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How to Keep Up Your Running Training Over the Christmas Period

The Christmas period can be a challenging time to stick to your running training plan. With busy schedules seeing friends and family, tempting food and drinks, bad weather, and the general indulgence of the holidays, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out for regular runs.

However, with some planning and commitment, it is possible to maintain and even build on your running fitness over the festive season. Here are some tips on how to keep up with your running over Christmas:

Plan Ahead

  • Schedule your runs – Mark out days and times in your diary over Christmas when you will run. Schedule them as you would any other appointment you don’t want to miss. Prioritise runs that are part of your usual training schedule.
  • Plan routes – Look at where you’ll be staying over Christmas and find some suitable running routes nearby. Drive around the area in advance if you need to. Choose scenic routes for extra motivation.
  • Sort your gear – Make sure you have the right cold weather running gear packed if you’ll be away from home. Things like headwear, gloves, warm socks and layered tops are essential.
  • Join a group – Look online or ask at local running stores if there are any group runs happening over the holidays that you could join. Having others to run with can be a big motivation boost.

Be Flexible

  • Adjust your schedule – Be prepared to shift runs around to fit in with Christmas events and family commitments. Switch around days if you need to, and consider breaking one long run into two shorter ones if that works better.
  • Consider doubles – Can’t fit in one longer run? Try fitting in two shorter runs in one day. For example, squeeze in a 3 mile run in the morning and another few easy miles later in the day. This can maintain running volume.
  • Go for time not distance – On busy days where you can’t fit in your usual route, go for a time-based run instead of distance. Get out for even just 30 minutes to keep your routine going.
  • Split workouts – Break your run into two parts if you’re short on time, for example do hills or speedwork separately from an easy run. Splitting is better than skipping altogether.

Make It Fun

  • Explore somewhere new – When visiting family and friends, take your runs as a chance to explore new scenery and routes. Go sightseeing as you run. Motivation will be higher.
  • Run to festive events – If you’re able to, run to and from Christmas events, nights out with friends etc. It all adds to your weekly mileage without much extra effort.
  • Entice others – Encourage others to run with you, whether that’s family or friends you’re spending time with over Christmas. Make it a social event.
  • Do a Christmas run – If there are any Christmas or festive themed runs or events in your local area, make it a focus of your running over the holidays. It will bring extra enjoyment.

Monitor Your Goals

  • Review your plan – Study your training plan and goals and see what kind of running and mileage you should aim to complete over the Christmas period. This will give focus.
  • Track progress – Use your training log, GPS watch or running app to monitor your mileage day-to-day over the holidays. See how you’re progressing towards your goals.
  • Stay accountable – Share your running goals for the Christmas period with a running buddy, partner or social media community. Having to report progress can help motivation.
  • Be flexible – Reassess your original training goals given the realities of your schedule over the holidays. Adjust goals or focus as needed so they are still realistic.
  • Make time to reflect – After Christmas, take stock and see how your training went. Analyse what worked well and learn lessons for next time around.

Fuel Your Runs

Maintaining performance over Christmas means being careful about what you eat and drink:

  • Stay hydrated – Be sure to keep up your hydration when out socialising or travelling to see friends and family. Dehydration can sap your running energy.
  • Watch the booze – Alcohol can impact your running markedly. Try to cut back if possible or avoid alcohol directly before or after key training runs.
  • Eat clean – Focus your diet around lean proteins, complex carbs, veggies and healthy fats. Be wary of overindulging in Christmas treats.
  • Time your meals – Don’t eat a huge Christmas dinner directly before a run. Fuel up sensibly beforehand and allow time to digest first.
  • Manage portions – It’s fine to relax your diet a little over Christmas, just be mindful of portion sizes so you don’t over consume calories and gain weight.
  • Supplement wisely – Things like multivitamins, vitamin D and probiotics can help maintain your energy and immunity over the busy Christmas period.

Make Winter Running Work

Cold winter weather brings its own challenges for runners, but there are ways to adapt:

  • Layer up – Wear multiple layers of technical fabrics to maintain warmth but prevent overheating. Things like merino wool are great.
  • Cover extremities – Use gloves, hats and socks to protect your hands, head and feet from the cold. These get cold the quickest.
  • Watch the ice – Be very careful running on icy, slippery ground. Slow down, shorten your stride and wear shoes with good grip.
  • Stay visible – Wear bright reflective clothing if running in the dark so other road and trail users can see you.
  • Mind the wind – Plan routes where possible that avoid lengthy sections directly into the wind, which saps energy and motivation.
  • Treadmill running – Switching some outdoor miles to the treadmill can be a good option in poor weather. Vary the incline for extra challenge.
  • Post-run recovery – Don’t skip warming up and cooling down just because it’s cold. Get inside promptly and change out of damp clothes.

