Twelve Days Of Christmas Training Plans

Last updated: 23-Aug-18

By Andy Mouncey

‘Give us something festive!‘ they said. ‘And some training plans – we lurve training plans and it is Christmas after all…’

Bah humbug was clearly not an appropriate response, so I fired off a cheery, reassuring reply to HQ, and trusted the old grey matter to come up with something suitable. And thus dear reader, my gift to you at this most seasonal time of year is not one, not two but THREE Twelve Days Of Christmas Training Plans. Merry Christmas!

Plan No 1: Food As Fuel

You may well ask what on earth I am doing choosing to pen a few lines on this subject at a time of year when advertisers are going to town and back wrapping food in any combination of warm-fuzzy-cuddly feelings their focus groups can come up with.

Well, here’s a thing:

Part of the solution to controlling your food choices is to remove the emotion from the decision-making process. And what better test is there than a time of year when food is ALL about how we feel. Military forces have this principle down pat as they live (Rob Shaul, Mountain Tactical Institute, Diet Strategies 2017) – and can literally die – on an A+B=C modus operandi.

Put another way: When we’re outside you wear the green T-shirt and when we’re inside you wear the blue one.

Limiting your choices is therefore the other thing you need to do if you want to regain control – sorry for the Brexit terminology there – of your food as opposed to your food controlling you.

A way to do that and keep sane is to narrow your food choices right down during the week and eat what the hell you like at the weekend.

The final piece of this puzzle is to reset your palate. If you have had a diet heavy on processed carbs and sugar for years then your palate will be desensitised. This means your body’s natural regulatory mechanisms – you’re full, that’s enough of the sweet stuff, slow down so I can process this! – are shot.

Your needles swing wildly and, at worst, you are subject to cravings. So limiting or removing these things from your weekday options will reset your palate and allow you to calibrate your own levels of sensitivity to various food groups.

Get this right and you won’t want loads of the sweet stuff ‘cos your new sensitive regulatory mechanisms will be screaming ENOUGH! after a small portion and you’ll feel sick if you try to push through.

How’s that for calorie control just before Xmas?

I am a coach not a nutritionist and there is always the (good) option to consult a professional nutritionist. We have three at RunUltra: Renee McGregor, Rin Cobb and Diana Green. As a coach I’m interested in the Cause & Effect of how my clients support or sabotage their efforts to achieve their goals. With the food thing I see patterns come up time and again.

So let’s recap:

  • The goal here is to see Food As Fuel – at least during the week
  • To do that means removing emotion from the decision-making process
  • To do THAT means severely limiting your choices and in particular to remove or significantly reduce food high in processed carbs and sugars
  • To hold that discipline means having a safety valve – so eat what you like at weekends

Here’s how you can make it happen. You will need:

  • To negotiate with and influence your Significant Other: What’s in this for them??
  • To be sufficiently pissed off from previous unsuccessful efforts around this subject to really want to commit to this method
  • To have a plan for those social/peer group situations

Remember: We are what we are doing and thinking and feeling for most of the time. In other words, it’s the stuff we do for most of our time that’s significant. That’s four days out of seven, if we’re talking most of a week.

Twelve Days Of Christmas Training Plan: Food As Fuel

  • Day 1: Consult the family / Significant other. This stuff is radical and there will be ripples…
  • Day 2: Agree a start date and highlight it in your planner
  • Day 3: Make three lists (1) Menu of limited options for breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner (2) Shopping list from this menu (3) Stuff to look forward to at weekends
  • Day 4: Shop
  • Day 5: Remove ‘off plan’ weekday foods from sight/easy access – or give them to a food charity or neighbour if you want to remove temptation completely
  • Day 6: Prepare and cook in bulk in advance
  • Day 7: Start
  • Day 8: (Actually it will be Day 14 you will have just done your first week but I’m doing my best to make this fit with the 12 Days thing here…) Consult & adjust
  • Day 9: Re-do your lists
  • Day 10: Shop
  • Day 11: Prepare
  • Day 12: Start your second week

Twelve Days Of Christmas Training Plan: High Rise Hard Case Legs Of Steel

You will never look at a flight of stairs the same after this!

I’ve worked with the 12 theme (‘cos it’s that kinda article) but you can scale appropriately e.g. sets of 12-24-36 minutes depending on how motivated/sick you are feeling and how much time you have.

If you want to really get into the spirit then do the whole thing wearing a Santa costume and carrying a sack…

You will need:

  • Multiple flights of stairs e.g. office block/multistorey car park
  • Window of opportunity where it’s not that busy
  • A rather sick sense of fun
  • Day 1: Race the lift up / ride it down. Repeat for 12 min
  • Day 2: Run every step up & down for 12 min –effort on the UP
  • Day 3: Run every 2nd step…as above
  • Day 4: Run 1-2-3 steps at a time sequence…as above
  • Day 5: Alternate landings as run-bunny hops 12 min
  • Day 6: Fast hike with loaded pack 10-20kg every step…
  • Day 7: As above taking every 2nd step
  • Day 8: As above 1-2-3 steps at a time sequence
  • Day 9: Fast hike handweights or 2 heavy bags every step
  • Day 10: As above every 2nd step
  • Day 11: As above 1-2-3 step sequence
  • Day 12: Ride up/race down

Twelve Days Of Christmas: End Of Year Review

Twelve days to do a review? Really??

Yes, really. Here’s why:

  • It’s that kinda article
  • You build it in layers
  • Each layer need only take a few minutes if you wish – so it’s time effective
  • You gain time for additional reflection between tasks – recall stuff you missed
  • You get to spend more time thinking about your stuff

Day 1: Benchmarking Self Assessment – see below
Day 2: Traffic Light Review of Races: Success*
Day 3: Traffic Light Review of Races: Setbacks**
Day 4: Lessons: Racing
Day 5: Lessons: Training
Day 6: Lessons: Real Life
Day 7: Next Year: I want to achieve…
Day 8: Next Year: I want to experience…
Day 9: Next Year: In my wildest dreams…
Day 10: Next Year: I would still settle for…
Day 11: What I need to work on…
Day 12: What resources / other help I need…

*You will need three highlighter pens red-yellow-green and your training diary

Choose a race where you achieved what you wanted.

Go back from that race 6, 8 or 12 weeks and highlight the days or training sessions as follows:

  1. Green: Went to plan/achieved or exceeded goals
  2. Yellow: Nothing special really
  3. Red: Aborted, changed, all a bit of a struggle

Total the colors – you should expect more green and yellow in the lead up to a successful race and the detail will clue you in as to the sort of stuff that worked.

**Do the same. You can expect more red and yellow in the weeks before a disappointing performance and the detail will clue you in as to why…

(Thanks to Joe Uhan for this one).

Benchmark Self Assessment
Score yourself out of 10 and ask yourself what sources of evidence you are using as a basis for that score. Try to reference many sources – that could include friends or your Significant Other if you’re feeling brave…

Feature Score Evidence
I have improved    
My training is time-effective    
I am consistently healthy    
I set stretch goals    
I feel supported & connected    
It (still) makes me smile    

About the writer: Andy does the training stuff for us. He is author of three books including ‘So You Want To Run An Ultra’ He runs long for the challenge and fun of it and has been a professional coach since 2000. He lives with his family in North Yorkshire, UK

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An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

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Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

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Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.



Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

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Increase of up to 1500 metres

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Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.



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First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.