The alternative Advent calendar to keep you running

Daily tasks to help you stay focused on running in the run-up to Christmas

Once upon a time Advent was a countdown to the big day. Nowadays these 24 days are some of the busiest in our year. The planning, partying, presents and associated pressure add an extra load to our already hectic schedules.

So why not join me in restoring a little balance to your Advent.

You don’t have to run each day, but instead let’s aim for something small that will help your running future. If you are up for the challenge, print this out and enjoy ticking off each daily task.

Day 1 – Sleep 
Set a timer on your phone for 7pm today to remind you to get organised and to get to bed early. Let's start the month and this new week with a good night's sleep.


Day 2 – Make a list 
Write down everything you love about running and how it makes you feel. Stick this piece of paper somewhere visible to remind you on the days when you struggle with motivation.

Day 3 – Drop a hint 
Is there any running kit you need? Why not drop a few hints to those who have you on their Christmas list and receive something practical you know you will use.

Day 4 – Volunteer 
Arrange to volunteer at your local parkrun or charity fun run this December. Pick a date now so it's in your diary and give back to the running community after a great running year.

Day 5 – Declutter 
How may running T-shirts do you have? Consider passing on any running gear you have not worn this year that doesn't hold too much sentimental value to your local charity shop.

Day 6 – Get inspired 
Revisit a running book from your collection or go to the library and pick one that interests you. You never know what it might inspire you to take on in the future.

Day 7 – Go for it 
It's Saturday. Give 5k your best shot on your own or with a crowd at parkrun. What time can you run 5k in this December morning? Bonus points for a sprint finish.

Day 8 – Breathe 
Try closing your mouth when you are walking or running today. Focus on breathing through your nose only. Aim for nice gentle breaths just into the back of your nose and out.

Day 9 – Go on a date 
Is there someone you hope to meet before Christmas who likes to run? Why not decide to catch up over a run and a cuppa rather than a night out.

Day 10 – Squat 
Spend more time in a squat position. If you are not comfortable squatting, spend time sitting on a step or low stool to get used to your hips being lower than your knees.

Day 11 – Festive run 
Soak up the seasonal atmosphere by running through your local town. Choose the bright light streets and notice the decorations, atmosphere, lights and buzz around the place.

Day 12 – Snack 
Boxes of chocolates are everywhere. They are hard to resist, but if you have alternatives available it is slightly easier to resist. Today shop for a few healthy snacks.

Day 13 – Go outside 
Notice how much fresh air you get on a weekday and make an effort today to increase it. You don't need to be running, just be outside.

Day 14 – Sit on the floor 
Watch TV sitting on the floor. Switch your position often. It will make you move, sit and stretch in different ways rather than let the couch support you.

Day 15 – Stretch 
As often as practical for you, whenever you pass under a doorway today stretch your arms up and hold on to the door frame for a few seconds. Relax your shoulders. Breathe into your ribs. Doesn't it feel great.

Day 16 – Look back 
Write down your running highlights of 2019. They don't all need to big milestones. Some of the best bits can often be memories of a great conversation or a scenic view on the way.

Day 17 – Find your rhythm 
Revamp your playlist and choose music at 170-180 BPM. If you don't run to music, try downloading a metronome app on your phone and run to that beat today. Notice how much easier it feels.

Day 18 – Lie down 
This might sound easy but we hardly ever give ourselves time to do nothing. Set a timer for 10 minutes and lie on the ground and breathe. That's all.

Day 19 – Celebrate 
Run with a smile on your face. Leave the watch at home and celebrate your running year by being grateful that you can get out and run. Enjoy every minute.

Day 20 – Drink 
Pay attention to your fluids. With air-conditioning, heating and possibly more alcohol during these winter days, it's very easy to get dehydrated. Water isn't only for sunny days.

Day 21 – Dawn run 
It's the shortest day of the year. What a morning to get up and out. You won't even need to set your alarm too early.

Day 22 – Plan ahead 
Find a race, event or a challenge in the spring that excites you. Put it in the diary and get a training plan to help get you there.

Day 23 – Roll your feet 
After a year of running and the last few weeks on the dancefloor our feet can feel tight. Roll each foot for five minutes over a tennis ball. You will notice the difference immediately.

Day 24 – Dress up 
Go on, pop on the Santa hat and hit the road. Decide to finish this advent challenge in seasonal style. Make the tunes festive or sing carols in your head. Happy Christmas.

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

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!