Santa Claus apart, the rest of us should consider Christmas a time when we can stay in good shape without feeling like we are ruining the festive spirit.
Christmas can be a funny time when our routine falls out of kilter. With holidays, parties and visiting family, it’s easy to lose that regime of running and keeping fit.
But conversely, we could use it as a time to start a new lifestyle, with exercising taking a more central role in homes where it hasn’t been given any real priority.
To help, we are giving you our 12 FIT Ways of Christmas this year to either keep up on your fitness path or start you on a new road to a healthier you.
Our dozen ways from FIT columnists Gerry Duffy and Catherina McKiernan are a mixture of activities in your areas where you can get involved, together with motivational thoughts and tips which might be the thing to get you off the couch.
1 GET YOUR SKATES ON
Ever tried ice skating? It can be great fun and it is easier than you think to stay upright — though you should follow instructions from the people in charge.
This Christmas in Ireland there are outdoor skating rinks dotted all over the country, with three venues in Dublin, as well as Cork, Galway and Waterford. While you are doing something different, it is also an excellent way to work out.
In the recent London Olympics, British rower Helen Glover won a gold medal in the coxless pairs event. Incredibly she had never rowed in her life before 2008. Who knows, you might have a hidden talent that may see you at the next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. You will even have the Christmas of 2013 available to you as well to hone your newfound skills.
2 GOAL AN EXTRA MILE
A great way to show your new intent is to get up and into your gear on Christmas morning and take part in the GOAL mile. There are more than 100 centres staging them this year around the country, so they are easily accessed.
But why stop there? When you have one mile done, keep going and do one more. It is only an extra 15 minutes or thereabouts. If you are struggling for motivation, just think of how much more you will enjoy your Christmas dinner. . . totally guilt free.
3 EXERCISE TO STAY AHEAD OF YOUR EATING
Commit to walking off your meals over the entire Christmas break. The best way to do that is to build in a morning, mid-morning or midday walk each day with the family if possible so that you all feel equally good when you get back to base.
You will feel fantastic if you take this tip and your body will be extremely grateful, as well as your digestive system.
4 TURKEY TROT
Most towns have a 5k or 8k fun run on St Stephen’s Day. Many cycling clubs have a fun cycle. Why not take part? If you can’t run 5k, bring a friend or family member and walk it. It can be great fun and is a sure way to jolt you out of a Christmas Day slumber.
If there isn’t one near you, then why not organise your own? Yes, even at this late stage, you and a few friends could have your own little event. Better still, give the race title your own name and it gets even more personal to get up and participate in it.
5 WHY NOT WII?
Challenge three different people to a Wii Fit game. Play it for an hour. Imagine though when you are doing it that you are 10 years of age again and play full-out.
Instead of a casual flick of the wrist, execute that overhead smash with full vigour. Go for that sideline pass with the passion of Serena Williams — but watch the flower vase in your mother’s sitting room. Otherwise it might bring more pain into your body that just your triceps and biceps.
6 DARE TO BE DIFFERENT
Commit to trying one new activity at least once this Christmas. If running is your thing, then why not borrow a bike and a helmet for once and go mountain biking.
If you love biking, go hiking instead. If you love to walk, try a jog. Remember, variety is the spice of life. You will be amazed how much fun you can have if you are willing to get out of this comfort zone and try something new. Just try it at least once.
If it’s not your thing, you have the rest of your life to do activities that you love.
7 IT’S ALL ABOUT MOTIVATION
Serious runners don’t need much by way of motivation to get out running. For them, running is a drug. But for the beginners, it takes time to build up the sort of motivation required to go out and exercise every day — the best laid plans and all of that.
The hard part is getting there, but once the summit is reached, you will find yourself not being happy unless you are running or jogging.
So if you have recently taken up running and find yourself thinking about not going out to run or looking for an excuse not to go out, stick at it. Don’t look for excuses because the easiest thing is to fall away, especially around Christmas when there are so many other distractions.
8 WATCH WHAT YOU EAT
Watching what you eat can go out the window around Christmas, especially when your Auntie Mary or Uncle Jack arrives with a big box of sweets and biscuits. Remember, if you go for a long workout, the body needs fuel, and unfortunately mince pies and Christmas pudding don’t possess the sort of fuel the body needs. So if you are planning to go out for a run, be careful about over indulging on the sweet stuff.
9 READING THE RIGHT ACT
There are so many great running books out there now. Why not ask Santa to bring you one? Apart from the biographies, most of which are fairly decent under the athletics section, there are some informative books that you will find interesting.
Stories you read could also touch something inside which finally helps you decide to leave the couch and get active.
10 RESOLUTIONS TO LAST
New Year resolutions in general don’t work. If you are serious about getting fit and healthy or getting out to run more, gradually build yourself up to it.
By all means start with the New Year but don’t burden yourself with deadlines to lose weight. It shouldn’t work like that.
11 DISCIPLINE IS IN THE DETAIL
It won’t happen by chance that you find yourself with your gear on out running. It takes the discipline to think ahead and say: “I’m going to do a half-hour’s jog first thing tomorrow and then I can enjoy the rest of the day.” If you then bring the discipline to deliver on your plan, you have a reward also waiting to be collected.
Eschew making grandiose fitness plans. It is better to decide to walk to the shops over Christmas for a week than to plan to run five miles a day and not have the discipline to do the latter.
12 ENJOY AND EXERCISE RUNNING HAND IN HAND
Catherina and Gerry’s last fitness gift to you for the 12 days of Christmas is to enjoy whatever activity you intend to do. If you can rope someone else in along with you, then it is twice as likely that you will get out when you say you will.
So a happy, peaceful and FIT Christmas to all and here’s to a welcome lifestyle change in the New Year.
This article originally appeared in Fit magazine available everyThursday with the Irish Independent.