Holiday Running: How to Balance Your Fitness this Holiday Season

Happy Holidays! Even though we should be in a deep state of rest, there’s usually a lot on everyone’s mind when the Season is upon us. People travel to see family they might only get to see this time of year. They go from store to store or website to website scouring for the best deals and perfect gifts for everyone on their Christmas lists. Workers debate on whether or not to partake in any workplace parties or exchanges. Friends get together with their communities to enjoy the holiday spirit and maybe commiserate over some of those family gatherings. It’s a busy time of year for everyone, and so, somewhat predictably, holiday running takes the backseat.

Written by Lucas Collins
Edited by Pavlína Marek

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, there’s a 10% drop in Americans who exercise at least 30 minutes a day during this time. If the idea of losing progress during this festive time worries you, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are steps you can take to try and avoid this holiday slump. (However, remember, that some rest might be exactly what you need!)

Set a Strict Schedule for Exercise

This time of year leads to a lot of breaks and deviations from our normal schedules. Traveling is the most obvious reason for this. However, even if you’re staying home, going out to shop, wrapping gifts, putting up decorations, and preparing to host others can suck up a lot of free time. Ensure holiday running isn’t left behind by making a schedule that purposefully blocks out some time for exercise. In order for this to work you need to tell yourself that these workout times are carved in stone (barring any emergencies). Otherwise, the temptation to replace these time slots with other things can be too strong.

For example, you might say, “No matter what, I will go running every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” You can even add a specific timeframe. Everything else for the holidays can then be planned around it. Don’t fret if the schedule you make has less dedicated running time than usual or if you have to shorten your runs. With everything that goes on over the holidays, it’s perfectly normal to have less time scheduled for running. Again, make sure you can commit to the schedule you create and that it will still allow you to experience the holiday festivities!

Training during Travel

Traveling takes up a lot of your time and mental energy. A new place can also easily whisk away any thoughts of sticking to your usual routine. Worry not; there are things you can do to get your running done while on the go.

  • Are you flying? You can speed-walk the concourse while you wait at the airport. Some bigger airports even have outdoor lounges and showers. If you’ve got a longer layover, you can check if your airport has these options and get a more serious workout in.
  • On a road trip? You can try to do brief circuits when you stop for gas, food, or just to stretch your legs. If you’re driving far, chances are you’ll pass by some gorgeous places. Take the opportunity to do a little (trail) running tour!
  • If you’re staying in a hotel either during your travels or at the destination, you can see if they have a gym.
  • If you’re staying with family or a friend, you can ask if they have any space or equipment they would let you use to work out. You can also try to get tips for some nice local running spots—what if you meet a fellow runner and make a new friend there?

Whatever your plan is, make sure you bring appropriate gear to take advantage of outdoor running at your destination. The trip itself should be your main focus during your travels, but using any extra time to keep training can really help make you feel like you aren’t losing too much progress.

Incorporate Holiday Running into your Holiday Activities

Just because it’s ‘holiday time’ doesn’t mean you can’t shape it the way you like! There are a myriad of ways you can slip running into your holiday plans.

  • Run through neighborhoods to see lights and decorations instead of driving through them.
  • Go on foot if you bring cookies or gifts to neighbors.
  • Convince others to join you on your run. It opens up even more options! (Don’t know how to enthuse your loved ones about running? Here’s a how-to!)
    • Hold a friendly race with your friends and family, maybe with the winner getting a small prize (although bragging rights are already pretty nice).
    • Have a caroling group zip through the streets spreading cheer.
    • Join a Christmas Day parkrun.
  • Go on a nature trail and see the hidden beauty of untrampled snow and the calm quiet winter brings.

When it comes to exercise, there are many ways to make the holiday season work for you!

How to Find the Motivation to Actually Use These Tips

Everything we’ve said so far sounds great… on paper, at least. However, in reality, a lot of people have trouble following through. We’ve already discussed the limited time most everyone has during this season. Combine the lack of time with the cold weather that usually rules the northern hemisphere during the Holidays and things get dicey. Who’d want to battle the rain, snow, ice, blistering winds, and more when you could be warm under a blanket with a hot drink and pleasant company instead? It’s not hard to see why many choose to do the latter.

In order to get over all the hurdles, you have to keep your goals in mind. While your holiday running will be uncomfortable, perhaps even downright miserable sometimes, it’s all for a purpose. You’re keeping a level of fitness to do all the things you love, whether it is conquering races, running with your friends, exploring the world, or simply feeling good about yourself. These are things that take time and dedication, even in the bitter cold.

You can also set some smaller goals to hit by the end of the holiday season to build more encouragement. Small rewards whenever you complete a certain amount of runs or distance could work even better. Whether you give yourself a gift, a warm treat, or something completely different, it’s a lot easier to get through your training when you know there’s something good for you at the end of it.

Some Rest Might just be what You Need

We’ve introduced several ways to stay active during the holidays. What if you still aren’t sold on running? You might just want to enjoy the holidays and the time you spend with the people you care about. That’s ok too! You’ve worked hard this year and some time off can be extremely beneficial. Most importantly, taking a break for the holidays won’t hurt your progress that badly.

As an article by Gabby Landsverk explains, it’s much easier to maintain a level of fitness after you’ve achieved it. What’s more, by trying to push yourself too hard, you might end up building bad workout habits and hindering your progress overall.

Baby runner with a santa hat and sunglasses resting in a bed
If you know you need a break but still feel bad about scaling back your workouts, you can try to adjust your day-to-day routine to incorporate more physical activity. Listen to your body and mind so you don’t put yourself under excessive stress. It will most likely lead to much more success down the road.


The most important thing you can do this season is to find a level of exercise that fits into your schedule without becoming overbearing. It should also make you feel content and stop you from worrying about lost progress. However you do that, through whatever combination of these tips and your own advice, make sure it works for you. Why? Because even with running in mind, you deserve to be happy and enjoy the things only this season can offer.

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