Between winter’s cold weather, diminishing daylight hours, shopping, social engagements, travel, and a seemingly endless barrage of cookies and other baked treats, it may feel like the holidays are out to sabotage your training. After all, how can you possibly keep up with your daily workouts when there’s so much else to attend to?
The short answer is: There will be some tradeoffs, but with just a bit of planning and foresight, you’ll be able to deck the halls without relying on New Year’s resolutions to get back in shape. Below are our five tips for successful running through the holidays.
1 – Make a Plan
Plan for pitfalls. Most holiday stressors are predictable, so take a moment to think about what wrenches will be thrown into your training schedule, and brainstorm a plan for how to deal with them.
- Travel: Will you be able to run while visiting your mother-in-law in northern Montana? If not, are there cross-training options available, or would it be better to plan your training around this trip, allowing for a few rest days? Planning appropriately will help reduce stress and keep you on track.
- Shopping: Whether you love or loathe holiday shopping, odds are you’ll have to hunker down and get it done at some point. Rather than waiting until the last minute and allowing this holiday necessity to get in the way of your training, plan your shopping days in advance so that you can get it done during rest days. (Better yet, save some time and energy, and just shop online.)
- Social engagements: ‘Tis the season for parties, family get-togethers, and that Rudolph play in your daughter’s kindergarten class. If holiday commitments are starting to feel like they’re sapping the life out of your training time, you might need to get creative. Is waking up an hour earlier to get in your run an option? Can you plan your long run days around these commitments in advance? Would the other PTA moms really care if you looked a bit disheveled after jogging your way to the holiday bake sale?
2 – Set Boundaries … and Stick to Them
When it comes to temptations, the holidays are the Queen Siren of the seas. Anticipate what you may be tempted to over-indulge in, and set boundaries.
- How many holiday parties can you really attend in one week before your training (and mental health) begin to suffer?
- How many holiday cocktails will you drink before Christmas is suddenly not so fun any more?
- How many Christmas cookies will you sample at the office bake-off before calling it quits?
- What’s your gift-giving budget?
3 – Be Realistic
If your answer to any of the above questions was “Zero,” you may need to rethink how realistically you are approaching the holiday season. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Be realistic — you will probably end up eating more and training less in the upcoming month, and that’s okay. Having a realistic plan will help minimize the holiday’s impact on your training, but no one is asking you to be a Grinch and completely eradicate seasonal joy.
4 – Be Consistent
When asked to give training advice to aspiring athletes, most professional runners include some variation of the wisdom, “Be consistent.” During the holidays, it can be easy to fall into the trap of binge and purge style training, in which you attempt to make up for extra days off or extra cookies eaten with extreme bouts of running.
Resist this urge!
If you find yourself deviating from your training plan, the best thing you can do is gently refocus yourself. Rather than attempting to make up for lost time or nutrition, think of making up for lost consistency. Your future self will thank you.
5 – Don’t Deprive Yourself
Finally, when thinking about how best to approach the holiday season, remember that balance is key. It can be tempting to play an “all or nothing” mind game, but the healthiest approach is likely somewhere in the middle. Make a plan and stick with it, but don’t deprive yourself. In reality, most of us aren’t training for the World Championships or a new national marathon record, so it’s okay to let go a little bit. Enjoying festivities with family and friends will probably do more for your overall health and well-being than a few extra miles per week.
Tracie is a former teacher and a lifelong learner who loves exploring. Most at home in the mountains, she enjoys tearing up and down the trails on her mountain bike, and occasionally leaves the wheels at home for a run through the trees. Having recently earned her personal trainer certification, Tracie thrives on helping others reach their athletic goals.