How to Balance Running With Holiday Fun

The end of December is a fantastic time to be a runner ? unless you are actually training for something. If you're like me—and many others—the thought of hitting the road instead of spending hours with friends and family playing board games, and sitting next to too much yummy food, is enough to make you request a refund on that race entry.

But don't pull the plug just yet. With some proper planning, you'll be able to survive the holidays with enough mental and physical energy to still be your best come race day.

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Stop Stressing and Plan Ahead

If you already know what your holiday schedule will be, do yourself a favor and put your thinking cap on right now. Planning ahead means that you'll be able to schedule just the right amount of running on the right days. Better to have that negotiation with your family/spouse/buddies in advance than trying to do it in the moment. Truth be told I am more worried about the lure of another bowl game or another batch of cookies than your family—odds are they'll be more than willing to let your stir-crazy self outside for a quick five-miler.

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Option 1: Find the Fun

Unless you live under a rock, odds are there is some form of a holiday run happening near your holiday destination. It could be a Holly Hustle, a Santa Dash, or a Midnight Run. Maybe you are brave enough to sign up for a Hangover Classic. My point: there's a race for everyone over the holidays.

More: Your Guide to Holiday Runs

They might not be your ideal distance, but there's nothing like a good, short, hard run to stay sharp. Remember to treat the fun run like an actual hard race—warm up well and be sure to set aside time to cool down.

The most important thing to be aware of is overdoing it. There's no need to pile on extra work before or after the holiday week. Keep it simple and fun!

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Option 2: Build a Race

Can't find the right run for you? Then make it up. This is a great option for those who train with GPS devices, as you can easily create and add a new route to your watch so you don't get lost.

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Do your best to pick a new or exciting area for your "event." And don't be afraid to make it several laps; this can help you avoid getting too far from your holiday home base.

For example, repeat a two-mile loop three times to get close to a 10K race, or complete four loops of a 3.3-mile course for your own half marathon. Regardless of the distance you choose, be sure to keep it simple and bring enough food and supplies to make it safe and fun.

Make peace with your training self that might tell you to push too hard. While less mileage, rest, holiday food and parties might not be great for your fitness now, it is a great investment in your overall year.

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Option 3: Set a Mileage or Time Goal

If the idea of building your own race isn't appealing, consider setting a consistency challenge.

Run over the course of several consecutive days, a consistency challenge will give you an opportunity to boost your fitness without going too hard or too long in any one single session. Done properly, it will also reduce the need for extended recovery.

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Here are some options:

Beginner: 30 minutes of walk/jog/run a day for five days.

Intermediate: 45 minutes a day for five to six days.

Advanced: 60 minutes a day for six to eight days.

Remember to be conservative; if you have picked the right level, it will take a few days before the fatigue really sets in.

More: 3 Winter Running Secrets to Prepare for a Strong Spring

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