Generally speaking, runners love a routine. Many of us diligently follow our training plans and try to avoid missing scheduled runs. Holidays, family events, and unforeseen circumstances are all obstructions to overcome as we try to fit our all-important run in. Christmas is no exception. With scant regard for our meticulous plans, Christmas comes along and threatens to disrupt the routine, leading to the oft-asked question: “Should I run on Christmas Day?”
The short answer to that question is, It’s entirely up to you! If you want to run, then do so. If you don’t, then don’t. It’s a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer. Indeed, you could even say it doesn’t really matter!
If, however, you’re struggling to decide, this article is here to help you make a decision. To start off, let’s look at the example of one of the greatest ever athletes…
What would Daley Thompson do?
There’s a quote you may have seen, said by the world-beating decathlete, Daley Thompson:
“I train twice on Christmas Day because I know the others aren’t training at all. It gives me two extra days.”
It’s an attention-grabbing quote, and no doubt it has endured as people find it inspirational, but do Daley’s words apply to the rest of us who aren’t trying to win Olympic gold?
After all, if you’re training to achieve your own goals – be they personal bests, new distances, exploring, having fun, feeling healthy – it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing on Christmas Day.
With that in mind, should you run on Christmas Day?
Let’s first consider the reasons why you should run on Christmas Day.
From a fitness-building point of view, training on Christmas can obviously be as beneficial as running on any other day. Provided you’re not going to injure yourself or get too fatigued, a run is usually better than no run.
If you’ve got a goal in mind, such as building up to a certain distance, or running a particular time, then regular, consistent training is how you can put yourself in the best position to achieve that goal. Unless you are in need of a rest day, skipping a day (especially if it’s an important run, such as a long run or a speed session) could reduce your chance of reaching your goal.
Many of us run because it makes us feel good. That flush of endorphins and the satisfaction of getting a run done is worth pursuing. A day with a run in it can be a better day than one without.
In these instances, a little trot through the park, for instance, might be just what we need to set us up for a day of family, friends, and fun. Alternatively, a stress-busting run at the end of the day may be the perfect tonic.
What are some of the reasons for not running on Christmas Day?
Give yourself a break
Training is important, but so is rest and recovery. Many of us are guilty of pushing too hard, and not giving ourselves enough days off running. If this applies to you, then Christmas – a time when normal routines go out of the window – is a perfect opportunity to grant yourself a guilt-free rest day.
Have a lie-in (if possible!), spend time with family and friends (in a manner allowed by your local coronavirus-related restrictions), and enjoy not being a runner for a day.
It’ll add to the stress
For some of us, Christmas can be a busy affair. The competing demands of family, friends, entertaining, travelling, and everything else can make for a crammed day. Fitting in a run as well might just be one thing too many. Skip the run, and you might skip some of the stress.
The middle option
Another possibility is to not ditch your run altogether, but to shift your plan around to accommodate your Christmas plans.
Moving days around
If, for example, your plan calls for a run on Christmas Day, but a rest day elsewhere in the week, then why not just swap the two around. Run on the day you would have had off, and take a rest day on Christmas.
Or, if you’ve got a longer run planned for Christmas Day, but a shorter one on another day, then switch them around.
You can even swap whole weeks around if you’d rather. If the Christmas week is meant to be a big week of training, but the following week is due to be a recovery week of reduced training, then consider reversing the order. Yes, the timetable might not look quite right for a couple of weeks, but the overall training plan should still work as intended.
Redistribute the miles
If a straight swap isn’t an option, there are other ways you can adapt your plan to have a Christmas rest day without adversely affecting your training goals.
You can spread the ‘lost’ Christmas miles out over the remaining days of the week, for example, to keep your overall weekly mileage at the level you want.
What are the other Goats doing?
Before writing this article, we asked the Lonely Goat Running Club community in our Facebook Chat Group the question, “Are you likely to run on Christmas Day?”
It’s not a particularly scientific survey, but the results were:
- Yes: 67%
- No: 33%
Some of the comments in favour of running were:
- ‘I would have done parkrun anyway, so I’m going to do my own parkrun.’
- ‘Gives me a chance to clear my head from all the Christmas chaos.’
- ‘Got to try the new watch I’ve bought myself!’
In contrast, those who weren’t planning on running said:
- ‘Christmas dinner cooking, then too full to run.’
- ‘I have all year to run. Christmas day is about the kids and family time.’
- ‘I’m working, so nope.’
This is just a small sample, but goes to show that the reasons for and against running on Christmas Day can be varied. We might all have running in common, but we’re all individuals with our own unique circumstances. Therefore, there are going to be as many different responses as there are runners.
So what’s the answer?
Perhaps inevitably then, the answer to the question, “Should I run on Christmas Day?” is “It’s up to you.”
There’s no right or wrong answer and it probably doesn’t matter either way.
If you’ve read this article, and you’re still struggling to decide, ask yourself the follow up question: “What do you want to do?”
If the answer is “I’d rather not run”, then perhaps that’s the right option for you. The exception may be if you know deep down that you always dread running before you head out the door, but feel better afterwards.
If the answer is “I want to run”, then consider why that might be the case. Is your desire to run driven by positive or negative thoughts?
If you want to run because you know you’ll enjoy it, then maybe you should run. Get out and enjoy yourself!
On the other hand, if you want to run because you are worried about the perceived negative effects of not running (breaking a streak, missing a goal, losing fitness, what others are doing, etc.), then a day off might be what you need.
You’re the boss of your running
Of course, the above advice applies to running on any day, not just on Christmas Day. For a happy, healthy relationship with running, don’t let it control you. Stay in charge of your goals. Run because you want to, and because you enjoy it.