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November 12, 2013

Surviving the holidays with your running goals intact

Written by Dena Evans
holiday-mealA little more than a month from now, you’ll have the chance to consider some potential New Year’s resolutions.  Where you will start from on January 1 will have a lot to do with how the next few weeks go.

While the holiday season can provide some of the happiest moments of the year, it can also wreak havoc on your running goals.  Here are some ideas for how you can make the most of the season and keep your motor running before hitting the ground full speed on January 1.

Even if your schedule doesn’t normally include morning running, consider scheduling your runs for the early hours.

The first few weeks of December often include more events outside of your control than potentially any other time of the year.  Office functions or extra hours / shifts at work, recitals, school events, and holiday obligations for school aged kids, other civic, religious, or social events and obligations –the calendar can get pretty crowded.

That run you already scheduled after work can quickly get pushed to the wayside when you find out from your spouse at 4 that you need to be somewhere you had forgotten about at 6:30, dressed neatly and with a bottle of wine for the hosts.  Maybe your mom needs you to drive her across town for that special ingredient she wants to put in the pie she is making tomorrow and aren’t you just the one to take her this evening after work but before they close at eight?  There goes the run.

Late in the month, family meals (in addition to food shopping and preparation), odd schedules, the irresistible pull of a bowl game or the warm couch (and the inevitable snooze), can successfully thwart the most stalwart runner in their efforts to stay on track.    If you are able to run in the morning, even if it is not the best series of workouts you have had all year, you at least ensure that you don’t put yourself in a gapingly large training hole.  At this point, it is dark in the morning AND in the evening, so you probably won’t miss much there.  You will however, be able to give yourself a silent high five every day, even when the rest of your schedule may leave you scrambling.  So, block it in now!

Stay hydrated

Yes, you should drink water because you are training and you want to stay hydrated.  But, the holiday time is also a key hydration zone in many ways that will also help you feel more like yourself when you do get a chance to hit the road or the treadmill.  Maybe travel is in your plans. As we have mentioned before in Personal Best, you should aim to drink a cup of water for every time zone you cross while flying in the dry air-conditioned atmosphere of an airplane.  If mountains or other dry, snowy climates are in your future, this is also important as high altitudes and dry air can leave you under-hydrated before you realize it.  You may already be out of your element or preferred weather conditions for a time during the holidays, so everything you can do to at least keep your body working well will be key to move from just salvaging a situation to a place where you get some quality running accomplished despite the challenges.

Even if your holiday plans do not include travel, proper hydration remains crucial to staying on track.  It can assist with digestion when faced with a gauntlet of rich foods and a never-ending stream of chocolates in the break room.  It can also help combat the dehydrating effects of holiday related alcohol consumption and give your family feast some welcome company in your stomach so you are not as likely to go overboard for the fifth time this week.

Include the family in some running

Find a Turkey Trot, or Jingle Bell Jog 5K /10K the family can walk or jog together while you get in a tempo run.  Pick an outing or two where others can walk or hike while you and whomever is up for it can run.  Plan a run during someone else’s shopping or errands, so they can go crazy in the stores while you take off for a few miles down a nearby bike path before meeting them back at the car.  Think in advance of ways you can meld your run seamlessly into another’s schedule so that you can avoid missing a quality hour with family when everybody is finally home and you’ve just decided to head out on the trail.

Enjoy what you do get done, and don’t worry about what you can’t fit in

If you are unable to perfectly complete every single day’s training from now until the end of the year, you are probably not alone.  The holidays are special because you do often have the time to travel or to visit with friends and family in ways your schedule wouldn’t normally permit.  It is important to enjoy these times and maintain a balance that keeps running in perspective.  If you have a choice in days of the week to get certain things accomplished or can recalculate your schedule in advance to account for certain problem dates coming up, try to prioritize the hard workouts and long runs, so if you don’t get everything in, you will at least have tackled the most challenging days.  However, even if you are stymied in this effort, the important thing is that you don’t fall completely out of touch with your goals, that you don’t let guilt over two or three days missed keep you from getting back to the schedule next time out, and that you stay healthy.

Everyone, from world class athletes to beginners, will find the holidays to be a time requiring flexibility and variation in their typical routine.  You are not alone.  Look ahead as best you can, stay relaxed, and see if you can arrive on January 1st with only minor adjustments needed instead of a complete overhaul.  Perhaps you will have even learned some tips that will make the next holiday season even better.

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