Balance Indulgence and Moderation

Don’t be too hard on yourself – it’s important to enjoy Christmas!

  • Pick your moments – Strategically relax your usual rules around key times like Christmas dinner and celebrations with friends and family.
  • Sample treats – Let yourself taste and enjoy Christmas goodies but control portions so you don’t overindulge. A little of what you fancy is fine.
  • Stay active – Go for walks after big meals, take stairs not lifts, keep moving as much as possible day-to-day.
  • Manage parties – Have a plan for managing the endless Christmas parties. Prioritise ones you most want to enjoy, limit alcohol, know when to call it a night.
  • Don’t beat yourself up – A few days of indulgence won’t undo months of training. Get straight back on track after the holidays.
  • Make up for lost miles – Plan to add a few extra runs in the weeks leading up to Christmas to create a mileage ‘buffer’. This takes the pressure off.
  • Focus on fun – Remember that Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, not PBs. Enjoy the festivities and don’t obsess about runs missed.

Motivate Yourself to Run

When enthusiasm wanes over the holidays, use these tips to motivate yourself:

  • Promise yourself a reward – E.g. a relaxing bath, favourite TV show or sweet treat after a cold winter run.
  • Remember past achievements – Look back at past training cycles and races you’ve completed through regular running. This reminds you of what you can achieve.
  • Visualise success – Envision proudly completing the runs in your plan and becoming fitter, faster and stronger because of them.
  • Go public – Tell friends and family about your running plan so you’re accountable. Post on social media about runs you’re proud of doing.
  • Run for charity – Commit to running for a cause over Christmas. Knowing your miles will benefit others provides great motivation.
  • New gear – Reward days or weeks of consistent training with a new piece of running kit. Having something new to look forward to helps.
  • Link up virtually – If separated from your running buddies over Christmas, share training updates remotely to keep each other going.
  • Compete virtually – For extra motivation, sign up to a virtual race or festive run challenge you can complete individually over the holidays.

Stay Positive and Consistent

The key things to sustain running over Christmas are:

  • Commitment – Keep turning up day after day. Perfect consistency isn’t vital but do something.
  • Adaptability – Roll with the punches when plans go awry. Be flexible and fit in runs around a shifting schedule.
  • Moderation – Let loose a little over the holidays but avoid complete excess. Reign things back in come January.
  • Enjoyment – Don’t let running feel like a chore. Do things like run new routes, wear fun gear and share miles with others.
  • Perspective – Remember a few missed runs over Christmas won’t ruin everything. Keep the big picture in mind.
Winter ultramarathon training gear

Sample Weekly Training Schedule

Here is an example of how to schedule runs over a busy Christmas week:


  • Morning: 30-minute easy run
  • Afternoon: Strength session e.g. core and lower body


  • Morning: Speed intervals – 8 x 400m at 5k pace


  • Morning: 4-5 mile hilly trail run
  • Evening: 3-mile recovery run


  • 45 minute treadmill run – alternate 2 minutes hard effort with 2 minutes easy


  • Rest day or optional 30-minute easy run if celebrating later


  • Long run – 90 minutes aerobic effort


  • Fartlek run – mix surges of speed with easy running for 45-60 mins


  • Prioritise key training sessions and be flexible around them
  • Take advantage of being somewhere new – explore different running routes
  • Layer up appropriately for cold weather runs
  • Balance indulgence with moderation – don’t overdo it with food and drink
  • Stay motivated with rewards, accountability and keeping things fun
  • Aim for consistency as much as you can, but don’t stress about missed runs
  • Enjoy the festive period and come back stronger afterwards!

In summary, the key things to remember are:

  • Plan ahead and be flexible with scheduling runs
  • Make your runs enjoyable with new routes, festive events and running companions
  • Fuel carefully, hydrating well and moderating excess food and alcohol
  • Adapt your gear and conditions for winter weather running
  • Monitor your goals but don’t overstress about missed miles
  • Allow yourself to indulge in moderation and enjoy Christmas with loved ones
  • Stay positive, consistent and focused on keeping your long-term training on track

Author - Mathew Stuckey

Mathew Stuckey is the founder of Ultramarathon Central, an online platform dedicated to supporting and inspiring ultra runners from all walks of life. With a passion for pushing the limits of what's possible, Mathew has taken on some of the toughest ultra events in the UK, including the Monster Triathlon.

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