How to Keep Fit During the Festive Season


Run at night to see a different side to the city

It’s the middle of December. Christmas is just a few weeks away and the festive parties, catch-ups and mince pies are starting to stack up. It’s dark in the mornings, dark in the evenings and generally a bit cold and wet. All in all, not much motivation to get out and train.

Many people (including me) can get a bit relaxed about keeping fit at this time of year. (For relaxed, read lazy.) This is then followed by guilt-laden New Year’s resolutions to be better boys and girls. This year, why not make a resolution before Christmas instead? Sure, it needs a little willpower to implement, but there is a way to avoid the permanent hangover that often marks the festive period.

Let’s take it as read that we’re all busy people with packed social diaries, busy jobs and Christmas shopping still to do. (If you’re still looking for pressies, you may be interested in my Christmas gift guide. Presents for yourself count too you know.) So how on earth do you fit in any exercise, let alone a decent training session, around this?

Take it easy, but don’t stop

I know, I know. I said we were going to talk about keeping fit. But realistically, December is a time for maintaining your fitness levels, not pushing harder. Your poor body goes through a lot at this time of year: late nights, early mornings, a richer-than-usual diet and possibly more alcohol than it’s used to. Give yourself a break and don’t go pushing for a PB just yet.

Then there’s the flip side. I don’t know about anyone else, but as soon as I stop rushing around and rest my body decides it’s time to get ill. The solution? Gently ease your body into the Christmas hols, rather than slamming on the breaks. A bit of exercise can help you relax as well as allowing yourself some time away from the hot, germ-ridden office or pub.

Get out during your lunch break

It’s dark when you go to work and dark when you leave. At this time of year, we really struggle to get any sunshine on our skin, so make the most of any opportunity to get out. Even if you never take a lunch break at any other time of year, get yourself out for at least half an hour a day over the next few weeks.

If you can fit in a quick run, that’s your exercise sorted. But even if you don’t have time for a run (or changing facilities at work) a half-hour walk will give your body a break from the desk and your mind a break from work. You’ll feel better for it and probably have a more productive afternoon as a result.

Get the family involved

What’s the one day of the year EVERYONE gets out exercising? The day it snows! Kids who were previously glued to their Xbox or iPad are suddenly clamouring to go sledging or build snowmen. Everyone runs around like crazy people and you all return home tired and happy.

In Britain at least, there is no guarantee of snow. But that’s no reason not to start a family tradition of getting out and active. For many years, when I was at my parents for Christmas, we had a family tradition of going for a run on Christmas morning. (Yes, we are slightly strange like that.) But it was kind of nice to get some exercise in before the wine and food and feel like we’d earned it.

Run / walk / cycle to work

When time is short, one way to fit in a training session is to incorporate it into your commute. It may be dark when you leave the house, but if you’re lucky you’ll get a beautiful sunrise on your way in – something you may not have noticed if you’d taken the car or train to work.

This is another one where you get to go to the post-work party guilt-free – just make sure you’ve packed your shower kit and clothes to change into.

Run back from the Christmas party

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably one of the few who hasn’t totally given up on exercise. So you may not think this next idea too crazy to contemplate. But it is a way to fit both socialising and training into your busy schedule and is particularly useful if you live in a city. Go to the pub, or Christmas party, but rather than getting the bus, train or taxi home, why not run back?

Now, I’m not recommending you go all out on the booze front and spend your ‘run’ stumbling into lamp posts and rubbish bins. But if you know you have to run home you’ll be more likely to go easy on the drinks, which your head will thank you for the next day. Just pack up your trainers, running kit and a headtorch; change in the pub toilets and trot out into the streets. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds cities most beautiful at night.

So there you go. Make a pre-New Year resolution to keep fit during this festive season, then get out there and do it. Merry mince pies everyone.

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