How to stay on track this Christmas – Should you even care?

My thoughts for the day, I know it’s been a while…

I’m sure it’s not just me who has been bombarded with conflicting health and training ‘advice’ in the run up to Christmas? So many articles are popping into my inbox with tips on how to stay on track this Christmas, covering everything from eating and drinking to fitting in runs and training.

Tips to stay on track

Suggestions such as – go for a walk with family then suggest a little bit of fartlek to get in some running (honestly, I saw this!), eat from a smaller plate, only go up to the buffet table once, swap out beer for clear spirits and a diet mixer (yuck!) and to ask yourself ‘am I really hungry?’ before reaching for that mince pie are all listed as ways to sail through the holiday season feeling virtuous, clocking up your mileage and keeping that waistline trim. Ah, self restraint. The spirit of Christmas indeed.

Should you even care?

So, just when I was starting to succumb to the notion that I had to do everything in my power to stay on track this December, on the other hand I also saw a well-balanced article which basically said in the scheme of things, the actual ‘holiday’ is pretty much two days. And there is only so much you can physically eat. So it isn’t going to derail the train to eat and drink what you want for two days. Out of 365. Especially if being a bit more lax with your eating and training stops you being labelled as obsessed, boring or a killjoy by non-fitness addict family members, stops you feeling like you are missing out, or helps you avoid blazing rows with family who want you to help with cooking, table setting or making up the numbers on the team for charades instead of disappearing off into the wilderness for an hour, then maybe it is the better option.

After all, in just two days of gluttony it is very hard for already extremely fit distance runners to make much damage to their fitness levels. In fact, one article I read claims it will take 7 to 14 days of inactivity for aerobic fitness in already fit runners to start to decline (full article here) and any extra pounds we do put on will be worked off in a couple of days when we are back to normal, anyway. Let’s face it, how many of us have a slightly daunting race calendar for 2016 and a training plan to match? Raises hand – attempting my first ultra in 3 months’ time!!

And, hey, don’t we deserve it? We’re the ones who spend the rest of the year waking up before it’s light to run 10 miles before work, skipping those impromptu drinks after work when we’ve got a big race coming up, counting and tracking calories and micro nutrients striving for that perfect balance, foam rolling because we know it’s good for us (even if it hurts), subjecting ourselves to ice baths and ultimately pushing ourselves to the limit, doing everything conceivable to shave off some extra seconds from our times and racing hard. So does it really matter if we are hungry enough to warrant eating a mince pie, or is it enough to just feel like eating it because it is delicious, it’s within arm’s reach, and you’ve sacrificed so much this year to make up for it?

My verdict

I’ve thought about this from both angles – yes, I don’t want to put on too many pounds over the festive period but I really am partial to a mince pie, regardless of being hungry or not. That isn’t the point really, is it? Nobody eats a whole tin of Roses at Christmas because they’re hungry, let’s be honest. They eat them because it’s the one time of year when it is OK, if not encouraged, to scoff the whole tin in one go. For most of us, if we are lucky, we are happy, loved and surrounded by the people we care about most in the world and are a bit easier on ourselves as a result. Everything we do at Christmas is rectifiable – that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for!

But it can be easier said than done, especially if you are so conditioned to eating a certain way and training every day. It’s more of a shock because of the change in routine than anything else. And when you are used to being so disciplined and strict with yourself, it can be hard to loosen up.

For me, I think I’d still like to get some miles in each day, more for the enjoyment running brings me than the worry about decline in fitness. But I am also planning on consuming my body weight in mince pies too, and I can guarantee I’ll be eating them way after I’ve stopped feeling hungry. After all, I’ll be back into rigorous ultra training and track sessions soon enough.

What are your plans, fellow runner? Are you sticking to the training at all costs, or is it time for a well-earned rest?


Whatever you do, enjoy!


One thought on “How to stay on track this Christmas – Should you even care?

  1. Nicola @ Running Happy says:

    I won’t be running on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, it will definitely be two days of relaxing and eating for me. I think a mini break is good for you as it allows you to recover a bit, relax and makes you even keener to get started afterwards.

    My training plan will start in earnest in January!

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