Kathleen Hermann talks about ways for families to engage in fun fitness activities during the holiday season.
We all have holiday traditions, from Aunt Linda’s green bean casserole to fireside carols to the annual donning of the matching sweaters.
However, a lot of our traditions around the holidays focus on heavy, fat-laden foods. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Traditions are important, and the holidays are a good time to indulge as long as we do not indulge to excess.
Still, it is a good time to assess whether your family has any healthy holiday traditions, namely involving physical activity. If not, then why not consider starting one?
Growing up, we watched my father every Thanksgiving morning amble through a Turkey Trot 5k. A former college basketball star measuring 6’8″ in height, he was by no means a runner and it was often humorous to watch him lurching down the final stretch. Nevertheless, he loved how running that race (which was, in fact, the only race he ever ran each year) made him feel on Thanksgiving Day.
As soon as we were old enough, us kids joined him, engaging in a friendly competiton with eachother for place and time. There was something special about knowing no matter the weather — and we had our share of unseasonably warm days as well as days with a foot of snow — we knew where we would be Thanksgiving morning. After an endorphin high of running a race like a Turkey Trot in a huge crowd of like-minded runners, the rest of the day was gravy (pun intended).
There are, in fact, many different ideas for holiday traditions involving fitness, with new opportunities forming each year. It’s not important what you do as long as you do your best to mix the holiday, family and friends (or even pets) with fitness. Here are some ideas for healthy traditions you may not yet have tried:
1. Run a Holiday Race
Did you know that the first “Turkey Trot” was started in Buffalo during Thanksgiving of 1896? Back then it had only six runners, but today that same Buffalo race regularly has over 10,000 participants. Now there are Turkey Trots and Jingle Runs all over the country, of differing lengths and terrains. The feeling of having accomplished something will make the food taste that much better.
2. Backyard Touch Football
This is a fun, special tradition that many families have already incorporated into their holidays for generations. Instead of sitting on the couch in a food-induced coma, head out for your own friendly-family or neighborhood competition. Children especially will cherish watching adults take part in a fun family game with them.
3. Take a Holiday Walk
There’s no sweeter image to me on holidays than when I see entire generations of a family out walking down the road in a big pack. The sight of an elderly grandmother pushing a stroller, uncles and aunts engaging in jesting banter, and mixed-age children running ahead just seems to be one of the best ways to unite as a family. Even if it is only you and your dog celebrating this year, take a special walk -perhaps on a nature trail- and enjoy the time to reflect on the holiday and giving thanks.
4. Engage in a Seasonal Activity The holidays are a great time to let your inner child run free. Whether there are young ones with you or not, there’s no reason you can’t go tobogganing, ice skating, or build a large snowman. If you live in a warmer climate, look for indoor ice rinks that offer open skating for the public. All of these activities will have you sweating off enough calories for that pumpkin pie you ate.
Holiday traditions don’t have to be focused only on sugar cookies and stuffing. Embrace a tradition involving physical activity and your holiday will combat stress, lift your mood, and make the time richer and brighter. More importantly, you may not end the holiday season five pounds heavier and feeling like a sloth. It is never too late to start a new tradition!
Does your family have a healthy holiday tradition or story?
Too hot to run outdoors? Mark Levine, Personal Trainer from Midtown Athletic Club in Bannockburn, IL, takes over the blog to share some ways to turn an indoor run on the treadmill into an exciting workout.
Does this sound familiar?
You wake up early, excited for your morning run. You put on your running gear and shoes, grab your water bottle, and step outside.
And it feels like someone hit you in the face with a shovel and you can barely breathe.
Welcome to summer!
You immediately head back inside, grab your car keys, and head to the gym for an air-conditioned run on the functional, but often boring, treadmill.
Running on the treadmill, or “dreadmill,” doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration.
All you need to do is play around with the speed and incline. Running or walking on a treadmill set with a 2% incline is equivalent to running on the street, and running without any incline makes you feel as if you’re running slightly downhill.
