Swims, runs and walks - Irish Times journalists get active on Christmas Day
Our annual dunk has no charity element, which lends it a tremendous air of integrity
Patrick Logue and all the family head for Termonfeckin beach on Christmas morning, come hail rain or snow. In 2010 actually was snow on the beach.
We asked some of our journalists what they do to feel healthy – or alleviate the calorie intake guilt – on Christmas Day and over the coming days. Walking, runnning, swimming and spinning topped the pile.
Weeks of build-up and fraught preparation mean Christmas Day can never be anything but disappointing. Somehow the 35-minute walk of Dún Laoghaire’s East Pier never falls short.
It is the only droplet of clarity and pure joy in a day muddled with over-rich food, dissatisfying presents and unchanging family dynamics.
The firmly closed shops we pass on our way to the pier offer a panacea to the preceding frazzled weeks. The eerie silence of empty streets are broken by the scene that unfolds.
Well-to-do elderly couples totter in their Christmas finery, children build up speed and go far too close to the edge on the pier’s smooth surface in their newly delivered bikes, parents with their grown-up sons and daughters catch-up as they pass the time while the turkey roasts.
People are full of smiles as they make their way on the 2.6km stroll but, this being south Dublin and not rural Ireland, nobody catches the eyes of a stranger to wish them a Merry Christmas.
In spite of this there is a communality to the experience that is otherwise absent on this holy day for the non-religious. Perhaps it is sharing the striking beauty of the blue sea bobbing gently and glimmering under the winter sun.
This year’s walk will be a little different. Last year I proudly waddled my seven-month-old bump down the promenade wondering what next year would be like. This Christmas Day I will (in between naps, nappies and bottles), wheel my gorgeous, curious, nine-month-old son Arthur down the pier. Life utterly changed but Dún Laoghaire pier ever magnificent.
I miss midnight mass. And Christmas morning mass, for that matter. Christmas can be a difficult time for a nostalgic, avowed lapsed Catholic hankering for that magic feeling that the traditions of Christmas from childhood bring. When it comes to traditions, religion has it wrapped at this time of the year. It would therefore feel inappropriate for me to march down to the local church with the kids in tow for Christmas mass just for the niceness of it.
We have to make other plans.
Some time ago we decided that we were going to make our own traditions at Christmas. Now, we didn’t sit down and make a list, rather they sort of evolved over time. Most of our traditions are the same as everybody else’s: I wear a Christmas jumper with a reindeer nose on the front, we like to graze on a spiced beef in days after the 25th, we stay at home and light the fire, eat, drink and argue like everyone else. On Christmas morning, we like stick on the hiking boots, coats, hats and gloves to go for a walk on the beach.
Last year the kids woke about 4.30am to see what Santa had brought while consuming copious amounts of chocolate before a breakfast of processed pork products.
At about 9am we head for Termonfeckin beach, come hail rain or snow (in 2010 there was actually quite a lot of snow on the beach). We shake off the cobwebs, work off some of the early morning calories and give the dog a run out.
Everybody has to come, staying at home is not an option.
I have developed a habit of spending early December in hospital. Last year my leg exploded; this year my ear imploded. Both events had happy endings, but both created annoying interruptions in my running habit. It’s not that I do 10km run every day before breakfast – I just like to be able to put on my runners and peg it in to work, or gallop along the riverbank with Danielle la Spanielle, or catch up with another mum during soccer training.
Last Christmas Day, our family’s annual Goal Mile outing was rather shambolic, with a four-year-old coaxing his new Power Ranger, who wasn’t quite up to the challenge, and the two bigger boys determined to run faster than each other – and, more importantly, than their father, who can run rings around anyone on a tennis court but isn’t great on the straight.
I dragged my gammy leg around – I think even the Power Ranger got a better time – but our star runner was la Spanielle, who discovered she was stronger than the scooter we’d looped her lead to and charged, wheels and all, across the grass (narrowly missing the pack).
The thing is, the Goal Mile isn’t about egos, or Lycra, or times (though this year I would really, really like to outrun the boys). It’s about getting out for a gulp of air, meeting friends and neighbours, and donating money and Christmas spirit to Goal.
The Clarinbridge Christmas Day swim celebrates its wooden anniversary this December.
For the past five years a group of us has met up at a small inlet just outside the village where we dive into the frigid Atlantic and then scramble out again as quickly as possible.
We have experienced slow but steady growth over the years: going from about seven participants in 2010 to close to a dozen last year. And that’s not including spectators and their dogs.
Unlike the more well known Salthill swim, the annual Clarinbridge dunk has never actually had a charity element to it. Those of us who’ve been doing it from the start agree this lends the whole thing a tremendous air of integrity. We swim on Christmas Day purely for the enjoyment of it, which, if I’m being honest, is minimal enough.
But the glasses of mulled wine, usually served out of a pot in the boot of my friend Darragh’s car afterwards, tend to make it all worthwhile.
This year we will be without Colin, a veteran of the event, who has selfishly brought his family to New York for the holidays.
Further challenges come with the tides: the first high one is at 4.37am, the second at 5.01pm. So it will be tricky to arrange a suitable swimming time that doesn’t (a) encroach on dinner plans or (b) involve us diving into three feet of mud and silt. But I’m sure we’ll manage.
Last year we had to do the swim at about 10am, meaning the mulled-wine had, to use the language of tech entrepreneurs, a rather disruptive effect on the rest of the day.
Gorging on After Eights and tins of Roses is part and parcel of the traditional Irish Christmas. However, anyone who attends a gym on anything resembling a frequent basis likes to attend at least one spinning class before the New Year.
I have a spinning class penciled in at Fitnessworx gym in Cork on December 27th. As it is now officially in writing, I will have little choice but to attend. I will hardly move my legs on the bike turning the dial down rather than up as the class progresses. I will burn off about 200 calories.
I will feel smug and sanctimonious. I will kid myself that I am part Ironman/part Sonia O’Sullivan. This will be my very own Tour de France completed in 50 minutes.I will casually slip it in to my conversation with relatives that day that I made it to the gym. I will bask in the glory of being so controlled and disciplined.
Then later that night I will throw myself on the sofa and eat a box of Pringles. Disgusted at my gluttony I will decide that I have little choice but to elevate it to binge eating stakes. And sure didn’t I burn off loads of calories that morning?
I will eat in the region of 1,500 calories in an hour. I will then have several minutes of self loathing before vowing that next year it will be different.
I will somehow metamorphose in to Madonna. I will live on quinoa and all sorts of things I read about in women’s magazines at the hairdressers.
Gwyneth Paltrow will be ringing looking for diet and exercise tips from me. 2016 will be different ...well maybe not the very first week but the week after.