Christmas Break Workout Ideas

Christmas Break is fast approaching! 

If you live in Canada or Northeastern USA, that means possibly no indoor track, snow covered outdoor tracks and maybe no weight room.

Plus there will be plenty of food and drink everywhere you go.

No problem!

Here are some logistics to consider.


I wrote How to Write an Annual plan, which means I train 3 weeks hard followed by 1 week easy.

Luckily, US Thanksgiving & Christmas are separated by exactly 4 weeks.  So those weeks are usually the easy weeks with travel and family obligations.  Chances are the gyms will be closed, too.

In my College days if running, we would be racing at Dartmouth College the weekend after!


Watch the carbs!  For every gram of carbohydrate you store as glycogen in your muscle cells, you have to store 2 grams of water.

But seriously, use common sense when devouring all the goodies.

And if you drink, don’t drive.


There are plenty of workout ideas such as circuit training, indoor bikes, hills and speedbag workouts.

Here are 6 circuit training articles. And of course, don’t forget the GymBoss Timer:

  1. How to Weight Train without Weights
  2. Interval Training and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  3. The 4 Minute Workout
  4. Interval Circuit Training Examples and Routines
  5. Other 30 Minute Circuit Training Workouts
  6. The 31.5 Minute Workout

Indoor Bike Workouts

My typical indoor bike workout for sprinters is 6-8 sets of 30 seconds hard, followed by 60-90sec recovery.

(NOTE: if you are trying to  lose weight, I suggest the Tabata protocol of 8 sets of 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds easy or rest, which is exactly a 4 minute workout.  Everyone can spare 4 minutes, right?  Did I mention the GymBoss Timer is a great tool for this?)

The important thing is to set your RPM to 120… yes, I can hear you now, “2 revolutions per second” is nowhere near the 4 or 5 strides per second on the track.

But the stimulus will be good for you, trust me Smile

Hill Training

So unless you live in the Prairies or mid-west, hills may be beneficial to your training.  If you grew up in Montreal like me, then you are used to running on salt and sand in the winter months.

Because distances on the hills are hard to measure (i.e. "the lamp post to fire hydrant", for example) I like using time based workouts (just like the bike workout above).   The Freelap Timing System is ideal for this.

So the term "over distance special endurance" is really "over time" or "extended time" special endurance.  (Did I just strike fear in short sprinters?)

Australian Darren Clark would do 3 x 2 x 360m hills with a 12 degree slope anywhere near 45+ seconds, and 52+ seconds for women. (I’ll be interviewing Mike Hurst one of these days, so stay tuned!)

Our male College athletes would use 50+ seconds as most of them are aiming to break 50 for the 400 meters, which is ideal.

We would walk down the hill for recovery, but our 400/800m guys would jog down the hill between the repetitions.

Key Points to Hill Training

A few key points to consider:

  1. The over distance is a refreshing way to get the special endurance sessions without getting flat or stale from the track.
  2. You can do these on a variety of surfaces, to reduce the wear and tear on the track with spikes.
  3. The slight uphill grade keeps their technique in balance, which is "staying tall" and preventing the hips from collapsing.  Also, the ground rises to make contact with the feet, so athletes do not overstride, which may be beneficial to injury-proned athletes with hamstring problems.
  4. If you are short on time, then you could skip the weight room as the hills adds an extra "power component" to the training session.  We would do hills in freezing December so athletes would only need to spend 1.5 hours at track practice to get back home and study for their final exams.  Moreover, the weight room was closed as the gymnasium floor was used for the final exams!  Double whammy!

Final Thoughts

At this point, have a safe and enjoyable holidays!  Spend time with your family, and always “stay hungry”.   Indoor Nationals is around the corner Smile

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Jimson,

    Quick question about the Gymboss since you mentioned it. I like a lot of the stuff I see, but does it only ding on whole seconds i.e. 8.0, 9.0? As an example, if I’m trying to use it for Hart-style 200s in 26sec, then I’d need something that could ding every 6.5 seconds for the 50m marks. If the Gymboss does not do this, are you familiar with any product/watch that is more precise and reasonably priced? Thanks in advance.

    • @LydrdKnwsBst, it’s pretty rare to find a watch with a repeat mode to the 10th of second. Gymboss only does full seconds. My only suggestion is find a watch that can do interval timing, and set each “interval” manually (i.e. Timex Ironman) but I do not know of a watch that can do 10th of a seconds for intervals.

      My other idea is to record on MP3 your repeat interval (i.e. 6.5 seconds), and run with a cheap MP3 player and headphones.

      I am sure I (or Sten) could program an iPhone app, but you would have to run/sprint with an iPhone :)

      Hope this helps.

    • I too have yearned for an Ironman watch or similar that beeped in intervals shorter than multiples of 1 second. What I have come up with is that you can almost always get around it with a little creative math. For example, if you want to run 26 for 200, you could have the watch or Gymboss beep every 9 seconds. Set your cones at 70 and 140 meters. If you don’t have a tape measure, you can use intermediate hurdle marks, since the hurdles are 35 meters apart. That pace works out to 26 seconds for 202.2 meters, which is pretty close to 200 meters. Or just run 210 meters in 27 seconds, which is the same pace, and you’ll be a tough dude because you are running 5% further!

  • Also, I live in the midwest, right along the Mississippi, and we have some good sized bluffs and hills here. Eastern Iowa looks like San Francisco in some spots.

  • That’s a good, creative solution. I appreciate the help and advice Jimson and Peter. I have a wheel so setting up the cones accurately wont be an issue.

  • What are your thoughts on doing some tabata squats during xmas break workouts for injured athletes or for athletes who can’t get outside because of crappy weather. We did it once or twice earlier on in my training…I’ve prescribed something like 8×20 seconds on/off for my 400 guys and the goal is to hit around 18-20 reps. It seems to me like it could be a decent way to substitute some intensive tempo work.