What should a runner be doing this December?

Take some time to pause, be grateful and document your running highlights of 2018

December greets us this weekend and we launch full blast into the Christmas season and the very long to-do list that goes with it. It is perfectly fine for running not to be your priority this month. December is hectic for many and after a long running year it is nice to let running take a back seat. You don’t have to hibernate completely, but you could lift any pressure that running currently brings to your week. It’s not cheating to take a step back.

You don’t need to maintain peak performance all year around. All the best athletes take a break at the end of their running season to reflect, rejuvenate and refresh for the new season.

You won’t regress if you step outside your regular running routine for a few weeks. Being more flexible this month may allow you to experiment with new things that you couldn’t dedicate the time to during the peak of the season. December is a great time to focus on sorting out a niggle that has been bothering you. It’s also a perfect chance to take some time to work on mobility, strength, flexibility or technique with no big races to draw your attention.

When we are chasing a race goal we often let these key complementary elements of training slip as the focus is on the distance as a priority. Now you have an opportunity to take a few weeks to invest in preparing your running body for a fresh start in the new year. Don’t head into January with niggles, aches and pains that you could address now. I promise you that it is a lot harder to take a break from training mid spring when everyone is back out on the roads than now where most people have traded in their running shoes for something a little more stylish.


Social temptations

It’s actually quite easy to run less in December. There are the endless Christmas social temptations, colder evenings, a lack of available running buddies and a more sparse race calendar. There are indeed plenty of festive races which allow you to combine the social elements of both Christmas and running if you still need your race fix. These events provide the perfect balance between fitness and fun. Most of these events tend to be more relaxed and short distance so that hopefully allows the temptation of any long-distance dreams to be put on the long finger until the new year.

However, the most valuable “training session” you can do this month is to treat yourself to an hour at your favourite cafe and bring a notebook, your training diary and your running watch. Work back through the year and write down your running highlights, lessons learned and the names of the people you have met and shared miles with. Compile your favourite photos of the running year and maybe even pick a few to frame or share with running buddies. You might like to use the history on your running watch/phone app to compile your total distance run or any number of statistics it has collated over the last 12 months.

If you started the year with “running goals” go back to them now and see how you compared with your January intentions. Often we achieve things with running that we never planned or thought possible. Your year may not have passed how you had originally intended, but I bet you still have many memories from along the way. Appreciating all you have achieved, even if there have been bad days, is the best training session you will do this year. You can take these memories and use them to help you design your 2019 running goals. Once you move into January this running year will merge into every previous one so the notes you make are a wonderful 2018 summary to treasure going forward.

Running paraphernalia

Speaking of running memories, each year I seem to acquire more and more running paraphernalia. A big fan of decluttering, you might like to join me in an alternative running training session this month. Would you consider a running “stocktake” this December? You could attack your running wardrobe and be ruthless with the ever multiplying “sentimental” race T-shirts. Do you have running shoes that are in good condition that could be passed on to someone else in need? From running socks to hats, race numbers to magazines, I know I could do with being a little more minimalist in my running apparel and memorabilia. But sometimes it’s just hard to let it all go. I understand, I’ll allow you to keep the stuff that makes you smile but make some room for your future running memories.

Another valuable running exercise for this month focuses on the appreciation of the running community. Being grateful for what we have achieved in the running year makes us appreciate how lucky we are to get to run and share our hobby with so many passionate and inspiring people. Maybe this could be the month you commit to volunteering more at parkrun and local charity races as a way of saying thank you. You could help share the word of running by helping someone new to get started or assist a running buddy who has had a setback to make a gradual comeback. This could be your month for running for others than for yourself.

That would be a nice addition to your 2018 memories.

Just take some time to pause, be grateful and document your running highlights. Then you will be in a perfect position to line yourself up for a wonderful start to 2019. There is still plenty of time to add a few more running memories to what you have achieved this year. It’s up to you to create them.

– Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie.