How to Stay Motivated and Fit Through the Holidays

A woman wearing warm clothes runs through a snowy field

Reignite joy, stay fit, and set yourself up to achieve your New Year’s goals

As the temps drop and the days get shorter, hibernating for the winter can sound much more appealing than layering up to brave the elements. For many of us, it can be extremely challenging to find the motivation to continue to train as the harsh winter weather takes over. Couple that with copious amounts of food and beverage, and the holiday season can lead to a decline in fitness along with the addition of a few extra pounds.

But not all is doom and gloom. It is possible to enjoy the festivities and luscious fare that come with holidays without retracting all the fitness gained in the past year. If you find yourself struggling to get out the door for a holiday workout, here are some tips to revive your motivation so you can retain fitness and reap the rewards when resuming full training for your next goal race.

A runner stretching during a run in the snow

Reignite your joy of running

When we are following a training plan for key races throughout the year, running can sometimes feel more like a dreaded chore than something to look forward to each day. The holiday season is the perfect time of year to take a step back and remember why we run in the first place or have some fun with holiday-themed running workouts.

Instead of prescribing yourself set distances each day or trying to hit workouts, simply start running and enjoy the process. Some days you won’t be feeling it and you'll want to run shorter, which is perfectly fine. Other days, you will be feeling great and extend the run. Without the pressure of specific workouts and set distances, you may find you end up running more mileage than you normally would, and mentally it feels much easier.

Getting out the door is most of the battle. Once the run starts, we often feel much better than expected, and we certainly feel more accomplished once it's complete. Simply putting one foot in front of the other and running some easy miles has a huge impact on maintaining a running base and muscle strength, which reduce injury chances and make training that much easier when starting a new cycle.

Sign up for a race

Signing up for a race during the holiday season is an excellent way to hold yourself accountable and give you something to look forward to with your training. Even if you prefer to not race seriously during your off season, getting out there in a race setting still serves as a great workout and can rejuvenate your training passion.

There is no shortage of turkey trots or Santa hustles in most cities around the US. On top of the fitness benefits, the atmosphere and community aspect of the events make for a fun, social environment. Who knows, you may even find a new best friend or running buddy.

Run with family and friends

The holiday season is all about creating memories with loved ones. A run serves as a superb means for distraction-free conversation and bonding with family and friends. It is also much easier to get out the door for a run when you have others to do it with. Just make sure you have winter running accessories and you know how to layer for cold-weather running when venturing out. Staying safe while running in the dark also requires additional attention. I personally never set out in the dark without running lights on my shoes.

Hit the gym instead of the streets

Some of us are fair-weather runners and would prefer to hit the gym in the winter months to stay warm. If this is the case, the treadmill is an excellent alternative to running outside. The ability to simulate hills and run at varying speeds can provide a better-quality workout than slipping and sliding around on the snow.

On the flipside, some of us do everything in our power to avoid the "dreadmill." If you’ve tried all the treadmill tricks in the book-like listening to music, watching a show and alternating paces/inclines-then use the time at the gym to build strength so you can run stronger, more efficiently and injury-free when the weather improves. Other cardio equipment, like the elliptical and rowing machine, are also excellent alternatives to simulate the aerobic effects of running while reducing the pounding on your legs.

A woman wearing warm running clothes on a cold day

Get a head start on your New Year’s goals

Using downtime during the holidays to reflect on the past year and identify what you want to achieve in the new year is the perfect way to set yourself up for success. It is crucial to look back and determine what worked and what didn’t throughout the past year to learn from mistakes and be better prepared for the future. A great time to reflect is on a run itself when your mind is free from distractions and you can be alone with your thoughts.

Doing anything is better than doing nothing at all. Instead of waiting until the new year to begin working toward next year’s goals, why not start a couple of weeks early? Every little thing you do now allows for incremental improvement that will make achieving any goal you have (running-related or not) more obtainable. There’s no better time than the present to work toward ambitions, no matter how far in the future.

As an added bonus, the gym won't be busy until January 1!

By Chris Robertson. Robertson races competitively for Chicago’s Fleet Feet Nike Racing Team. He holds a marathon personal best of 2:24 and is the Beer Mile American Record holder (4:46). He is currently training with the goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon and defending his 2017 Beer Mile World Title while working full-time as a Technology Consultant and pursuing additional entrepreneurial endeavors.