Oh boy. Keeping to an exercise schedule during the holidays is rough. Running can be even harder if we’re doing it outside. Everything gets so busy, we don’t eat exactly what we should be eating, and it’s cold and dark. Bottom line: running during the holidays is hard.
But what else is new?
If you’ve come to this article looking for motivation, maybe hit up some of my other articles. This one is going to be working on the assumption that we already want to run during the holidays and during cooler temperatures. Also, this doesn’t have to be a strictly running thing. Insert your exercise of choice over the word “running” and the solution is more or less the same.
Let’s get to it.
The holiday season is here. With the end of Halloween starts bargain priced candy, heavy drinks, heavy meals, and new seasonal candy. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years all line up pretty close together which means two things.
One: lots of food and bad food. Two: lots of get-togethers.
I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly introverted so get-togethers and holiday parties are draining. My favorite thing is to sit on my couch and just relax with hot cocoa, holiday music, and a good book. But I guess that’s not too important.
What is important is how much all the activities, bad/heavy foods slow us down. I won’t get into weight gain because it’s okay to put on a little weight, enjoy ourselves a little. Life isn’t supposed to be crazy restrictive and rough like that. But we get tired, we eat too much and too much of the wrong thing.
That makes running really hard.
So here’s the first piece of advice: watch what you eat.
Now, I realize I just said, “Hey, it’s okay to put on weight” and I do mean that. What I don’t mean is “hey, eat everything. Screw it.” We still need to have some discretion. I still don’t eat heavily processed foods. I don’t eat preservatives. I don’t do additives. I also stay away from a lot of sugary stuff because it doesn’t work too well with my system. And guess what?
The holidays don’t change that.
I will have some treats, but I try to make sure they are within what I can eat. For those of you who don’t have hard lines like I do around what you can eat, I suggest making some. Say, “Hey, I’m not gonna eat processed food” or “I’ll stay away from preservatives”. Something smaller and manageable.
It’s not saying you can’t eat some cookies, candy canes, or hot cocoa. It is saying that you have limitations and that ultimately, your health still has to come first.
Now, the hard part.
There’s some thinking that goes into this.
First is, create a reliable running schedule. I like to change my running schedule according to my current goals and according to the season. You can bet I won’t be out at 6 a.m in the heart of winter when it’s well below freezing, dark, windy, and icy. But in the summer, different deal.
Find what days work best for you and your body. Then find what time during the day works best for you. And stick to it as best as you can. Once you have that strong foundation, it’s much easier to figure out what you need to do to get a run in.
Now comes all the weird math and planning.
1. Lower Your Mileage
This seems counterintuitive especially if we are eating more. However, in winter there are so many challenges that it isn’t a bad idea to knock off a few miles from your weekly mileage. Nothing drastic but enough to give you some minutes back to your day and life.
What if you’re training for spring or really don’t want to lower your mileage?
Option two is my choice. Lower your mileage on your busiest weeks. You have your reliable running schedule now (hopefully). Put it next to your calendar and on those crazy, hectic weeks, lower your mileage. If you were going to run six miles run four or five. If you were going to go for a really long run maybe substitute it for a shorter, more intense interval run. Lots of options out there! Remember, cutting down your mileage will really help you get back some time on your crazy weeks while also managing to get a run squeezed in.
2. Run Before Events
Honestly, this is my favorite part of the holidays. I have this tradition that I’ve done ever since I started running where I would go for a run early in the morning on every single holiday. That branched into me running several hours before parties, outings, etc. I realized that it took so much stress off me to know that I had already run. Besides, it gave me much needed alone time. It gave me tranquility when I knew it would be hard to come by later.
Plus, if you have any form of anxiety, I have found that running before social events, in general, is a phenomenal way to cope with that anxiety. It knocks it out before it ever even enters the ring.
I know I’ve already made this abundantly clear, but you have to plan out your runs. If you don’t, it just won’t happen. Motivation and all that is a whole nother issue but plan out your runs and be honest about sticking to them. Plan, plan, plan for success and you’ll achieve it. On the other hand, remember that you will have to move your runs around so look at a few options. There are 24 hours in a day after all.
4. Remember to Maintain
And this is the biggest point. Winter running, for me at least, is all about maintenance. I’m not trying to hit any major goals. I’m not working any less hard, but I’m not trying for a faster or better anything. I’m working on consistency. This sets me up for success in the long-run. I won’t have to lose any cardiovascular fitness. I’ll be ready to push harder in the spring or when the holidays have passed. I’m just working on maintaining my body.
That being said, this is also a great time to try new crosstraining activities.
So, the big message is don’t give up, don’t stop. You’ll have to work with a calendar, really plan out your runs and sometimes that’s no fun at all. You might even have to skip a day and that’s okay too.
What matters is that you keep lacing up and you keep getting out there…regardless of what day it is.