Five ways running can make you feel less stressed and more energised in December

December is a busy month but making time to get fresh air every day will lift your spirits

‘Make time to get outside and get some fresh air every day. It will lift your spirits and clear your head.’

‘Make time to get outside and get some fresh air every day. It will lift your spirits and clear your head.’

 

December is the season of indulgence. We have a whole month of gourmet temptations coming our way. Just look at the television adverts and newspaper pullouts these days. After the year we have had we all do deserve the treats and some lazy afternoons. But I encourage you not to pack up all your healthy intentions and postpone them until the new year. I’m all for the mince pies and the mulled wine, but I do know that I enjoy them all the more after a long walk on the beach or a run with a friend.

Too busy to exercise?

I know you are busy and I know your December to-do list is already stressing you out. But what is the point of rushing to get everything on that list complete if you are going to be burnt out by the time the big day arrives? Rather than being wrecked by Christmas, wouldn’t it make more sense to look after yourself a little each day to preserve some energy and enthusiasm and so that you can actually enjoy the time you have when you do finally get that break. You know what I’m going to say next. It is what I have been saying all year long. Please make time to get outside and get some fresh air every day. It will lift your spirits and clear your head.

Have a reason to go outside

Taking a little time outdoors for yourself will help your head as much as the rest of your body to keep perspective, routine, focus and joy during the weeks ahead. But when we are pulled in many directions, we can skip our fresh air fix in order to focus on other tasks. That is why it is so helpful to have a target, a training buddy or some type of goal to help you keep the momentum this month. I’m not challenging you to run a marathon or even run every day, I just want you to have a reason to escape because once you get out there you know you won’t regret it.

1. A chocolate challenge

Sound tempting? Well let’s make it interesting. When many of us think of advent, it’s those daily chocolate doors that come to mind. But in recent years the concept of Advent Challenges have become common. Some runners commit to running everyday in advent. If that seems a little extreme, could ‘walk for 30 minutes’ be a more achievable goal? When we are on a streak we are less inclined to break it. You can always keep yourself motivated by only allowing yourself open that chocolate door once your walk or run is complete. Motivation doesn’t come higher than a square of chocolate for some of us.

2. Beginner’s mile

If you are one of those people who can never seem to get to the end of a couch-2-5k programme, let’s change the goal and make running more achievable this month. This December, instead of procrastinating the running comeback until next year, why not lower the distance target and set yourself the goal of being able to run one mile non-stop by Christmas. As a complete beginner this is well achievable with the four weeks and the first half of any couch to 5k programme would take you there comfortably. In less than 30 minutes you can get out, warm up walk for five minutes, run and walk for 15 minutes and cool down with another five minute walk.

3. A speedy mile

If you are already running regularly and are missing the races, why not set yourself a mile challenge too. Start this week by timing yourself over a 1 mile distance (after warming up for a mile too) and once each week aim to beat that number. The traditional Christmas GOAL Mile event could be the perfect finale for your achievements. Now running virtually like so many of the other running events, it could be the incentive you need to stay on track.

4. Spend time together

It’s always easier to get out there when someone is waiting for you. You can help yourself by helping others. Is there someone locally you know who could also benefit from getting outdoors? Anyone who could do with a bit of company and a dose of fresh air therapy? Ask them to join you on your running/walking advent journey. You can even buy them a chocolate training log/advent calendar if that helps you both to go. The social support, motivation and camaraderie make a routine stick and you know you will both keep eachother on track.

5. Bling your Christmas tree

You might not even have to leave home to find your new motivating running buddy. Have a look online at the novelty and charity virtual running events that have added a seasonal twist. With options of distances from 1 mile upwards, you can choose your preferred distance so children of all ages and reluctant adults might even be convinced especially when they see what’s on offer. With medals that do everything from sing Christmas carols to convert to Christmas tree decorations, finding a buddy might be easier than you think. Some fun events encourage you to spread the challenge across the month or encourage a 12 days of Christmas theme. Like everything else these days, try to shop local and support any local running fundraisers in this year as so many of their usual funding opportunities have been lost to Covid.

Give it a try

Christmas should not just be about getting organised and ticking off jobs. It can be though unless you make a decision to make it a little more. It’s only when you get to the end of this month that you will look back and be delighted you did commit to minding yourself this month. New memories are there to be made. I know you may feel too busy, but taking those 30 minutes helps lift the pressure. Worries and problems always feel a little lighter when you return home. Don’t believe me? Give it a try. Between that feel good feeling and the chocolate square waiting, what have you got to lose! 

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!

– Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary’s book Get Running published by Gill Books is out now. 

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