Written by Jen Van Allen
For many runners, the months between Halloween and Valentine’s Day are marked by a steep drop off in motivation and fitness that can require months of painful rebuilding to regain. With the chaos of the holidays, the inclement weather, the availability of rich, comfort holiday treats, it can be easy to quickly lose all the strength and speed you worked so hard to gain during the warm-weather months.
But the holiday weight gain doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion. Here are some ways to come out of your “off season” of racing feeling fitter, faster and ready to run your best.
Make your own holiday traditions
You don’t have to wait until January 1 to set a New Year’s Resolution. You can begin your new year on any day you would like. Start thinking about what goals you want to accomplish next year; look at next year’s race calendar and start making some plans. Make some shorter-term goals to help you build toward the long-term ones, and will motivate you to keep running through the holidays. Celebrate the holidays by signing up for short races that are close to home or your travel destinations. In most towns, there is an abundance of 5K's to choose from on holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The off season is the ideal time to build your whole-body strength. Meet with a personal trainer that can measure your BMI or body-fat percentage. Have your vital stats measured now. Work with the trainer to design a strength-training plan that you can realistically maintain through the holidays, and aim to complete it two to three times each week. There are a variety of strength-training plans that offer benefits; the most important factor in any workout is that it feels fun and convenient, so you will be more likely to do it. Discuss with the trainer how much improvement you can realistically expect in that set period of time. Make a date with the trainer to have your vital stats measured again on January 2.
Do something new
The weather conditions may not always be ideal for running during winter. But they might be good for other sports like snowshoeing, downhill, and cross-country skiing, which can go a long way toward helping you stay in shape during the winter. Leverage the fitness you’ve built with running to learn a new sport. Or, try a new class like spinning, yoga or pilates that you can do no matter what the weather conditions are. This will freshen up your routine and help you stay strong and motivated.
Watch what you eat
Much of your fitness will be determined by what you do and do not eat during the holidays. With the abundance of rich, sweet treats and food-pushing family members and friends, it’s easy to end up consuming way more calories than you usually do. Don’t try to restrict yourself too much, but keep treats out of the house so you won’t be tempted by them. Find healthy alternatives to your favorite holiday comfort foods and bring them to holiday gatherings.