Escape the pre-Christmas madness – get some free fresh air therapy

If it really is too busy to run, go for a walk, get outside, take time for yourself

Has running disappeared off your to-do list this December? You are not alone. I know you are busy. The invitations, the calories and to-do lists seem to be increasing day by day. We can feel that we hardly have any time to think about ourselves as we get caught up in the Christmas cycle of planning, presents and partying. But actually, all the madness would seem slightly more manageable if we did give ourselves a little break.

Take a break

Most of our December schedules are different from a “normal” month and this makes routine harder to maintain. So let’s throw away the guilt of feeling like we are not doing enough. If you don’t have time to run these next few weeks then accept it and don’t be hard on yourself. There are enough things to feel guilty about. Don’t add running to the list. Make the decision and move on. Take a complete break if that works for you. Or if you are the type of runner who breaks into the sweat at the thought of a week off then keep up your routine but take the pressure off your performance. Let running be the antidote to your Christmas busyness.

Mind yourself

Just because running isn’t your top goal this month doesn’t mean you have to hibernate completely. Time is precious this month, but so is your health. When we take a break from running we don’t just give up running. We lose that valuable “me time” in our week. Running gives us energy, perspective, a dose of invigorating fresh air and most importantly headspace. It can be harder to find calm and contentment if we suddenly eliminate this reset button from our lives. The good news is that even if you are taking a break from running, or indeed, if you are still building up to starting running, you can still get some of these perks by walking, being outside and taking a little time for yourself.

Go outside

Many of us have less energy in the winter. After a busy year I understand that we should relax and take time out, but spending all our time alternating between air conditioning and central heating isn’t going to give us any more pep in our step. One of the simplest steps for making a winter more enjoyable it to actually embrace it. Get outside. Running for many gives us the fresh air without thinking about it. But when you are not running, where are you getting a dose of fresh air? If you are finding that you are feeling more overwhelmed and lethargic this winter, it might be worth remembering what you have given up and find other ways to fill this fresh air gap.


Look around

At running class last night, I asked the girls to notice things around them rather than focus on speed, technique or anything “fitness” related. We were the only people at 8pm on a beach in the middle of December. Above us was a beautiful moon, a star filled sky, beautiful Christmas trees in stunning bay windows with a sea view and silence like you wouldn’t believe. The night was cold but we all felt warm and energised from an hour of chatting, running and sightseeing. We remarked that if it weren’t for each other meeting up we would have closed the curtains at 5pm and not gone outside until morning. We would have missed a stunning evening. It is so easy to let these days end when the sun goes down. But there are evenings out there and they can be amazing if we just get out.

Make the time

The advice is very simple but it’s easy to convince ourselves that timeout is self-indulgent when there is so much to be done. Aim to keep a few free appointments in your diary at times when you would normally have run. Arrange to meet a friend for a walk instead of a Christmas drink or even take yourself off on a solo Christmas walk to clear your head. The simplest way to commit to getting outside daily is to spend 20 minutes of your lunchbreak outdoors. Simple habits like always choosing to park as far away as you can from your destination can really help add minutes of fresh air to our days. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it is very easy to forget. Fresh air is so important to our mental and physical health but being as busy as we all are, it can seem like a frivolous waste of time as it doesn’t appear to knock anything tangible off a to-do list.

Fresh air therapy

There may never be enough time to do everything that we might aspire to do to achieve the “perfect Christmas”. We add a whole extra workload to our month of December and I don’t want to add to the expectations by setting running goals or challenges. I just ask you to not let the month run away from you. No matter how perfect your Christmas looks from the outside, if you are tired and burnt out from a month of madness, you cannot appreciate the time of year for what it is. A little blast of fresh air therapy can do a world of wonders keeping things in perspective. Treat yourself to a regular dose of this medicine this December and you won’t regret it.

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with Mary's new book is Get Running, published by Gill Books. 

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