It’s the Holidays! I’m an Athlete! I Can Eat Whatever I Want!


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Last week, I talked about how the period from the beginning of October through New Year’s is a calorie and weight “Danger Zone.” This is also true for endurance and ultra-endurance athletes. Triathletes have finished their training and racing and are entering the off-season. They are ready to unwind and enjoy some time without the rigors of training. On the other hand, marathon and ultra-runners are starting to gear up. The fall marathon season starts in October and goes into the spring.

For those of us training for fall and spring marathons, it is really, really, really easy to use our training as a way to over-indulge in holiday foods. For those entering their off season, it is really, really easy for them to use the holiday foods as rewards for all of the hard training they have done over the past few months.

Endurance athletes have to watch the holiday season just like everyone else to avoid weight gain that negatively impact performance. Yes, maybe you did just run 18 or 20 miles. That doesn’t mean you can have a whole pumpkin pie! And, just because you did a Turkey Trot the morning of Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean you can eat like it is Thanksgiving day all weekend long. If you are in your off season, you do not want to gain extra weight over the holidays that you then have to work harder to get off the first couple of months of the year. If you are training, you don’t want to put on extra weight over the holidays you have to carry during your race or have to worry about losing before the race.

The trick I use is to only use the “I just did a (fill in the blank) workout. I get to eat (fill in the blank).” once a day on the day that is not race day. If you just ran a marathon, go ahead and celebrate that day, but follow the rule for the two following days. Starting on the third day, return to your normal eating. If you do a long workout, you can use the excuse once a day for a maximum of two of days. It is easy to eat as much or more calories than we burned off by telling ourselves it is OK to indulge because we worked out. And, yes, I deal with this, too.

As the Halloween candy starts to appear, remember to not use your workouts as an excuse to over-indulge. Yes, if you have a long or hard workout you can indulge some. You just can’t use it as an excuse to indulge all the time through the holidays.

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