Need a leg up this Christmas? Set yourself an advent challenge and utilise the wealth of great support online to achieve your fitness goals.
From chocolate advent calendars to family get-togethers and successive nights on the town, the countdown to Christmas has always been exciting. But what if you used the days so often laden with stodgy dinners and boozy excess to set yourself a fitness challenge? There are lots of great ways to get involved and utilise the 25 days of advent as an excellent motivational fitness tool.
In 2009 Marco Consani, an Inov-8 Ambassador and Senior Support Analyst from Glasgow, set himself a challenge to run at least three miles a day every day for a month. Inspired by his success his wife Debbie decided to have a go too. They enjoyed it so much they created a Facebook group, and suddenly a fitness boom was born. Seven years later, this simple month-long challenge annually attracts thousands of Marcothon devotees from around the world.
‘December can be a very stressful time for people,’ says Marco. ‘Setting aside 25 minutes of me-time is fantastic for de-stressing and doing a physical activity can help burn those extra calories that you will be having during the festive period.’
The Marcothon rules are simple. Participants have to commit to run every day in December, including Christmas Day. The daily distance is a minimum of three miles or 25 minutes of non-stop running, whichever comes first. If you are new to running you can run/walk but the aim is to be able to run by the end of the month.
‘I have found that the first two weeks are the hardest but once you get past that you start to feel so much better and I suppose the end is in sight too,’ says Marco. ‘If you are unfortunate enough to pick up an injury then please stop straight away. It’s better to have a rest day today and run tomorrow than run today and have a week injured.’
Similar to Marcothon, AdventRunning is a free fitness based challenge for the month of December. All participants need to do is challenge themselves to be active for 30 minutes a day between 1st December and Christmas Day. To reward runners for their efforts and to keep them motivated, AdventRunning will be giving away a daily prize for the best photo, video or blog.
‘With everything people have going on in their lives sometimes getting out and being active is hard – especially when the days are short and the weather miserable,’ say organisers James and Claudi. ‘The AR community is incredibly supportive and often a gentle nudge is all people need to get their trainers on and get out the door.’
It’s easy to get involved. ‘In its most basic form people simply need to make a pledge to be more active for 25 days,’ say James and Claudi. ‘They don’t have to share this with anyone and activity could be recorded on a scrap of paper or on a chart on the fridge. For those who want to be more involved we have an active and encouraging group on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where people post their photos, ask questions and motivate others.’
If you find the concept of running every single day a bit daunting, you can substitute it for a different activity. ‘It isn’t just about running. Last year this was a run-based challenge but it’s really important to us that people don’t get injured so we have broadened it out to include yoga, cycling, swimming, CrossFit or anything else that involves being active. We even have some people in Australia who are going to include stand-up paddle-boarding. In essence, being active is more important than the activity.’
If you live in London, AdventRunning will be holding regular events throughout December. Visit the Advent Running website for details.
Fit Team 15 Advent Challenge
Back for its sixth year, the Fit Team 15 advent challenge is all about helping people stay active over Christmas with 24 daily challenges and tasks. ‘It’s all about starting 2016 motivated and maybe keep November’s body instead of creating a bigger one in December!’ says personal trainer Stuart Amory. ‘The group motivation is obviously a massive bonus too.’
Stuart will be posting daily videos throughout the month of December to motivate people to keep moving. ‘The challenge is not all about exercise; it’s about food, drink and mental health too,’ adds Stuart. ‘It’s the whole package and preventing the risk of injury as much as possible. But there is no element of failure. The challenges are there for you to join in whenever and wherever, but it’s worth doing them all as some days are progressive.
Run Strong Challenge
Inspired by the success of his 30 Day Challenge, sport rehabilitation specialist James Dunne decided to launch an advent challenge on Instagram due to its popularity within the running community.
‘The Run Strong Challenge is a daily 10-15 minute workout each day in December, focused on mobility, strength, stability and core exercises for runners,’ says James. ‘Strength, mobility and core work is one of the most neglected aspects of training for many runners. The main benefit of the challenge is to build consistency in training these areas, which are important for reducing the risk of running injuries.
Bozena, a police officer from Hackney, has decided to take on the Run Strong Challenge. ‘I find it hard to motivate myself towards the end of the year,’ says Bozena ‘We all go to endless Christmas parties, drink and eat a lot and exercise goes to second place. Challenges like this keep me going, and the more people I tell about it the harder it will be to skip.’
As Bozena is injured she’s opted for a challenge that will benefit her running. ‘The Run Strong Challenge is a few minutes a day balance, strength and flexibility exercises. It focuses on posture and strengthening your joints and muscles. I am hoping to reward myself with a race some time in the New Year after recovering from a broken leg. That would be the best reward ever: running without pain!’
While an advent fitness challenge is an excellent motivational tool, high-impact exercise on 25 successive days can lead to a higher risk of injury. Take it slowly, listen to your body and visit a doctor if you are concerned about an injury.
Inspired by all the great running groups but unable to participate due to a lingering injury, I’ve set up a Christmas challenge of my own! Throughout the month of December I am determined to learn to do the splits. I’ve set myself the task of stretching for 30 minutes every single day, with the hope of achieving the elusive task on Christmas Day.
The good news is even if I don’t realise my goal I’ll still have completed a whole month’s worth of stretching by Christmas Day, which is never a bad thing for a runner. To join me look for the hashtag #ChristmasSplits on Twitter and Instagram, or why not set up your own advent challenge? Tweet@RunnersWorldUK and let us know how you’re getting on.