Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are known for family, cookies, stress, office parties, and sweaters bulky enough to cover up everything the festive food and drink does to our bodies.


How is a runner supposed to survive the holiday season with at least some amount of their hard-earned fitness left? It’s going to take a game-plan and a good bit of self-will. Start with these three steps:


Step #1: Be Realistic


If you set a goal that is too lofty, you’re bound to get frustrated and give up. So be realistic about what your goals for the holidays are.


For example, the holidays are NOT the time to step up your training routine. Maintaining your current routine is a much more realistic goal. You can worry about improving your fitness in the new year when the stress levels drop a bit.


Don't aim too high with your goals and get frustrated


Here are a few suggestions of goals that will keep your training realistic and will still leave you in decent shape post-holidays:


  • Maintain at least 50% of your average weekly mileage each week
  • Do at least one long run as long as your longest run in the last 3 weeks
  • Focus on effort-based speed workouts (fartlek, hill repeats, etc.) rather than aiming for specific paces


Step #2: Be Consistent


No matter what goals you decide on in step one, being consistent with your training is important over the holidays.


Of course being consistent with your training will help you stay in better shape, but it will also make it easier to ramp back up once the holidays are over.


Being consistent helps maintain fitness and allows you to train harder after the holidays


A good guideline of consistency is to not take more than two days off in a row. If you can do that (and get decent runs in when you do run), you will be ready to tackle the post-holiday training.


Also, being consistent with WHEN you train each day can be a big help in actually getting the training done. For most people, it’s going to be much easier to do your run in the morning before the schedule (and diet) start to really get crazy.


Step #3: Be Flexible


Being realistic with your goals and consistent with your training are important. But, things will come up during the holidays. Your schedule will change, kids will get sick, bad weather will happen.


So when your plans change, you need to be able to roll with it and make adjustments. A missed long run can mean a couple miles added to a mid-week run the next week. A missed speed workout can mean you add a few extra strides to the end of an easy run.


Also, you can be proactively flexible. If you are always the last to leave the office party, are you really going to run long the next morning? If not, better to sneak in a few miles before the party than do nothing the next day.


Don’t ignore the interruptions that happen in your plan, but don’t dwell on them, either. Running during the holidays is a great way to relieve stress — don’t let it add stress to the season!



About Coach Carl
Coach Carl is a USA Track & Field Level 2 endurance coach who works with runners of all ability levels to reach their goals. He has been featured in Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Competitor. For information on his coaching services, click here.