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Do not baste your lack of training in a layer of guilt. Adjust your expectations. Photo: Shutterstock

Explainer | 5 top tips for maintaining your fitness and running goals over the Christmas and New Year holiday

  • The festive period is a time of friends, family and a lot of indulgence, which can make runners anxious as they lose their hard-earned fitness
  • Letting go of expectations is key to enjoying the holiday and not losing your fitness

Your Christmas calendar is probably rammed. Work parties, Sunday lunches, family gatherings, last-minute gift shopping, three days recovering from Christmas Day itself.

There is no time for training, and it is wishful thinking to believe that will be any different in the build up to New Year.

It can be an anxiety-inducing time for athletes who feel their hard-earned fitness slipping away.

However, there are a few simple things you can do to help yourself during this busy and boozy period.

If you cannot go full throttle over the festive period, do not worry. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Reality versus expectation

Firstly, it might be impossible to train like you normally do. Accept that now.

You perception of a situation is reality versus your expectations. If your expectations are that you will be crushing training every day, and the reality is you are not at all, your perception of the Christmas period will be that you are failing miserably.

Layering your lack of training with feelings of guilt is doubly unhelpful. You will end up not training, and not enjoying yourself. It is the worst of both worlds.

If you adjust your expectations then it empowers your to perceive the Christmas period differently – perhaps you can look at it as a rest and recover period, not a lazy period, and then feel energised to attack your goals in January.

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Planning ahead

Have an exit strategy. For example, join a gym in advance, create your first full training session and write it down, circle a date in a calendar or talk to a coach.

Do not wait until the busy period is over, then start to plan, because you will then waste more time.

Having a plan means you can hit the ground running, so that the rest over Christmas does not turn into an elongated break.

What’s more, a plan will help any anxiety or feelings of guilt. Knowing that on a specific date in the near future you are going to kick the back doors off a training sessions will help you relax in the moment.

Mix up your training and benefit from cross training. Photo: Handout

Change your training

You will benefit from mixing up your training. Cross-training is a vital part of a running programme. It works different muscles and systems and will make you a better, more injury resilient runner.

The festive season can be a chance for you to train in a new way that takes up less time or space.

Why not do high intensity interval training (HIIT)? You can do an effective session in just 20 or so minutes and there are plenty of example sessions online and on YouTube.

If you usually run on trails in the mountains, but are visiting family in the city, try some sprint training. Or vice versa.

Join a gym and do weight training. Swimming. Cycling. Hiking. Yoga. Rowing machine workouts. Whatever you have access to. Mixing it up is an excellent way not just to stay fit, but to get fitter.

When January roles round, try and keep your cross-training habits.

Do not wait to feel motivated to run. Run to feel motivated. Photo: Shutterstock

Action leads feelings

Once you have taken a few days or a couple of weeks off, it can be hard to get going again. You have tasted the sweet comforts of hedonism and now the practice of asceticism - discipline and avoiding pleasure - seems so hard to return to.

Do not wait to feel motivated to go training. Go training to feel motivated.

Taking action can drive the feelings and emotions you are looking for. The more you run, the more motivated to run you will feel. If you wait around for the day you feel motivated, you may be waiting a long time.

Training with friends, together or remotely, can help you stay motivated. Photo: Midnight runners

Set a goal, find a friend

As part of your planning phase, you should set yourself a goal to keep yourself training over Christmas, albeit less, or cross training, and to re-motivate yourself in the new year.

Why not sign up to a race or train to set a personal best?

Accountability is also a great motivator. Find a friend who is also into running. Train together, or follow the same programme and message each other ‘How was today’s session?’ remotely.

Or, sign up to the goal together – if you know that someone else is relying on you, a bit of peer pressure might help you squeeze in an extra session over the festive period.