It’s easy to let everything slide in the busy period before Christmas. For that reason, WR has put together our 12 top tips for keep your training and nutrition on track over the festive period.
Looking at your diary for December, you might feel like mothballing your running kit and bathroom scales. Don’t do it. You need all the headspace you can get at this time of year and running is your best, most time-efficient way to stay sane. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, whether you have no family or are hosting 25 people, this is a stressful time of year: businesses gear up to close down, the streets and shops are busier, and getting anything done requires a bit more planning. So aim to give yourself a break by keeping up some kind of running routine, even if it’s just 20 minutes of run/walking, three times per week.
That said, keeping up a hectic training schedule and a tough nutritional regime is going to be tricky for the next few weeks, so don’t set yourself up to fail by expecting too much. If you’re inundated with invitations or have loads to do for family or work, choose which training sessions you’ll miss – and some that you’ll protect at any cost. For example, you might need your club speed session as a social lifeline, or you might feel your long run has to stay – even if you get up an hour earlier on a Saturday to achieve it. If you’re watching what you eat, look at the occasions when you’re likely to face temptation, and choose some that you’ll completely let your hair down at. For the others, go with a plan: stick to crudités at the buffet, limit yourself to one alcoholic drink.
No, we’re not suggesting you begin a programme of intensive speedwork. We mean get your running sessions over with quicker, so you can get back to your jobs or the family. Replace hour-long gym classes or weight sets with some short and sharp speed sessions.
Speaking of which, you’ll need to be even smarter than usual about how you fit in running at this time of year. The golden rule applies this month: the earlier in the day you run, the better. Run early in the morning or at lunch time. Do not kid yourself that you’ll be able to squeeze in a run after work – when everyone decides to go for an impromptu festive drink, or you realise you need to stay late to get everything done before the break – or once the children are out of bed and excited. Put yourself, and your run, first.
Striving for perfection is a bad idea at any time of year. For the next few weeks, it could spell dietary disaster. You won’t be dropping a kit size before Christmas, and you’re probably not going to set any running PBs either. So just aim to keep things ticking over between now and New Year and you’ll be off to a good start for 2017.
You’ve probably already got 10 lists relating to Christmas on the go, from family presents to household chores to work that needs finishing. Well, we’re asking you to make another: the food you eat. Keep a food diary most days – even writing down when you’ve overindulged will stop you slipping into a mince pie trance and eating a whole pack. It doesn’t need to be sophisticated – just a small jotter in your handbag or using the Notes function on your phone will be good enough, as the act of recording and reviewing what you eat will make you more thoughtful about what you put in your mouth. If you have time, use an app or website that will tell you how much you’ve eaten, too. It might make for scary reading but it allows you to make more sensible choices tomorrow.
If you’re responsible for the Christmas food shopping, you’re one step ahead! Don’t buy friends and family mountains of food that you wouldn’t appreciate yourself. Chances are they are just as keen as you to keep on an even keel, so do everyone a favour and buy enough for a few days of fun festive eating – then stop. No-one needs 12 boxes of mince pies…
You’ve probably heard of the 5:2 approach to eating: you eat ‘what you want’ for five days, then limit calorie intake to 500kcal for the other two. For Christmas, we’re going to suggest flipping that round (kind of). Aim to eat normally for five days each week, without going mad on office chocolates or eggnog. Train normally too – just do your usual workouts and runs. Then give yourself two days each week in December to completely forget about running, weight loss and ‘good’ nutrition. If you’re in control the other five days the chances that you feel like blowing it all are slim anyway. We’d suggest having a ‘good’ day in between, though, so you don’t slip into a whole week of binging.
Your big race plans are most likely set for spring and summer next year. But give yourself a New Year or February goal to aim for and you will have extra motivation to keep going. Keep the distance short and aim for a performance you can be proud of – that might just be making it to the start line and running all the way round. Visit racebookuk.co.uk for some ideas of races to enter.
Taking time out to run can feel selfish at this time of year. So disguise it as good deeds for others. Offer to take the dog out while everyone is in a food coma on the sofa. Kids get bikes for Christmas? You can be the one to take them for a spin round the block (on foot). Or run to the shops for the last-minute sprouts.
If you’re trying to lose weight and/or be healthier, the food and drink everyone loves at Christmas can be a source of anxiety. But remember, you’re a runner. You have a bit of leeway. Just make sure that any treats you have are worth spending the calories on. Think of it as if you were spending money – will you really enjoy it or regret the purchase? That might mean skipping some stodgy shopbought cakes in the office so you can enjoy your friend’s delicious home-made yule log, for example.
You’ll be busy enough actually getting ready for Christmas – but spend one hour planning how you’ll tackle your running and food in the weeks before and it will pay off. Learn the nutritional value of common Christmas trip-up foods and have four or five go-to running sessions, so you’re never stuck in an aimless ‘What shall I do?’ quandary that ends up preventing you from running.