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Posted: December 21, 2011  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this Share

Leah Larocque's Column
Leah Larocque is a graduate of Queen's University (2011) in Kingston, Ontario where she ran track and cross-country. She was Ottawa's "Road Racer Of The Year" in 2010. She has a personal best time of 17:32.9 which she set while winning the Ottawa Race Weekend 5K in 2011.
In 2010 she was the first local finisher in Emilie's Run leading the OAC Racing Team to a first place in the team competition.
Leah is currently an Intern with Premium Client Services for the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club. She is continuing to run and will be writing a regular column for the Runner's Web.(Column Index)

Athletics: The Runner's Christmas Survival Guide

Is it just me, or did the holidays come all of a sudden this year? I feel like it was just September and I was thinking about the upcoming turkey dinner of Thanksgiving. Now I have to think of the Christmas one! The holiday season is a time where runs often get forgotten in order to replacing running through the malls, and your post-run protein gets replaced with more fruit cake, and eggnog. Although the holidays are a time to loosen the belt a bit and relax, I think that running and eating well can be incorporated into your schedule, or at least, attempted to. This is why; I have come up with my personal version of the runner's holiday survival guide to help you along the way.

The holidays should be a time to treat yourself. And this time of year, there really aren't that many road races (especially for 5k-ers), so you can potentially do more damage than good, if you continue to pound away on the pavement. We all need a little break now and then! And for many runners, there's no better time to back off than during the holiday season. “By the end of the year, most people are doing their max mileage, whether it's 20 or 100 miles per week, and they've taken their bodies to their maximum level, too,” says Jenny Spangler, coach of the Jenny Spangler Racing team. And, in a lot of cases, people are feeling more stress in order to make the Christmas shopping list complete, and balance family obligations, work, and time demands. She advises that runners not quit exercising entirely, but switch our way of training in order to make sure that we are rested, recovered, and ready for a fitter, faster 2012.

A lot of people also use the excuse that they just don't have time. But this month in Runner's World they providing some quick and easy workouts that you can squeeze in if you don't have time for your regular full workout. Studies have shown that even the smallest of workouts, even ten minutes, can improve your mental focus and productivity to fight off last-minute shoppers at the mall. Also, any running is better than no running. One single running workout can provide a boost to your brain, maintain a level of motivation, and keeps your body in the pattern of exercising. So, it may not be your regular 10-miler, but no matter what- make the best of it. The article in Runners World suggests alternating intervals if you're short on time to really get your heart rate up. It's the best way to maximize your workout time. These workout suggestions are going to come in handy personally for me- since I seem to have every day of my long weekend booked with family get-togethers and a matinee performance of the musical Oliver! (I can't wait!).

So, now that we can relax on the whole training aspect of the holidays. What about how we eat? In all honestly, most nutritionists will tell you that anything in moderation is okay. We need to make sure as runners that this time of the year we are getting lots of calcium, vitamin D, and other important vitamins and minerals. Even though we need to practise moderation, we really should be cutting back on three things over the holidays to help reduce weight gain, and help speed recovery. Frist on the lists, surprise, surprise, is alcohol. Studies show that consuming alcohol after a run can reduce your muscles protein-building ability, and will lead to muscle atrophy. Scary! And if we are injured, sugar consumption, while healing from an injury will make our body less efficient at processing sugary carbs, which may raise circulating levels of fat in your blood. Wow! And third on the lists, were fried and fatty snacks. These foods contain oils light in omega-6 fatty acids (which can increase inflammation) and few omegas-3s, which help with healing.

Now, I know it can be tempting to gorge on Christmas dinner, and also to throw away a lot of leftovers, and Christmas season is probably the peak season of consumption and waste. However, after watching a Jamie Oliver episode on the Food Network, completely dedicated to using the leftovers form Christmas dinner in interesting and healthy ways- I don't think we can make excuses to waste them! If you need my "unprofessional" advice, a hot turkey sandwich the day after the big meal, is sometimes even more delicious!

So we have covered workouts, rest, food, and leftovers. Now what? With the Christmas deadline fast approaching, I bet a lot of men out there are just starting to get out their wallets to hit the stores. Or, you could still be struggling to figure out what you want to buy your friend, daughter, mom, or boyfriend. I really can't help much in neither the daughter department, nor the spouse- but need a holiday gift idea for the 5-K newbie or marathon runner in your life? Some people say that buying for runners is difficult. However, I disagree. Runners don't care about whether or not that little something matches or is pretty. Most just want it to work well, and let their runs go as smoothly as possible. At least, that's how I feel. Here are five of my suggestions for gifts.

First off, I know this may seem nerdy, but it's very practical. Get your runner some reflective wear. This way, they can be safe when they run outside either early in the morning, or after work. And trust me, you can buy actual reflective tape to put on your current clothes, or you can purchase some jackets, tights, or headbands that have reflective qualities already built in. Another cool gift idea could be mitts to help in bone-chilling runs. Lots of runners already have mitts, but they often complain about how their individual fingers get cold. Mitts keep the warmth inside and keep those phalanges nice and toasty. Third, I personally wouldn't mind a foam roller massager under the tree. Again, nothing fancy, but definitely does the trick for tight IT bands. Fourth, socks. Runners go through socks constantly, so a new pair is always a good idea; and if you want to be fancier, you could buy compression socks. Jury is still out on the benefits of compression socks, but the mesh venting and squeezy feel of compression socks are highly addictive. Runners can wear these socks during workouts, but a lot want to wear them after a run to help circulation and they really do give support to your calves as well as the arches of your feet. And finally, how about a year subscription to a running magazine, or a book about running, or any kind of running related literature. It may be because I love to read articles about running, but I love my subscription to Runners World and I am always interested cookbooks for active people. Plus, Once a Runner, and other inspiring running stories can really motivate a runner to get out and do another race.

So, there you have it. My version of the runner's survival guide to the Holidays. The holidays are supposed to be a time for family, rest, and enjoyment. It can, and should be a relaxing time when we get together with the people we love. Fitting in your run, or watching what you eat shouldn't be front and center. But it is possible to incorporate it. Try your best, if your good- Santa might be good to you! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, or should I say, Happy Fitness and a Speedy New Year!!

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