5 Tips for a Successful Holiday Run Streak While Parenting

5 Tips for a Successful Holiday Run Streak While Parenting

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Some say it’s the most wonderful time of the year—glowing lights, comfort food, and getting together with family and friends. And if you have children, you can probably count on adding more to your calendar—from concerts and baking cookies, to class parties and festivities around town. There’s often little time left for things like, ahem, running. In a recent Runner’s World survey taken on social media, 90% of respondents surveyed said that, as parents, they have challenges fitting in a run, and 71% of respondents said that, over the holidays, they find managing a consistent running routine to be challenging.

Whether you’re raising toddlers or teens, let’s be honest, while this time of year is filled with lots of fun, more often than not, it isn’t filled with a lot of downtime, aka time to run. So, how do you manage to keep logging the miles during the Holiday Run Streak when the light is fading, the responsibilities piling high with parenthood, and your time slipping away?

“I think as parents, some of the regular pressures we already face—to do it all and to do it all perfectly—can become exacerbated over the holidays—the need to get everything done, get it done on time, and have it all ‘Instagram worthy,’” says psychologist Dr. Holly Serrao, Ph.D. mother of two boys, and lifelong runner who works with athletes in her practice. Add to that maintaining your personal goals, like a consistent running routine, and you may be left feeling depleted before you’ve even started.

During the holidays, Serrao says feeling stressed is common because many parents are faced with increased demands—along with still maintaining all of their regular responsibilities, and oftentimes not having an increase in resources. “We need to do our best to maintain or increase our resources with manageable, reasonable acts of self-care such as running and other forms of exercise,” she says.

And she also points out that the holidays occur during a time of year of increased sickness, waning light, and more social demands, all of which can also play into individual stress levels and overall mood.

Serrao suggests asking yourself these three questions to help manage your stress and have control of your time over the holidays.

Serrao reminds runners that you can take better care of your families if you’re taking better care of yourself. “We cannot enjoy all the things we have planned if we are not tending to our physical and emotional health. It is so important to continue with your regular healthcare regime during the holidays.”

Keep in mind that it also might be important to adjust your expectations during this time of year. “If running five miles a day every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s does not seem realistic and adds to your stress or ‘should’ statements, it can be ok to dial it back and adjust a bit,” Serrao says.

Professional runner Sara Hall and mother of four adopted Ethiopian sisters, ages 12, 15, 17, and 22, says, “The way I can be the best mom to my kids is if I’m [feeling] happy and fulfilled myself. That will make me a better parent for the rest of the day. If I have things that make me come alive, and I can model to them what it looks like to do something you really love.”

Hall admits this time of year can bring its own challenges though, “on top of showing up well for my kids, I’m also trying to spend quality time with other family members. At times family members have not been supportive of me taking time to train during the holidays. But I think we can all use a break from being together all day, 24/7. I see my time running during the holidays to get a breather from the nonstop family time and sometimes process family dynamics that are playing out.”

Husband Ryan Hall says the holidays can be more challenging to squeeze in a workout but has found a way around that, “The kids are out of school and usually we are with extended family and I want to be present for all the holiday activities. I almost always train early in the morning over the holidays. I enjoy the day more if I have already gotten in my workout.”

Hall says having a home gym, prioritizing sleep, and utilizing small increments of time are important to successful training. “Early training is key but that requires going to bed early as well, otherwise you are going to fry yourself. Also, I think people under-value little hits of training in just 20-minute blocks. Getting in a 20-minute run or lift versus taking the day off makes a huge difference. To be consistent you have to make it really easy to be consistent.”

Which is why he’s a fan of the 20-minute workout. Last year Hall trained for a challenge that involved running to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, with two empty seven-gallon water jugs, and then filling them up with water and farmer carrying them (weighing roughly 140 pounds total) up the canyon for 10 kilometers and over 5,000 feet of elevation. “The only specific training I did for this challenge was doing 20-minute farmer carries every other day. But I was consistent… because I could never come up with an excuse for why I couldn’t fit in 20 minutes of training.”

Sara Vaughn, professional runner and mother of four children ages 16,12, seven, and three says, “it feels like a selfish endeavor sometimes to train for a marathon or whatever the goal may be, and how I’ve dealt with that is I’ve just literally brought my family into it.”

Vaughn says sharing her goals with her kids and what she’s working toward, brings them on board, “and actually they encourage me; they’re more forgiving and understanding. And I just tend to get more done when I loop them in on what we’re working towards and make it like a common goal for us.”

Vaughn’s children support her by decorating her water bottles and have helped her get her running gear ready the night before. “If I even say out loud at dinner like after this I have to go get my second run done. I’m four miles short on the week, and I kinda don’t feel like it. My kids will go get my shoes, put them by the door, go get my watch, give me a water bottle and be like ‘come on Mom, get it done,’ so they become little cheerleaders too. And your accountability factor is awesome when you share your goals.” And Vaughn’s 12-year-old now rides an E-bike so enjoys logging a few miles alongside Mom.

During the holidays Vaughn says she takes advantage of having a houseful of family. “We’ve got a big family and we have a big extended family too. So for me, I’ve always tried to take advantage of that—if we have grandparents visiting or even aunts and uncles... it’s like free built-in babysitting whether they were planning on it or not. And I know that sneaking out for 30 minutes and letting them spend some time with the kids is better for everybody. I can come back refreshed and ready to tackle the turkey or whatever I have going on.”

Serrao encourages runners to take the time to stop and take everything in, rather than rushing through the season at a frantic pace. And says to remind yourself to just be in the moment. So, next time you’re out for a run working to maintain your streak, take it all in and remember why you’re doing it in the first place.

It’s a hectic time of year, but it can also be special if you slow down to notice. “While you are out for a run, feel the cold air on your face, the blood pumping through your body, and smell the fireplaces from your neighbor’s houses as you pass by rather than just rushing. Mindfulness allows us to stop, increase our resources, decrease our demands—even just for a moment and contributes to so many aspects of our health and wellbeing,” she says. And when the run is over, don’t forget to take that mindfulness back home with you.

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