Running vs. the Holidays

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the month coming up – from Thanksgiving through Christmas – traditionally stresses me out, especially with my running.

For most people, the holiday season is one long party, starting with the traditional stuffing of turkeys on Thanksgiving to the final gluttony of New Year’s Eve. In between, parties at work, or at church, family get-togethers before everyone scatters for the actual holiday, the needs to go shopping . . .

For runners, every bit of that cuts into time for running. If you are anything like me, your inner Grinch stomps out if you don’t get your run in (for me, a double-whammy if I don’t also write.) On top of the “did-I-get-the-right-sweater?” stress, you have the internal stress.

The body only does so much with stress before starting to go into failure mode. Let's avoid that, shall we?

I have two pieces of complementary advice:

First, de-prioritize your running. Unless you have a major race very early in the year, going into maintenance running for a month isn’t going to wipe you out and, if you’ve been training at a very high level for a while, might even help. If you do have a major race, you’ll have to hit your key workouts, but some of the easy runs can be truncated or even eliminated without too much damage to your race performance.

The latter approach worked well for me when I ran a January marathon in San Diego. Probably my best effort at the distance, though not my fastest, I came through the holidays without the five pound penalty, put in another pair of high quality weeks after Christmas and hit the taper. The result was a PR with a one minute negative split and a totally fried pair of legs at the end. Success, in other words.

The second piece of advice? De-prioritize the holidays. I know, it sounds like sacrilege. The fundamentals of the holidays do not require us to race from mall to specialty shop in search of the next big thing in gifts. Nothing says that you have to attend every single party. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to go to more than a couple – one for work if they have one, one for your kids if you have any.

I am not saying you can’t go to more, just be consciously selective of the activities that you choose. You’ll lose runs to the holiday activities, but the reverse is acceptable. It’s okay to say no to an activity with the reason of, “I’d rather go for a run.”

If they accuse you of not being in the Christmas mode, you have my permission to offer this additional explanation:

“I’m going to run this evening in a neighborhood with terrific Christmas displays. I would rather celebrate the season that way than in a stuffy room where I will over-indulge in food and drink. I will be happier, healthier, and more appreciative at the end of that run.”

Or you could tell them to go pound sand. I prefer the tactful approach, at least at first.

People that know and like you will accept the first answer. The trick is finding the balance that works for you. Running vs. holidays? How about both, in moderation?