Alex Howes’ guide to training over Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a special time of year. A moment to spend time with family and friends and to press pause on everything else, we wanted to get the inside line on what this holiday looks like from a professional athlete’s perspective. To do just that, we sat down with EF Pro Cycling rider and Team EF Coaching coach Alex Howes to get his analysis on how Thanksgiving looks for him as a rider.
I think people view athletes as alien beings who are supposed to be absolute about training and not have fun. Performance isn’t just about 100 percent commitment and never taking your foot off the gas though. Life is all about balance and the holidays are a needed counterweight to the athlete's focused lifestyle.
There’s a reason the holidays exist - so earn them, enjoy them and don’t beat yourself up. Just like stage racing, you can lose time on one day, but not as much time as the guy who burns out two weeks down the road because he tried to get in every breakaway and doesn’t make the time cut.
I’m based in Colorado and by the end of November, the mercury starts to drop. Denver is known as the Mile High City for it's altitude above sea level, and where I live is another 1000 meters above that. Needless to say, we’ll have a fair amount of snow by that point, so my Thanksgiving normally starts with getting a nice fire going in the wood stove.
Once that’s kicking off some heat and I've got the coffee brewing, I'll start kitting up ready for a ride. It’s not a very long ride and it’s not really training focused - it’s mostly because I just really want to ride my bike.
I ride bikes everyday, but there's something magic about riding on a day where everyone else isn’t up and about. It feels special - like you’re getting something extra out of the day, or enjoying the peace before anyone else has even thought about getting their turkey in the oven. Most years, I’ll ride with my dad, chat about life, and usually stay out long enough to get into trouble for getting back late.
From that point, it's into the kitchen to prep whatever has been delegated for the family potluck. Thanksgiving is traditionally the holiday to celebrate the harvest so that means the dinner table is full. I do my best to pitch in to get everything ready. I like cooking, but I’m not getting any Michelin stars any time soon. On my mother's side, there’s a strong Latino influence, so, I’m always looking forward to enchiladas, tamales, and slow cooking up a pot of elk green chili. This year I’ve been craving something an old roommate and great friend always makes - oyster stuffing. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
I think most people will probably imagine that a pro cyclist will be measured and incredibly disciplined but, to be entirely honest, this is a once-a-year thing. It’s one of those rare moments you can forget about what you’re supposed to do and do what you want. One day of excess may set you back the following day - but if that indulgence serves as motivation for the next month of conscientious diet, then, it’s a day that you’ve earned so, soak it in.
As with most households, the holidays are a time to raise a glass. I read somewhere that Hemingway, although he drank way way too much, would never drink after 8pm. I have no idea if that is actually true, but it is a rule I try to follow.
Now - I’m not saying he had everything right, or that I’m downing my drink at 7:47pm in order to get one last drink in, but, it makes a lot of sense. I hate wasted days, and putting a lid on things early gives you more time to recover ready for the next day. It's doesn't guarantee you'll have good legs the next day, but it does mean you're not going so wild that you spend the next day battling demons from the night before.
After eating too much and pitching in with the clean-up, sitting down in front of the TV to watch football and putting your feet up - it’s always a moment to savor, plus a great way to avoid talking politics with the family. All the Thanksgiving traditions have been checked off and it’s a time to wind down and be at ease.
Overall - in terms of advice, I think you need to be realistic with yourself. Nobody wants to give an inch in terms of their progress, but viewed in terms of the big picture, it’s just another rest day in the calendar. Recover, and use the Thanksgiving break to get over the mental fatigue of a hectic schedule - be yourself with the people you choose to be around, and once it’s over, get back on the bike fueled by the fun you had.
Alex’s top seven Thanksgiving tips:
1. Take the time to enjoy the season. We have holidays for a reason
2. Earn it, then burn it.
3. Go all out, but try not to go overboard.
4. Ride if you want - but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t.
5. The Hemmingway rule - keep a lid on things after 8pm.
6. Get back on the bike right away.
7. Oyster stuffing. Seriously. Try it.
Had enough fun? Schedule a coaching consultation
If you've enjoyed Thanksgiving and are looking to get serious with your training, why not schedule a free consultation with us to dissect how we can help transform your riding?