A wardrobe brimming with running shoes, gadgets and lyrca means I have reached capacity on my running gift wishlist. All I want this Christmas is a little escape; a leisurely run before the madness and calories of the day commence. Running on Christmas Day does not make me a serious athlete. I don’t run on this traditional rest day in order to gain advantage on my running peers. Simply I run on Christmas morning because it makes me feel amazing all day long.
Day of Rest
Christmas may be the ultimate day of rest, but with such indulgence we often feel sluggish and lethargic by mid afternoon. It is a long day of eating, drinking, socialising and concentrated family time. If the thought of what lies ahead already raises your blood pressure, running might be just the thing you need to get you through the day in one piece.
There are two days every year that I make a conscious effort to run. My birthday is followed a few days later by Christmas Day. Regardless of the weather I see these two special days as grateful days, days I choose to run [JF1] without a watch. Ill wrap up and appreciate that another year has passed and I can still have the luxury of a magic gift that in 30 minutes lifts stress and worries and generates energy and feel-good endorphins.
The solo celebration
As a runner, there is so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. We may not be getting any younger or faster but we have bodies that allow us to reap the mental as well as physical benefits of running. On these landmark runs I reflect on the running year and decide what changes and challenges are right for me next year. I think of the races, the memories and the lessons learnt. I think of the people I have met, the runners I have coached and the new routes and adventures that running has brought to me over the year. Running is indeed the gift that keeps on giving. There is always more to learn, to read and to explore when you are a runner. There are no perfect runners and we can always aspire to improve.
I’m certainly not the only one leaving behind the smell of cooking turkey for a run on Christmas morning. It’s a surprisingly common thing for fun-loving recreational runners to do. While some runners go alone, the tradition of charity runs and parkrun events on Christmas morning is well established. While the swimmers flock to the sea to jump into icy waters, the roads and running tracks welcome runners of all levels to help raise funds, have fun and build an appetite for dinner. The Goal Mile has long been a favourite of many, being short enough to get around no matter how fit or what age you are.
Having a little quality time with yourself will set your mood, energy and mindset up for a great Christmas
This year, for the first time, I’ll be spending Christmas within a short distance of a Goal mile event. I’m curious to see if the crowd will be more inspiring than my traditional solo time-out and if the community and charity elements to the event will make my mood even better. Who knows, I might just jog to the start line and gain the best of both worlds.
The lead-up to Christmas has become more hectic over the years. Many of us are wrecked by the time the big day arrives and it can be relief to have finally made it to Christmas. With the festive season kicking off earlier each year, our good intentions have been replaced by mince pies and festive tipples from early December. January 1st becomes the day when we all plan to start over, but why not create a new tradition and make Christmas Day the day where you decide to get outside, even just for a few minutes. Start gradually now rather than wait another week. Whether alone, with the family or with a group of strangers at an event, you will never find a quieter traffic day and people in better spirits. Rarely will you have a day when there is no work on your agenda, unless you are the chef. It is purely family and friends time for most of us and it’s up to us to make the most of the extra time this day creates for us.
No Extra Stress
A Christmas run or walk should not add to the existing stress levels. Don’t put pressure on yourself to make it happen on Christmas morning if it going to be an additional source of anxiety. Instead, consider a Christmas Eve run or create a new tradition by finding a time and a location that works for you. The most important thing is that you find a time where you can focus on yourself. Time it right so you don’t feel you are missing anything at home.
Plan it now so you are prepared. The day will pass by anyhow in a blur. Having a little quality time with yourself will set your mood, energy and mindset up for a great Christmas. You can still enjoy your dinner, eat the sweets, do what you want, but choose to do it full of fresh air, freedom and post-run feel-good vibes this year.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes – Beginners Get Running, Get Running 10k and Get Running Stay Running.