Be merry, stay fit: a cycling coach’s guide to the ideal Christmas break balance

Tip one: skip the Rapha Festive 500. Here’s how to keep fit without missing out on merriness with family and friends

Image shows a happy cyclist
(Image credit: Future)

Coach Ian Jenner shares his five tips for amateur riders seeking to stay fit over Christmas without shunning the festivities. 

The Rapha Festive 500 is one way of spending Christmas - the aim of the challenge is to cycle 500km between Boxing Day and the end of the year, and you can find our six tips to help you finish the Rapha Festive 500 over here. 

Fitting in so many kilometres around a busy calendar packed with Christmas meals and festive drinks as well as the winter weather is tricky though, and not necessarily the best balance of staying fit and having a good time during the festive season for all.

So, here’s an alternative set of tips to help you find the right balance for you, for your holiday…

1. Plan with your family

Sit down with your family and be honest about how much you want to ride your bike. 

What are the realistic windows of opportunity? Organise yourself so you can keep up the training while also being considerate towards others’ demands on your time. 

It’s better to plan than be on your hands and knees begging to be allowed out!  

2. Put the Garmin away

Image shows a rider riding without a cycling computer

(Image credit: Future)

We spend so much time focusing on structured training that this time of year is a great opportunity to enjoy just riding your bike. 

Start your cycling computer, if you must, but then stick it in the back pocket and enjoy the roads. 

3. Keep moving

Image shows a family on a christmas day walk

(Image credit: Getty Images - Anthony Devlin)

Forget about the quality of training over Christmas and focus instead on consistency and maintenance. 

Aim to do something that prevents you from spending the whole day sitting on the couch overindulging. 

Long walks to the pub or a post-lunch hike are a good way to stay active and to spend time with people.  

4. Try something else

Image shows a rider doing yoga

(Image credit: Future)

You can make yoga and pilates really fun for all the family during Christmas – and it doubles up as a way to keep stretching and flexing. 

The classic game Twister is a great example, as it will get you into some weird positions but it will activate the muscles.  

5. Limit the booze

Image shows cyclist enjoying a beer

(Image credit: Future)

Consumed in excess, alcohol is dehydrating, toxic, full of calories and harms sleep quality, so if you want to keep on top of your weight but not miss out on the festivities, think about having alc-free drinks between your boozy ones, and stick to lower-calorie options such as gin and slimline tonic.

Find out more about how much drinking undermines fitness gains over here.

This article was first published in the print edition of Cycling WeeklySubscribe online (opens in new tab)  and get the magazine delivered direct to your door every week. 

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Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.


Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.