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The cyclist's Christmas survival guide - 7 tips to get you through the festive period

Find out how to cope with the season of over-eating and sloth without turning into a blob

The festive period is upon us. While it’s a good time to relax and reflect on the previous 12 months while enjoying some nice food with friends and family, Christmas is also a good opportunity to start planning for next season and, if you’re really lucky, it might provide some free time to ride your bike.

Christmas can be a challenging time for many cyclists though, so here are some tips we’ve pulled together to help you survive the festive period.

1. Relax - you’ve earned a rest

You’ve been cycling more than ever this year, so why not put the bike away and have some time off the bike? Your legs, and family, might thank you for it. Use the time off the bike to reflect on what have been your highlights of the past year, and what lessons you’ve learned that you can use to build upon on 2016. It’s a good time to plan some challenges, races or sportives that you want to target next year.

2. Enjoy the festive food, but don’t go crazy

Christmas can be challenging for the waistline, with plentiful food and temptations wherever you turn. It’s so easy to overindulge at Christmas - you can easily put on a couple of kilograms - and while there’s nothing wrong with tucking into the chocolates, if you go crazy it’s going to take a lot of cycling to burn off the calories in the New Year. Exercise damage limitation by making smarter food choices (choose the healthy option), portion control and remember that moderation is the word to bear in mind over Christmas.

How to enjoy a calorie neutral Christmas 

3. Set a cycling challenge over Christmas

winter cycling.jpg

Many cyclists look forward to Christmas as the holiday can provide some extra riding time (lucky you) and as many cyclists are goal-orientated types, why not set yourself a challenge over Christmas? There are loads already available that you can join, including the hugely popular Rapha Festive 500, which encourages you to join many other cyclists in trying to notch up 500km over the festive period.

- 19 of the best smartphone cycling apps for iPhone and Android 

4. Bad weather? Get on the indoor trainer

The weather isn’t typically great at this time of year, and if you are determined to keep cycling through Christmas, don’t discount the value of the turbo trainer or rollers. They’re ideal if you’ve got a very limited amount of time, as there’s also less time needed after a ride when you’ve got a pile of wet and dirt clothing to deal with and a filthy bike. Instead of trying to replicate a long steady ride on the turbo, look to do a short interval session. Instead of focusing on duration, aim for a high-intensity session: the popular tabata session (google it) is ideal for maximising even a short training session.

- The best cycling turbo trainers — buyer's guide + 15 of the best trainers and rollers

5. Be flexible with your riding time

With parties, social gatherings, family events and work commitments over Christmas, it can be tricky to stick to your regular riding schedule over the festive period, and many people might just give up trying to get out on the bike altogether. Adapt your training to fit around important Christmas commitments rather than completely stopping riding. Flexibility is the key word and use what available time, even if it’s only 45 minutes, to get a ride in. Don’t worry that you can’t do your regular 4-hour club ride, even an hour on the bike is a good substitute, and better than admitting defeat completely.

6. Try something different

If you really don’t have time to ride your bike due to social commitments, try another sport. Long country walks are popular at this time of year and a brisk walk is really good exercise, and importantly keeps you active and provides some fresh air. Don a pair of trainers and go for a run. Even a 20 minute run around the block will get you breaking into a sweat and burn a load of calories. The other option is to go for a mountain bike ride. Riding off-road in the mud and over challenging terrain provides a good workout and you is great for bike handling skills.

7. Grab a book

Christmas books

If you can't fit a bike ride in, why not pick up a cycling book instead? With all the down time at Christmas it's an ideal time to finally get around to reading that book you've not had time to delve into yet, and nothing revives flagging motivation at this time of year like reading a good book about cycling.

>>Check out our huge selection of the best cycling books

Got any of your own tips you want to share?

David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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