How to Fit in Exercise During the Holidays

‘Tis the most wonderful…and hectic…time of the year! The holidays are crazy. Often the toughest time to fit in exercise during the holidays for me is when we travel up north to visit my family. My kids (until recently) didn’t sleep well in new places….and tired kids lead to clingy ones. Can you relate? Plus, we have long travel days and plans, and it almost always seems like someone gets sick. 

Related: Can You Run While Sick?

All this increased stress increases the importance of stress relief. Hence, it is paramount that we fit in time to exercise during the holidays to stay sane, healthy, and feel good and productive. 

But, we got this! And to help, I have a few ideas to come to the rescue in case you are in a bind. These are ideas that have helped me and other mother runners worldwide. Put them in your back pocket for a crazy day.

Finding time to exercise during the holidays requires planning and sometimes, including the whole family

Related: How to Set Running Goals

In this article I will cover:

  • how to make time to exercise
  • how to stop being “lazy” and workout
  • how to motivate yourself to workout at home
  • plus 8 ways to fit in exercise during the holidays

How do you make time for exercise when you don’t have time?

Unfortunately, you can’t wait for a magical window to open up if you want to exercise. You have to make it a priority and therefore carve out time for it to happen.

Most people, including mother runners, like to exercise in the morning before the day’s craziness sets in. This decreases the possibility of a wrench getting thrown into your plans and sidelining your workout.

It’s also helpful to have a workout contingency plan. For instance, if you didn’t get to work out in the morning, can you work out during lunch or do a slower cooker meal and run when your partner gets home?

The key is MAKING the time to exercise. If it is important to you, most times you can find the time—even if that means inconveniencing other people.

Related: The Importance of Sleep for Runners

How do I stop being lazy and exercise?

(This question is from Google.) Making a habit of working out is rooted in the law of inertia. Once you start working out, it will be harder to stop the momentum, and vice versa.

Pin these tips to fit in exercise during the holidays for later.

This week I am in my recovery week after my marathon. This means I am doing zero working out when I usually run double-digit mileage and lift daily. At this point, I’m wondering how I manage to do that—I’m so busy NOW without that commitment.

But you make the time and keep going once you start. You also may find that you are more productive in other areas of your life because you have more energy and are forced to be more efficient with your time.

Think through what is stopping you from exercising during the holidays:

  • Do you lack childcare? Is there someone you can hire to help?
  • Do you lack the time? Can you go in the morning or at the end of the day when your partner is home?
  • Do you have trouble getting up in the morning? Can you go to bed earlier or go a different time of the day?

Having a friend or a coach hold you accountable can also be helpful.

How do I motivate myself to work out?

You may be exhausted or just totally stressed during this time. This is when you need the benefits of exercise more than ever. Think through your why. What promise or change does working out hold for you? Consider how you feel about yourself when you do it versus when you don’t do it. This can be a positive motivator.

I know when I lack motivation, that thinking about how disappointed or anxious I will be if I don’t work out helps me get out of bed or into nasty weather to do it.

Trying to find time during the holidays to exercise will help you feel calmer during the chaos. And just means you may have to lean on others to help. And remember, something is always better than nothing.

Related: How Running Makes You Happy

How can I motivate myself to exercise at home?

If you can’t go for a run or to a gym (because that makes working out take so much longer), you can work out at home with so many amazing apps. I LOVE the Peloton App which has a plethora of workouts from Strength for Runners to Barre.

The instructors are uplifting and you can select how much time you have to work out. Personally, I do 10-minute chunks throughout the day to exercise at home. Finding 30 to 60 minutes isn’t likely—especially having that time to exercise during the holidays.

But three ten-minute chunks is. So that’s what I do!

Related: How to Get Your Motivation Back

Why is it so hard to exercise?

It is hard to exercise during the holidays because time is in short supply. Put your workout in the schedule, ask others for help, and make it happen. Once you start, you’ll feel so glad you did. Working out during the holidays will relieve stress and increase energy—both things you need during this busy time!

And, it sets up for success to go after those goals in the new year!

8 Tips to fit in exercise during the holidays

Go early. 

This is the most popular solution for fitting in exercise during the holidays for mother runners. Wake up before anyone else is up and get moving. You don’t have to worry about missing out on family time or being needed, because everyone is still asleep! Plus, you get time to yourself–chaos-free! (And, you get to see the holiday lights in all their glory!)

