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Chicago Marathon Training: Surviving the Holidays

Staying aware and active during the holidays can keep you on track and ready for a great new year.

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06:  Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge towards Brooklyn at the start of the ING New York City Marathon as seen from the air on November 6, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06: Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge towards Brooklyn at the start of the ING New York City Marathon as seen from the air on November 6, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and with that comes family get togethers, work parties, and other various celebrations. In my family, as I am sure in most, that means plenty of food and drinks. This can be challenging if you are trying to train, race, or just maintain your fitness level. Fear not, you do not have to take a step back just because it is the holiday season, there are things you can do to survive and push ahead.

The first step is to just be aware, goes back to the old saying, "knowledge is half the battle". There are going to be parties with snacks, sweets, and the various big feasts, but on the bright side, chances are there will also be healthy choices as well, so choose those. However, Lynn Jack, yoga instructor and wellness coordinator at North Shore Bank says, "its ok to eat want you want, just stick to smaller portions. Go ahead have a bite of this and a bite of that. Think of it as a sample or just a taste. Try it; you will feel a sense of control and gratification." I think if you remain aware of what you are doing, then those little extras will not come back to hurt you as much as they could.

While nutrition and being aware is always important it takes on extra meaning during the holidays. There is another aspect that I believe is often overlooked but can play an important role. You can’t forget to remain active this time of year. It is easy to skip a workout for a party but knowing your caloric intake will likely be higher, you will need to keep your burn rate high to avoid weight gain. Take the time now to look at your calendar and figure out where the parties will likely fall and schedule workouts around them. Even if you can’t get in a full workout, every little bit counts, even if it is only 30 minutes. Continue to make it an important part of your day.

Another idea and one that I have enjoyed over the past several years is to run a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning or a holiday themed 5k. What a better way to start your Thanksgiving than to get outside and get in a run. From my experience the camaraderie and the brisk air really gives a jump start to enjoying the holiday. These events are everywhere and vary in distance, so I am sure you will be able to find one near by. This will also give you an excuse to fully participate in Thanksgiving Dinner. I also say, get the whole family involved. Run the Turkey Trot together, bundle up and walk to local neighborhoods to check out the lights, go shopping and park further way and walk, or play in the snow with your kids. Have fun with it. Or, if you need the break from the family, going for a run is a great excuse.

There is no doubt that the next six to eight weeks can be a challenge, whether you are training, maintaining or just watching your weight. It is important to keep your eye on the prize while still enjoying the time with family and friends, and maybe just a little bigger piece of pumpkin pie to celebrate your accomplishments in 2011. Finally, this is a great time to look back on 2011 and say thanks to those who have helped and supported you along the way. For me, that starts with my wife, Heidi. She is at all of my races to encourage (often with signs) and support, not to mention putting up with my daily training runs and longer weekend runs. I could not do it without her. Then to my parents who along with Heidi made it to several spots (many more than I expected) along the marathon route to cheer me on. Finally, my friends Mike, Kimberly (& Claire), Tina, Steph, Jim, Mike, Colleen, Erin, Jen, Brian, Michelle, Samantha, Lucas, Ellen, and Fr. Dan and many more, whether we have run together, talked about it, or helped me celebrate it means the world to me and I appreciate it.

A special thanks to my friend Tim, whom I have known since the 8th grade and is the editor of SB Nation Chicago, for giving me this opportunity to write about the sport which I have grown to love. Have a Happy a safe Thanksgiving and Happy Running.