Holiday tips for runners

Usually, I shy away from talk of calories or dieting on this blog. It’s of my opinion that if you’re running a lot, you need to focus on fueling your body, not depriving it. However, I know that a lot of us are moving a little less and eating a little more this time of year, so I figure we could use all the help we can get! I’m by no means an expert on nutrition or weight management, but I still think I have a few tips and tricks to share.

Holiday Races – Signing up for a turkey trot or a jingle bell jog or January race is a great way to stay motivated during the holiday season. There were many nights this week when I wanted to skip the gym, but since I have a 9-mile race coming up (gulp) I knew sticking to my running schedule was the smart thing to do. Plus, if you start your holiday with some exercise you may be less likely to overindulge on the desserts later in the day (or the night before). You wouldn’t want to un-do all of your hard work!

Intense vs. Long Workouts – This is a really busy time of year, so you may not have time for your usual hour-long yoga class or 6 mile run. Rather than bagging the whole thing, use the time that you DO have and complete an shorter, intense workout. If I only have 30 minutes, I’ll warm-up for a mile, run 4 x 400m repeats at 5k pace (with 200m recovery), and then cool-down for a mile. Short and sweet!

Cocktails –Let’s be honest, a holiday party without drinks isn’t very much fun. But even though they taste good, indulging in sweet drinks like cosmos or spiked eggnog always make me feel nauseous the next day (too much sugar!). Salty drinks like margaritas can contribute to water retention and too many beers can make me feel bloated. That’s why I usually choose to drink wine. A 6 oz glass of white or  red wine only has about 150 calories and I feel like I’m doing something good for my heart since it contains so many antioxidants. Champagne is a good option too – a small flute of bubbly (4oz) has less than 100 calories! If you want to feel good in the morning, alternate every glass of wine or champagne with a glass of sparkling water. Add some fresh cranberries or a twist of lime to be festive!

Starbucks – I will admit it, I’m a huge sucker for the holiday drinks at Starbucks. Gingerbread, peppermint, and eggnog make me feel so Christmas-y, it’s hard to resist! However, I rarely order the drinks “as is”. Instead of a latte, I’ll order a misto. Lattes are mostly milk with a shot of espresso while mistos are half coffee, half steamed milk. I like mistos better because 1) they’re cheaper! 2) they have a stronger coffee flavor and 3) they are less caloric. I’ll ask the barista to add a single shot of gingerbread or pumpkin syrup and a sprinklke of cinnamon. My drink ends up tasting seasonal, but comes at a cheaper price and with a lot less calories. If only a latte or mocha will do, ask the barista to add only 1-2 pumps of syrup (instead of the usual 3). I find that 3 pumps is overly sweet anyway.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pass up dessert. And to all those experts who advise us to take “just a bite or two”, WTF? I don’t want a bite. I want a big slice. With whipped cream. All for myself. So when I came across The “Pumpkin Pie Workout” on Fit Sugar I thought it was pretty ingenius. I’m not proposing that you need to sweat off every morsel of food that you eat, but doing this workout before a big dinner may make help you to enjoy dessert a little more!

I modified the workout to accomodate my fitness level and goals, so feel free to change the speeds accordingly. I ran this last night and since I was changing speed every 2-3 minutes, it was actually kind of fun. And I never really got bored.

The Pumpkin Pie Workout

(burns 400-500 calories, depending on height/weight/workout intensity)

             TIME                   SPEED

  • o:oo-05:00      6.5 mph
  • 5:00-10:00       7.o mph
  • 10:00-12:00     8.0 mph
  • 12:00-15:00     7.0 mph
  • 15:00-17:00     9.0 mph
  • 17:00-20:00    7.0 mph
  • 20:00-22:00    8.0 mph
  • 22:00-25:00    7.0 mph
  • 25:00-27:00    9.0 mph
  • 27:00-30:00    7.0 mph
  • 30:00-32:00    8.0 mph
  • 32:00-35:00    7.0 mph
  • 35:00-42:00    6.5 mph
  • 5 miles total (~500 calories a.k.a. GIANT slice ‘o pie)

Do you have any tips for surviving the holidays without getting too out of shape?

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!!

