Get Running: Don’t let December run away on you
Christmas running can ease stress, trim your waistline and improve your mood
Santa dash: some locations even host a special Christmas Day event, Photograph: Nick Ponty
It’s very easy to replace the runners with winter boots and party shoes in December. It’s the time of the year where our social life is at its peak as we try and cram in as many meet-ups as possible. Add to this the stress of shopping, food preparation and family reunions and December quickly becomes a month that disappears in a haze of mulled wine and chocolate treats.
A month of excuses.
Never has a month provided so many incentives to stay indoors. Alongside the pressures of Christmas, the weather doesn’t entice us outside. Dark days as well as a chill in the air draw us towards the fire rather than the footpath. Even with the best of intentions, December is a tough month to stay motivated. Most races and events are finished for the season and the lack of focus means workouts quickly become optional. While a break is recommended after a long year of training, have we all done enough during the year to deserve a month off?
Get a head start
We can easily find reasons to postpone our running until the new year. Rather than let December run away on you, imagine starting the new year feeling good about yourself, knowing that you have taken control of your fitness and health. Start this December, and get a head start on all the new year resolution makers. You can be the smug runner feeling sprightly on January 1st rather than feeling heavy and lethargic after the season of indulgence.
Balance the stress
Consider how you plan on spending your time and energy this December. How much pressure and stress will you be under? 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 season in one piece.
Where to start
Committing to get out the door is always the hardest part. Even if you cannot make the time to organise running around your December appointments, we can all find the time to walk somewhere and get outdoors each day. Fresh air is what is missing from so many of our lives this time of year, and making the effort to get fresh air every day has huge benefits for our mental health, creativity, energy and general wellbeing.
Running Challenges are plentiful on social media these day. An interesting one this time of year is the concept of @AdventRunning which launched in 2014 and encourages runners to run every day in Advent. Even if this seems too much, committing to 30 minutes of fresh-air walking should be within most people’s limits if they choose to value its benefits and make the time to do it.
It’s not too late to revisit some of the new year resolutions you set 11 months ago. Can you remember what they were? There is incredible support out there for runners making a start or a comeback. Our free Irish Times Get Running programmes can be started any week. The parkrun events are also incredibly supportive of recreational runners and over the last two years have popped up in so many locations around the country. They promise a friendly 5k at your own pace every Saturday morning with some locations also hosting a special Christmas Day event.
Get the family moving
Novelty running events take place all around the country in December where Santa costumes, reindeer antlers and fancy dress are encouraged. Combine the fun and festivities with fitness and get the entire family involved. For those based close to the capital, start the month with the very popular Jingle Bells 5k or Aware 5k/10k in the Phoenix Park and finish on the 28th with the Fat Turkey Family Run in Sutton/Howth. Check out gorun.ie or runireland.com for a full listing of all running events around the country.
Create your own funrun
Every year I bring my ForgetTheGym students on a fun running tour of the Christmas lights of Dublin city and finish with a mulled wine refresher at the Christmas markets. It is one of our annual highlights and a fun alternative way to see the city. What is stopping from you creating an event like this for yourself and a few friends? Replace a pub crawl with a funrun. Choose a seasonal route and tempt others to join in.
Christmas Day Run
If you think running on Christmas Day is for hardcore runners, think again. You will enjoy your dinner and all the trimmings so much more after some fresh air. The post run glowing feeling will last all day. Choose to run alone or consider one of the local running and charity events on Christmas morning. Start a new family tradition. 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.
Running doesn’t have to take over your December, but it can help ease the stress, reduce your waistline, improve your mood and maybe even give you an escape route when you need a break from the pressures of a full house or a full belly this Christmas.
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.