How to Maintain Your Training During the Busy Holiday Season
November and December are exciting months. There is always so much going on – so many parties and gatherings with friends and family, a busy travel schedule, plenty of delicious food, and just a different energy of excitement and anticipation in the air. For most of us runners, January 1 marks a “re-start” or a recommitment to our training schedules and a balanced approach to food and nutrition, since the weeks leading up to the New Year are typically filled with a little less running and a lot more resting and eating. And while that is CERTAINLY ok and probably necessary if you have had a long racing season, your training does not have to take a backseat during the holidays. Our tips below will help make it a bit easier for you to get your runs in and make nutritious choices so that the start of a new year does not mean you are completely “starting over” from scratch.
Pack the Necessities
If you are traveling and staying somewhere overnight for an extended period of time, or even if you will be gone all day, checking things off your never-ending to-do list, make sure you bring the necessities along with you. For starters, never go anywhere overnight without packing your running shoes and running gear. Now, this does not mean that you HAVE to run. Perhaps the best thing for your body right now is to take a week off straight while you are visiting Mom and Dad for the holidays and spend your days resting and relaxing. But it is always nice to know that if the urge hits, you can suit up and hit the road. And if you are looking to make sure you don’t lose any of your fitness over the break, then you will definitely need to make sure you have all of your running attire. It is also a wise idea to pack your own snacks and food, especially if you are traveling. Packing easy-to-transport snacks that are protein packed and do not need refrigeration will help you avoid getting too hungry – which might result in overeating on rich holiday foods later. Some ideas for easy and yummy snack options are bags of nuts and trail mix, protein or granola bars, fruit, dry cereal, dried meats (like jerky sticks), and tuna packets. And never forget to bring along lots of water, even if you plan to only be gone from the house for a few hours! Your body needs a lot of water, especially during the winter months when the air gets dry. Just because you are getting busy does not mean you should forget about the importance of hydrating your body to prepare it for the next morning’s run.
Your mom probably told you, and she was right – when you fail to plan, plan to fail. It’s helpful to know the details of your trip – i.e., what the weather will be like, what activities you will be doing, where you will be staying, etc. This way, you can make a game plan. If you are traveling to an area that might be getting rain or snow during the holidays, then knowing ahead of time you might be running in inclement weather conditions, or that you need to plan to find a gym and perhaps splurge on a week pass will help you feel more secure. And if you know you will be stuck on an air mattress in the basement with eight other cousins at Grandma’s house, then make sure you bring a pillow and items conducive to helping you still get a restful nights sleep (so that you can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to run). And if you are in a new-ish area, map out potential running routes ahead of time that is safe, well-lit, and get you the mileage that you want.
Recruit Friends and Family To Join You
One of the easiest ways to get deterred from your running goals in the offseason is due to lack of support. The holidays are definitely a time to rest, and resting alongside your family is not only good for the body but good for the soul. However, days on end of idle laziness might be a poor influence on you or at least leave you feeling unmotivated. If you tend to experience this during your vacation times, then ask your friends and family ahead of time to get out and join you! This doesn’t mean they have to be able to keep up with you on your long run. Even much more relaxed and simple forms of exercise (like hiking or just walking through the neighborhood) will help keep you moving, and benefit your physical fitness levels and mental health.
Share Some Of Your Favorites
Holiday parties are the BEST – delicious foods and the people we love the most! However, they often tend to lead to overeating, feeling lazy and lethargic, and perhaps a little weight gain. There is no shame in indulging in all the treats and sweets – after all, some of these goodies only come around once a year and are meant to be enjoyed and shared! However, if you feel like you really would rather eat nutritiously dense things instead, (i.e. let’s say you have two holiday parties during the same weekend and would rather eat light at Friday night’s party because of a Saturday long run you have been looking forward to, and then plan on refueling at Saturday’s party with Aunt Sally’s famous Santa cookies) then bring your own healthy recipes to share! There’s no shame in whipping up some healthier side dishes – not only does it give you a lighter option, but they might they end up being the hit of the party and the host/hostess will certainly appreciate the thoughtfulness and willingness to help!
Plan Fun Running Events
If you need a little motivation to stay moving and running over the holidays, then let the holiday spirit guide you! There are always tons of great holiday-themed races (Turkey Trots at Thanksgiving to make some room for stuffing and pie later on in the day, and Jingle Jogs in December!) and most have an added aspect of fun, like dressing up and fun post-race shenanigans. Plus, it can be easy to recruit the family for these races, because they are so much fun and typically not long distances. You can also scope out the best Christmas lights and decorations in town, and then plan a fun running route that takes you by all of them (grab some friends who are willing to join and plan a safe night jog route that brings you by some bright lights!)