Performance19 Dec 2020

Five ways to use running to survive the festive season


Early morning run (© Philip Ackermann)

Season’s Greetings! The holiday season is fast approaching… whether you will be celebrating Christmas, the arrival of a new year, or the end of 2020, the opportunity to rest and down tools will be welcome for all of us. 

Throughout this pandemic, I have always tried to look for the positives. But let’s be honest – it has been a year like no other, and not in a good way! Thankfully, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming year – vaccines, seeing our friends and families more, travel… and the Olympics!

The festive season is truly special in many ways, but it can also be a little stressful. Christmas in the UK is famous for family arguments, excessive drinking, and cold, wintry weather. By the time early January arrives, the return to a normal routine often feels very welcome. 

So how best to survive the festive season with a positive mindset? The answer, for me, is definitely… running! 

Training out in the fresh air provides the perfect antidote to Christmas excesses of all kinds, and brings a welcome boost to your physical and mental health. But how do you fit it in, on top of all the holiday traditions and celebrations? Decathlon legend Daley Thompson famously trained even on Christmas day – what further inspiration do we need? If you’re not entirely convinced by running during the festive season, here are my five top tips on how to use running to keep your spirits up during the holidays. 

Run early! 

Even without work to do, somehow the days can fly by during the holiday season, with meals to prepare, gifts to wrap, and relatives to help. Therefore, I always try to run early in the morning, making it the first activity I do for the day. Enjoying some quiet time to yourself by running in early morning light, before the day gets going, sets you up nicely for the day ahead.

Consume in moderation. 

Eating and drinking feature heavily in holiday season activities. Enjoying special festive foods at this time of year is great – unless you’re trying to keep your weight down for your next marathon! Being surrounded by delicious food can be, well, torment! I adopted the rule of moderation – to enjoy special treats but in modest amounts, so that I could enjoy seasonal delicacies but without any waistline damage!    

Let’s race! 

The end or start of a year is the perfect time to set down a milestone of your progress by doing a race. Because of the pandemic, races are hard to come by this year, so why not run a time trial instead? A distance like 5km is ideal since it does not take too much out of you, and you can repeat it reasonably often. If you haven’t yet tried parkrun, why not give it a try, even if it’s a (not) parkrun where suspensions are still in place. World Athletics and parkrun announced a new partnership this year.

Wrap up warm. 

In the northern hemisphere, winter is well and truly here. But despite the cold, running in winter can be delightful – frosty crisp mornings, misty sunrises, and silhouetted leafless trees make a run in your local park feel like you’ve been transported to a magical, imaginary wonderland. There’s no escaping those first few minutes which are very chilly, but once you get going and warmed up, winter running feels invigorating!

Plan ahead.

At this time of year, it’s easy to focus entirely on the festivities… and forget that time keeps marching relentlessly on. January will arrive in no time, so why not use the holiday season to plan some running goals, for example a training plan for the next few weeks, a race to look forward to, or a revamp of your nutrition using some process goals. Then you can avoid any sadness when the festivities are over, and press on with your new goals.      

Thank you for reading my recipes and performance articles for World Athletics this year. I wish you a safe, healthy and enjoyable festive season! And happy running!

Mara Yamauchi for World Athletics Be Active