So, don’t be afraid to increase the incline significantly.
Here is a sample workout that will turn the dreadmill into a fun run. Feel free to adjust the intensity of this workout based on your capabilities and fitness level.
Time (In Minutes)
3.0-3.5 (Cool down)
This is only a 25-minute run, during which you’re warming up for five minutes, and cooling down for two minutes.
However, given the speed and incline adjustments, it’s a fantastic workout that will leave you feeling great once completed.
Bloggers and seasoned runners Millie Minton and Kathleen Bush have teamed up to offer tips on how to run outdoors safely during the hot summer months.
Ahhhh, summer. The extended daylight hours beckon runners onto the open roads, but soaring heat and humidity can take their toll on your running mojo.
Here are 6 tips to beat the heat while running this summer.
1. Run Prepared
Summer running might mean you’ll require fewer articles of clothing, but don’t skimp on gearing up. Apply non-drip sunscreen to protect your skin before you head out. Grab a pair of sport sunglasses with nose grips to help with sun glare and to give you a better view of oncoming motorists.
When going on long trail runs on runs in less populated areas, always make sure to tell someone your route and when to expect you back, or run with a cell phone. Stash some cash in case you become overheated and need to stop for a drink or to use for cab fare home.
2. Run Early or Run Late
Experienced runners like to say that the best time to run is when your shadow is longer than you are. In other words, avoid running between 10am and 4pm when the sun’s intensity is at its greatest. If you suffer from respiratory problems, remember that air quality is usually better in the morning than it is later in the day. Plus, early morning runs mean fewer cars and less traffic noise.
If you must run when the sun is up, pick a shady course. Think tree-lined streets over winding country roads. And if you’re running at night, remember your reflective vest.
3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
If you’re running in the heat for more than a couple miles, you will need hydration mid-run. Invest in a hydration pack (found at any running shop), or drive your route in advance and strategically hide partially frozen water bottles along the way (don’t forget to drive back to collect them when you’re done!).
You could also plan a one or two mile route around a focal point, such as your home or Midtown. Run laps of this same route, stopping for a drink each time you pass. Having extra water to pour on your head and neck is a huge psychological bonus, so don’t be afraid to run through a sprinkler when passing!
One of the worst things you can do to your body is dehydrate it. When you overheat, your recovery time will be much longer as your body will need time to heal.
4. Dress for Success
Your old cotton tshirt isn’t the best choice for running in the heat. Technical fibers will move moisture away from your skin, producing a cooling effect. Many of the newer fabrics also have the bonus of built-in UV protection. Don’t underestimate the importance of moisture-wicking socks, either. Keeping your feet cool and dry will prevent blisters.
5. Remember Your Electrolytes
On long runs in the heat, you need to remember your important friends: sodium and potassium. These and other electrolytes keep your digestive, nervous, cardiac, and muscular systems functioning properly. The more you sweat, the more electrolytes you’ll lose. If you’re running long, consider refueling with sports drinks such as Gatorade or Accelerade during the run, and post-run as well. Recent research, however, suggests that sports drinks, which are often high in sugar, might not be the best post-workout drink, so you might opt for milk, coconut water, or a piece of fruit to replenish electrolytes.
6. Know the Warning Signs
Don’t try to be a superhero. There is a clear line between proving mental toughness and putting your health in jeopardy, and unfortunately many runners allow themselves to cross it. You are not weak for rescheduling a run on a hot day or for stopping early; rather, you are smart.
Don’t expect your pace to be the same as you manage on brisk, mild days. Watch for symptoms of heat disease: intense heat build up, headache, nausea, clammy skim, muscle cramps, and feeling faint. If any of these symptoms strike, stop immediately and head for a drink in the shade.
Enjoy the summer weather and the myriad psychological and physical benefits of running outdoors. Stay safe, smart, and cool and you’ll reap the benefits of running all year long.