For most of us, not just the fitness types, the enjoyment of Christmas doesn't come without a price. That feeling as the New Year draws in that we may have indulged a little bit too much. That moment when we throw away the last empty packet of chocolates and stare into the mirror. Now comes the hard bit, you think to yourself, realising that, once again, you've got a fair bit of work to do before going back to the person you were a few weeks earlier.
For us runners the effects can be even more noticeable. A few weeks away from a training plan, a few extra pounds added to the midriff. You start to dread that first proper run in January. You know that it's going to be hard. As you step out of the house and make your way down the street you can feel the difference, it's as if all your hard months of training have been for nought; like you need to start all over again just to get back to where you were weeks before.
It's important to enjoy Christmas though; the body needs a bit of a break every now and then, just as much as we need a chance to not worry about things and relax occasionally. Yes, you could avoid all the fun parts of it, you could stick to your diet and training plan, but nobody wants to have to do that, it's Christmas. Have some fun.
That doesn't mean you have to drop everything and lose your hard earned fitness though. You just need to make a few little changes; a few slight tweaks that'll mean that come January the 1st you're almost in as good shape as you were a few weeks earlier.
Okay, let's be honest, this is the big one for most of us. The catalyst that has a snowball (honestly, that was unintentional) effect across so many other things. You drink a bit too much in the evening and that early morning run is looking significantly less likely. You snack on food when you weren't even hungry, and that's even before you count all those extra calories in the alcohol itself. The idea of making it through Christmas without drinking for many of us is not even an option, so the key lies in what exactly it is that you’re drinking.
The worst culprit for hangovers and calories is by far cocktails. Those sweet, tempting concoctions that are the alcoholic equivalent of a dessert. Not only do they often contain more calories and alcohol than a glass of wine or a beer, they also have a load of other ingredients, and let's not forget that we tend to drink them a lot quicker as well. Steer clear of them unless you've picked the ingredients carefully yourself.
Beer and wine are okay, assuming the beer is relatively organic and you've managed to moderate your intake (try to alternate alcoholic drinks and soft drinks). However, if you're really aiming to minimise any damage caused over the festive season, stock up on the gin and slimline tonic. At less than 100 calories a glass, it's the best option by far.
Okay, you're going to eat a lot more food than usual over the next few weeks, and a fair chunk of it is going to be treats. It's as if the part of the brain which normally stops us from buying chocolate bars when we walk past a shop is suddenly turned off, and it becomes completely normal to sit with a box of Quality Street on your lap, throwing wrappers into the bin every few minutes. And what about those cheese and biscuits that seem to disappear after half an hour?
The key to moderating what you eat over Christmas is to try to maintain a sense of order to the day. On a normal week day we're aware of ourselves when we're snacking between meals, at Christmas we tend to ignore it. Set yourself up a mental schedule of when you're allowed to snack, and stick to it. Maybe allow yourself chocolates straight after a meal, so you're not that hungry.
Make sure you eat as many healthy alternatives as possible too. So instead of reaching for the Chocolate Orange, have some nuts or fruit.
Training over the Christmas can be really difficult. Not only is there a modicum of lethargy caused by various frivolities, but it's also a time where most of us are ridiculously busy. That run home from work is taken up with work drinks, that long weekend run is replaced with the family coming over for lunch. If you can still find the time to train then kudos to you, but for a lot of us it's a given that mileage is going to drop.
But that doesn't mean it has to grind to a halt. And really, a few weeks of carefully maintained running to keep the legs ticking over and the calories being burned is all that we need. As long as you're doing some running, the return to training in the new year won't be an inevitable struggle.
Christmas is also the perfect time to focus on some non-running exercises as well. What with all the extra food you'll inevitably be eating, it's a great opportunity to do some strength and conditioning exercises to prepare yourself for the new year. Instead of that morning run, do a few bodyweight exercises and stretches in the front room. They're much easier to fit around the household Christmas chores, you don't have to get changed out of your pyjamas and you may find that your running benefits when you increase the mileage again. Stuck for exercises? Here's one from The Allrounder to get you started: http://www.theallrounder.co.uk/the-allrounder-bodyweight-workout/
You're not the only one worried about training over Christmas, your mates will probably welcome an opportunity to get in a few miles as well. So instead of meeting up for a drink at the weekend, head out for a run first and then end up at the pub. Sure, you're just replacing the calories you've burned, but calories don't stop you being fit, so that’s half of the problem dealt with, without missing out on the fun.
Oh yeah, and whatever you do to keep fit over the Christmas break, don’t let it stop you enjoying the festive period. It does only happen once a year after all!
Tom Wheatley is a #TeamIffley ambassador. We hope you've enjoyed his first blog for us.