4 Ways to Maintain Your Fitness During the Holiday Season

This time of year, life has a tendency to get a little hectic!

As the year winds down and the days get shorter, holiday parties, family gatherings, and travel plans start to pop up on the calendars of many runners.

And that creates the dilemma that many of us are faced with: how do we maintain the gains to our fitness through the busy holiday season?

It’s a tough nut to crack, no doubt.

But with a little creativity and some pre-planning, you can absolutely maintain your current level of running fitness through whatever craziness is in store for you between now and the end of the year.

4 Tips for Maintaining Your Fitness During the Holiday Season

This holiday season, please accept one thing as truth: your running routine is going to be impacted.

It doesn’t matter how meticulously you try to plan out each run and/or workout, when you start mixing family, inclement weather, a little too much eggnog, and all of the holiday feasts/treats, you’re going to miss a run or two.

That’s ok.

Missing a run or two (or even more than that) isn’t going to cost you all of your fitness gains, I promise!

Just accept that it’s going to happen, and then employ the following tips the help you maintain your fitness through the end of the year.

Adjust Your Workout Schedule

As humans, we tend to be creatures of habit. And as runners, we are even more habitual than most!

Think about your regular running routine.

I’m willing to bet that you have a pretty rigid routine as far as what time of the day you run, what type of workout you do on any particular day, and what activities you tend to do on your cross training/strength training days.

During the holidays, you need to be willing to throw the normal schedule out the window and do what you can, when you can.

Your work schedule is likely to change. The kids’ schedule is definitely going to change.

Ergo, your running schedule is also going to need to change.

Be willing to adjust the times of your runs in order to fit into whatever plans you have during the holidays.

Be Proactive

If you don’t plan your runs, they aren’t going to happen.

During the rest of the year, you have your regular running routine. Even if you aren’t consciously planning your runs on your calendar, you know when you will be able to squeeze your runs in on certain days of the week.

Now that your schedule is getting turned on its head, you need to be proactive about planning out your training sessions.

When I go to my in-law’s house for Thanksgiving, or any holiday/family gathering, one of the first things I do is ask my mother-in-law what the plans are for the weekend.

What time are we eating? What time are the other members of the family planning on being there? What responsibilities do I have in order to make sure that the day’s festivities go smoothly?

Now that I know the big plans, I make my running plans known.

If the meal is planned for 2 pm, and family isn’t going to be at the house until about noon, I know I can go run at 7 and have plenty of time to get back to the house, shower, and help out as needed.

I make sure my in-laws and my wife are aware of and on board with my running plan.

This way, when I head to bed early and decline the drinks my father-in-law keeps trying to pushing on me, no one thinks I’m being rude. They know I’m planning to run in the morning.

Find a Good Workout on YouTube

Maybe you don’t have time to get a good run in or maybe the weather has taken a serious turn for the worse.

That doesn’t mean that all is lost.

Dial up YouTube and look for a good body weight workout.

There are no shortage of high intensity exercise routines that are freely available on YouTube, and they will get your heart rate up just like a good session of speed work.

Another option is to pull up a yoga routine, and get a good stretch/relaxation session.

With all of the crazy going on around you, quieting your mind and focusing on your breath while doing yoga may be exactly what you need to stay sane during the holidays.

Have Some Family Fun

If you can’t run due to whatever reason, what can you do with the family that would still count as exercise?

Whatever it is, do that.

Go ice skating for an hour.

Dust off the skis or snowshoes.

Hit the local sledding hill and race the kids/younger cousins to the top of the hill.

Put the kids in the sled and tow them up the hill!

Anything that you can do to get the family outside and get the heart rate up counts as exercise and serves as a perfect alternative to your regular runs this time of year.

Maintaining Fitness is Easier Than You Think

Whatever your holiday plans include this year, please remember one thing: it’s a lot easier to maintain your fitness than it is to improve it.

During the holidays, you can most likely cut your regular training volume by as much as 50% without seeing any (or at worst, a very minimal) drop off in your fitness.

The key?

Make sure you get at least one hard workout (speed work or tempo run) and one long run in at least every two weeks.

If you can do that, you’ll be every bit as fit on January 1st as you are today.

And that will set you up to have a great start to your 2018 running year!

By Denny Krahe

Denny Krahe is a Certified Athletic Trainer and Running Coach specializing in helping runners prevent common running injuries and being able to run pain free. He is also the host of the "Diz Runs With..." podcast.