In the 70s and 80s, the best two middle distance runners in the world were the fierce British rivals Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett. Coe was, in many ways, ahead of his time, using sports science to improve his performance two decades before Dave Brailsford’s marginal gains came along. Ovett was a bit more old fashioned in his training, but seemed a bit more human and accessible to fans, whereas Coe was seen as a bit too clinical for many athletics supporters.
On Christmas morning 1979, as part of his preparation for the following year’s Olympic showdown, Coe did a 12 mile run to make sure he stayed ahead of Ovett. After his Christmas dinner, Coe started to worry that Ovett may have also gone out for a run that morning, and that he would lose his advantage. He then put his kit back on, and went out for a hard hill session.
Okay, so you are probably not locked in a titanic psychological struggle to be the best in the world, but you may nonetheless feel irrational guilt over the next few days that you are not training hard enough / you are eating too much / you are not as fast as Steve Ovett.
Try to fight this urge and allow yourself to relax.
It’s okay to train on Christmas Day if you like. Our family has a tradition of getting up stupidly early for opening presents, then across to Pontefract for a morning parkrun before returning home for games (Pam and The Boy) and napping (me).
But don’t get carried away. Relax, put your feet up and enjoy yourself.
How do you think Seb Coe’s family felt to see him disappear again on Christmas afternoon? (Actually, that’s a terrible example because I imagine Seb Coe’s family were always happier when he was out of the house. Imagine living with Seb Coe.)
My point is this: spend the time with your loved ones. Enjoy yourself, train a little bit if you want to, but relax. Take some time to recharge your psychological batteries.
(In the 1980 Olympics, Sebastian Coe won gold in the 1500m and silver in the 800m. Steve Ovett won gold in the 800m and bronze in the 1500m. Sebastian Coe went on to be a Tory MP, head of the IAAF and a board member of the IOC. In contrast, Steve Ovett seems like quite a nice bloke.)