If you’re in a place where you don’t feel comfortable running, work out at home. There are tons of apps you can use. My favorite is the Peloton app which has all sorts of awesome workouts for runners. Use this as an opportunity to fit in that strength work you’ve always meant to do.

Related: How to Stay Motivated to Run in the Winter

Plus, waking up early to exercise is the gift that keeps on giving. It is a great habit to start so that you can conquer those 2021 new year’s resolutions and goals. Just bear in mind that this means staying disciplined in going to bed at a decent hour and skipping some Netflix time.

If winter weather is an issue, be sure to identify a nearby gym you can run or use an exercise app like Peloton to get movement in.

Related: How to Become a Morning Runner

Do a Flex Plan. 

Use running as a tool to relieve stress rather than compound it by doing a flex plan. A flex plan can help you maintain fitness so you can go after those 2023 goals while relieving the pressure of trying to hit certain mileage or workouts. ⁠

A flex plan can look like running a certain number of days and a ballpark mileage a week. For instance, you aim to run 4 days a week for a total of 20 miles. Shoot for about 70 percent of your usual volume and add striders to maintain neuromuscular fitness if you typically do speed workouts.

With a flex plan, you run when you can. (If you’re a lower mileage runner, be careful not to concentrate too many run days together.) ⁠

Rome wasn’t built in a day & it can’t be lost in a couple of days either. So don’t freak out over missing running days.  Instead, strategically place running where it’s an outlet for everything else swirling around you. ⁠

Related: How Long Does it Take to Lose Fitness

find time to run during the holidays
Making a plan for your exercise is the best way to ensure it gets done.

Speak up. 

Let your family know ahead of time that it’s important to you that they support you in your goals to stay healthy, happy, and…sane. Consistency is important for runners and even just 30 minutes is all you need to maintain your fitness.

Make it a non-negotiable. One mother runner is not above bribery, sharing that since she’s the cook, if she doesn’t run, they don’t eat. 

Make an appointment for yourself to exercise and don’t let other things stand in their way. Treat this time as if it is as important as a doctor’s appointment or work meeting. Put it on the calendar, and have it stay there.

Related: How to Have a Healthy Marriage Training for a Marathon

Run streak.

If it’s challenging for you to not let competing priorities overtake your goal of exercising, then commit to a run streak. Aim to run at least one mile a day for the rest of the year.

This will keep your motivation and momentum going, and you won’t get stuck in the rut of thinking, “well, I’ve already missed so many days, so what’s the point?” Plus, there is a good chance that one mile will turn into more. 

Related: How to get your running motivation back

Andi & Zach Ripley of don Santa hats on their run together.
Andi & Zach Ripley of wear Santa hats on their family run together.

Make it a family affair.

Some of my favorite memories are going for walks or runs with my family, including my siblings. I don’t worry about pace or distance. I focus on the fact that I am moving and connecting with them.

Related: Teach Your Kid to Ride a Bike While You Run

I stand firm in my theory that there’s no better way to connect with someone than to run with them. I swear it brings people closer together than wine.

You can also grab the kids and go for a family adventure around the neighborhood or to a park, or to see holiday decorations. Ending someplace fun is always a great incentive to get the kids excited. One mother runner shares that she and her family don Santa hats to make the run extra festive. 

Related: 12 genius tricks for running with a stroller

Break it up.

looking at holiday lights can be a treat for you and your kids
Looking at holiday lights (or wearing them…) can be a treat for you and your kids, and a great motivator to get out the door!

Sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day so you need to break it up. If you only have 20 minutes for a run in the morning, go! Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude. If you can squeeze in another 20 in the afternoon or evening, go for it.

I often multitask, playing with kids while I strength train. I break it up into 10-minute chunks here and there, and before you know it, I have a solid full-body workout in. 

Related: 9 habits of healthy mother runners

Ask for help.

Chances are you will be around family for the holidays. Use those extra hands to your advantage. My sister, our husbands, and I will often take turns who is watching the kids so we can all get our workouts in.

They go to Orange Theory in the morning. We run when they get home. There is no shame in asking for help and it benefits everyone to have a healthier, happier you! 

Related: 15 obstacles to exercise facing mother runners 

Give yourself grace. 

Hey, some days it’s just not possible to fit in exercise. That’s okay! It is just one day. It is better to not stress and embrace it as a much-needed rest day that helps you return rejuvenated and extra motivated.  

Happy running and happy holidays!

PS-I’d love to help you reach your running goals whether it be to run your first 5k or run competitively! Email me at [email protected] with questions or check out my Coaching Services page!

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