The countdown is on and most of us are now looking forward to those lazy Christmas days without the routine of work, school and festive preparations. But before you decide to glue yourself to the couch for the holidays, can I encourage you to get outside a little each day before you get too comfortable. It may seem like a big effort but I promise once you return indoors you will be thrilled you made the time. You might even enjoy it when you are out there too. But why bother? Here are my five favourite reasons to keep moving at Christmas time.
The sheer noise of a few days in a busy household over the holidays might make you crave a little solitude. But with nowhere particular to go it can be hard to justify getting away. Wouldn’t a run be a perfect excuse for some quality “me” time? Leave the chaos behind you and escape out alone. Ideally, leave your headphones at home too and just enjoy the headspace. Run, walk, or even grab a coffee along the way but stay out long enough that you feel refreshed and ready to face the madness with vigour again. A little bit of freedom really helps me reset my tolerance level for noisy children or indeed adults. You might find it works for you too.
Our hours of daylight are limited these weeks, but we do have the huge advantage of being able to catch a glorious sunrise without having to set an extremely early alarm. One of my favourite times to run this time of year is before breakfast. Leaving after 8am on a clear sky morning will allow you to wake up as nature does too. It’s invigorating and magical to watch the light change. You will almost forget you are running as you get distracted by all around you. By the second half of your run you may also feel awake enough to pick up your pace and return home ready to face the day with a smugness that will last you long past your well-deserved leisurely breakfast.
If chasing solitude is the last thing on your mind, why not consider running with others over the next few weeks. Running can be so social this time of the year with many charity events on the calendar. Run free without the pressure of personal bests as you support charity events such as the GOAL Mile or local festive 5ks. Wear you Santa hat, embrace the weather and maybe even round up a few other bodies off the couch to come join you. For bonus points, if you can drag yourself away from Santa’s surprises, Christmas Day falls on Saturday this year and some of the parkruns are going to take place on Christmas morning. What a starter for your Christmas day of indulgence whether you choose to run, walk or volunteer.
It is very easy for all the days in the week between Christmas and the new year to merge into a blur. While we all do need downtime, and rest is key this time of year, we can help our mood, energy and enthusiasm for the season by setting the intention to move each day outdoors. You don’t need to take icy sea dips, although Christmas Day swimmers are the perfect advertisement for how to make fun memories of the season. Do what you know you will enjoy. Cycle, run, walk, hike or even fill a flask and sit outside and watch the world go by. Balance the indulgence of food and drink with a dose of fresh air and movement and you will find the transition back to “real life” a lot easier when we say goodbye to 2021 and try to start the new year on the right foot.
At this time of year we are bombarded with many “review of the year” television programmes. But how about a “review your year”? I find my Christmas time solo runs the perfect time to reflect on the highs and lows of my running year. I think of the races (even the virtual ones), the memories and the lessons learned. I remember the people I have met, the runners I have coached and the new routes I have travelled. Could you head out the door with no pressure on running performance but instead the goal to reminisce about what running has brought you this year. This process of reflection helps us appreciate all we have done, the obstacles we have overcome, the memories we have made and in a nutshell highlights what running has added to our lives throughout the year. As a runner, there is so much to be thankful for and indeed so much more to look forward to.
Wherever you will spend the next fortnight, decide to treat yourself to some quality time in your running/walking shoes. You don’t need to run fast nor far but just getting out the door can change your day. I love nothing more than that wonderful satisfying feeling of having my run complete and settling in for a lazy afternoon with coffee and Christmas chocolates. They taste all the better after a fresh air escape. Give it a try yourself this Christmas, definitely a new tradition worth creating.
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Best of luck!
– Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. She coaches runners of all levels to enjoy running and avoid injury in Dublin and online