, get the most bang for your buck. In other words, keep the intensity up. Just because it’s a shorter session than normal doesn’t mean you can’t get a lot out of it.

3. Be disciplined in your binges: If you’re really going to suffer a case of FOMO because you can’t eat biscuits, chocolates or your Gran’s shortbread, then allow yourself some indulgences. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to eat ALL the biscuits and ALL the chocolates and ALL the shortbread…

4. Eat less, enjoy more: You’re not a teenager, you don’t have to eat yourself out of house and home. One of the biggest problems with the holidays is not the type of food on offer – that is only a small element – but rather the amount of food we consume. For some reason we simply go overboard when it comes to the amount of food prepared over the Christmas season. Instead of eating until you pop, dish up smaller amounts of what’s on offer. This way, you still get to try everything and you still get to partake in the feast, and you will enjoy it far more than if you’re so full you feel sick for hours afterwards.

5. Allow yourself time to de-stress: This is probably the most important aspect of a holiday. Much of our year is spent stressing, so take time out, allow the cortisol levels in your body to return to normal, and give yourself the chance to dream and think about the exciting opportunities to come in the year ahead.

Maintaining fitness levels
Almost every runner has been forced to stop training completely at some point in their lives, either by choice or by injury, and the worst part of no training for three to four weeks or longer, is getting back into it. There’s nothing worse than trying to get back into your training when it feels like everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve has disappeared. You certainly don’t have to come into January race-ready, but you really want to start the new year having maintained a decent level of fitness so that you can continue to build into the 2016 running season. Three to four days per week during your holiday should be more than sufficient to keep things ticking over.

However, if you’re really pushed for time, here are three shorter training suggestions you can use to burn those extra calories and keep your fitness levels ticking over:

1. Take the stairs: Forget the elevator in your hotel and hit the stairs. Start with a short warm up and then run the stairs to the top floor and back a few times. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you build up a sweat and find yourself out of breath.

2. Do a quick session: Jog for 10 to 15 minutes to warm up, then do 10 reps of 30 seconds at a faster pace with one minute’s easy jogging in between each rep, and finish with five to 10 minutes’ easy cool-down jog. Total time: 30 to 40 minutes.

3. Jump-lunge repeats: Jog for 10 minutes, then do jumping jacks for 30 seconds, go straight to fast running on the spot for one minute, then do walking lunges for 20 metres there and back. Follow that with a minute’s rest and then perform another two sets, starting with the jumping jacks. Finish with a very easy five-minute cool-down jog. Total time: 25 minutes.

May you have a wonderful time of relaxation and catching up with friends and family this holiday, and recharge those batteries and come into the new year firing on all cylinders, ready to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself in 2016.

Ray Orchison is a Johannesburg-based USATF and NAASFP certified coach. Find him at or