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Cutting back on alcohol during training? Here are some tips to handle social situations

Detox in the new year: managing social situations without alcoholDecember is a month of festivities, and every weekend seems to bring some opportunity for eating, drinking, and being merry. Unfortunately for runners who are training through the winter, this month can be a serious stumbling block. Alcohol and running don’t mix well, and so excessive or incorrectly-timed alcohol consumption can really screw up our training, recovery, and performance. And while one time may not be such a big deal, repeated over the course of a month it can really start to have a big impact.

Now that the month is over, many of us are ready for a detox. But that can be easier said than done, especially with the long winter beginning for many of us.

Last year, I gave up alcohol for an entire month, and while I’m not advocating for such severe measures for every runner, I did pick up a few tricks for avoiding alcohol without enduring too much questioning, shock, or ridicule. These might come in handy if you’re more interested in getting through your long run than maxing out on Friday night work drinks – and can be helpful anytime you’re in the midst of a training season:

  • Choose a favorite replacement. The first step to avoiding alcoholic drinks at any occasion is to make sure that you don’t feel too much as though you are missing out on something great. This means that you have to pick something that you really enjoy drinking and have that be your drink for the night instead. It’s helpful if it’s something indulgent that you don’t normally drink. For me it was non-diet Coke and unlimited espressos. It’s very helpful to have something to reach for when you start to feel a twinge of FOMO!
  • Pick your fake drink. Sometimes the only way to avoid uncomfortable conversations is to hold something that looks close enough to an alcoholic beverage to not invite questions. This can be as simple as pouring your soda into a glass to give the impression that it could be mixed with something stronger. Another trick is to drink plain carbonated water with a whole bunch of lemon or lime inside, and a slice on the glass as a garnish – it’s delicious, hydrating, and looks like something vaguely alcoholic.
  • Have one or two “deflecting statements” ready. For those moments that you do get caught drinking coffee at the holiday party and you can’t make an excuse about having to drive, it’s good to have a quick explanation and a deflecting statement or question prepared. This could be something like ‘I have to get up really early tomorrow’ followed by ‘what are you most looking forward to in the New Year?’ – it sounds simple, but thinking through exactly how you are going to deflect the question can make your life a whole lot easier when you are put on the spot.
  • Be prepared to go home early. While I actually really enjoy being sober around drunk people, sometimes a party just gets too rowdy to participate in without adequate alcohol in your system. It’s good to always be prepared to go home earlier than the rest of the crowd – which will be great for your training anyway as you can enjoy a good night’s sleep.
  • Be prepared for light mockery. Finally, just be ready for a few light prods from friends and coworkers and get ready to take them in stride. People can get uncomfortable around a sober person when they are far from it, but not taking it personally can go along way in defusing any tension.

Written by Varia Makagonova.


  • What happens when you give up alcohol completely? This article recently made the rounds on the internet.