Should you run on Christmas Day?

Why you shouldn’t feel bad if you opt for a rest day

Several parkruns are available this Christmas Day (Pic credit: Decembermum on Flickr)

Several parkruns are available this Christmas Day (Pic credit: Decembermum on Flickr)

Much like the “marathon-eve vestie” - you know, the picture of your vest and number on a bed the night before your marathon, it seems shouting about your run on Christmas morning is a staple habit of the social media-conscious runner.

If you’re someone who will be scanning your “anti-social” streams as you entertain family or while waiting for your Turkey and sprouts to cook, should you feel guilty if you’ve not also donned your running shoes that morning?

The great decathlete Daley Thompson famously said in his sporting heyday: “I train twice on Christmas Day because I know the others aren't training at all, so it gives me two extra days.” It’s a nice quote and reveals something of his winning mindset, but does it really matter whether you run on December 25?

Well, training is training - the body doesn’t know what the date is. Your slow-twitch fibres and your muscles don’t respond to the training any better because of what the calendar says. Even if you’re an elite athlete, you need a rest day - and Christmas Day is as good as any to choose.

If you rarely have a lie-in then when better to sleep in? Maybe you have family to entertain or a meal to prepare. Whatever your responsibilities, you shouldn’t feel guilty about missing your run.

Yes, we’re told the average person consumes 6000 calories on Christmas Day, so you might feel the need to offset some of that with a run. But the purpose of running should be staying fit and healthy in the long term. Get your daily diet and exercise regime right the other 364 days of the year and you won’t need to obsess about one day’s calorie count. After all, 6000 calories spread over the year is just 16.4 per day. A 10-mile run will only get you back about one sixth of the daily total anyway.

So feel free to put your feet up and take in the festive TV. But, having said all that, there are several reasons why many love the Christmas morning run.

As much as we’ve pointed out that a one-off calorie spike should be no big worry, it’s worth remembering that scientific studies have shown the calorie-burning effect lasts hours afterwards - maybe even as you’re consuming that last glass of cherry.

Psychologically, too, your mountainous Christmas dinner will feel that much more satisfying knowing you’ve got a run in. Further, because that food will be going straight away to making up the calorie deficit from your run, you won’t feel quite so stuffed afterwards. More room for Christmas pudding and chocolate!

Indeed, it generally gives your training a mental boost. If you’ve been able to run on a day when you’re supposed to be taking it easy then you’re less likely to want to get out of it on another day.

Getting a few miles done on Christmas morning is also great because you have the roads and trails virtually to yourself - apart from a few other runners maybe.

Running is also a good way of relieving stress. Maybe you need to burn off steam after preparing for the big day and take a breather before a busy time looking after or putting up with family afterwards.

Finally, if you’ve had some new kit as a present, you get to test it out straight away - even if it is yet another pair of running gloves that someone thought they were clever to buy you.

If you are going to run, how about some tips for making the most of it?

It’s probably important to get out before anyone else is up - before duty calls in the kitchen or as Father Christmas. The last thing you want is your running having a negative effect on family relations.

If you are tight for time, then now may be a good day for a speed session, if you’ve planned in an easy day or rest day beforehand. A 20-minute tempo run with a mile warm-up and warm-down is a super investment of 40 minutes, for example.

Why not opt for a parkrun if you’re feeling social? Several extra ones around the country are arranged on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day - click here for details of where. It’s a great way of getting into the festive spirit. Be sure to wear your Christmas hat!

To run or not to run? It really is up to you - but don’t feel guilty if you don’t.