  • I really enjoyed reading your post this afternoon, because all of what you said is realistic and easy to tackle. The holidays are the holidays and they are filled with so many wonderful things, but I believe it is possible to not fall off the wagon. It’s all about moderation. I live a healthy lifestyle 364 days of the year, so when it comes to Thanksgiving and Xmas: GAME ON. Life is too short to not enjoy what you eat and worry about the calories, etc. My tips for myself are just to eat in moderation, give in once in a while, and stick to my regular training programs.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I love the idea for the holiday Starbucks drinks! Totally going to do that next time!

    Gobble Gobble

  • Love your first tip… and I’m usign it! my sister in law and I signed up for the resolution 5k on new years eve!

  • “”And to all those experts who advise us to take “just a bite or two”, WTF? I don’t want a bite. I want a big slice. With whipped cream. All for myself.”


    good tips. i usually don’t worry about the calorie aspect of the holiday, just the fact that stuffing myself silly = feeling like i’m going to vomit when i run hahah

  • your “wtf?” response to eating a bite of dessert just made me lol. you better believe i’ll be eating a whole big slice of pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream too. that’s my grandma’s most famous recipe, it would be a crime not to.

    the whole holiday diet thing drives me nuts every year – yeah, the food is a little richer and more abundant and the opportunities to drink and dine are greater than usual, but truthfully – it’s one month. in january, everyone is going to be eating salads and setting new fitness goals. it’s all part of the cycle. i think as long as we keep somewhat active, and don’t say, eat cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or you know, eat until we can’t breathe, there’s really nothing to be concerned about.

    i do like that the holidays give me a reason to drink wine in excess. “i’m celebrating!” sounds better than “it’s tuesday?”

  • Hi, I’m a new reader to your blog, and a newbie runner. I enjoyed reading this post, and can agree and relate to all of your tips. I’m actually doing my first 5K turkey trot tomorrow. Looking forward to it! Love the tip about Starbucks. Definitely getting a misto next time!

  • L

    I love you Starbucks suggestion! I usually get a double tall non-fat latte w/ 1 pump of syrup because they’re so sweet and the coffee flavor isn’t strong enough. And I end up paying nearly $5. I’m definitely going to try a tall non-fat gingerbread misto with one pump next time 🙂 Oh, Starbucks, and your ridiculously long instructions.

  • Eileen

    Why I love The Runner’s Kitchen:

    ‘And to all those experts who advise us to take “just a bite or two”, WTF?’

    Thanks for the workout suggestion … that actually looks quite fun. So, for comparison’s sake, is 6.5 mph your warmup pace? Is 9 mph your 5K pace?

  • I reacquainted myself with the treadmill this morning and actually did something pretty similar to the Pumpkin Pie workout; I was a lot more mentally engaged than I’d anticipated. It was kind of fun!

    And wow, as an “only on rare or dire occasions” coffee drinker, Starbucks seems complicated!

  • Love the tips and am doing a Turkey Trot tomorrow (actually a turkey trail race, which should throw some spice into the holiday!)

  • I had the best of intentions to run a turkey trot tomorrow, but instead I’m just going to head out for a solo run and enjoy the city being quiet on a week day!

  • Pingback: Holiday Morning | Lilveggiepatch()

  • I LOVE the “pumpkin pie” workout! Great tips, thanks!

  • I love these tips and the pumpkin pie workout! 🙂 I would add – plan eating around any expected, heavy meals. So, if I have a big dinner ahead of me, I’ll eat up lots of fruits and veggies during the day to balance out a bigger, less “healthy” meal. Also, going out for a run on Chrismas morning is a great way to start the day, if you ask me 🙂

  • you look GORGEOUS in that red dress! seriously.

  • Great tips! However, I’ll note that most of the calories in a latte are good (at least if you get it with skim and not whole milk). Sometimes if I’m not that hungry but still know I should eat a decent breakfast, I get a skim latte with just two pumps of flavoring. It’s similar in nutritional value to eating a cup of yogurt, but it’s warm 🙂

    I’ve been rocking the intervals lately too (specifically tabatas) – haven’t seen a difference in my weight/shape yet, but I blame that more on all the food splurges I’ve had.