Every runner deserves the occasional bit of down time, recovery workouts and splurge meals. And the food and festivities surrounding the holiday season certainly make it easy to kick back and have some fun. The trick to maintaining fitness and health during times of excess calories and less-than-normal exercise is keeping it all in check.
Add in colder weather and shorter days and the challenge becomes more universal, one that professional athletes struggle with too. With four daughters and a professional runner wife (Sara Hall who just won the Cal International Marathon in 2:28:10), now-retired runner Ryan Hall, 35, the American record-holder for the half marathon (59:43) and fastest marathoner in U.S. history (2:04:58, on a downhill course not eligible for official records), is very busy and needs to stick to a schedule. Professional obstacle course racer Hunter McIntyre, 28, relies on consistency.
Here are their top five tips to enjoy the holidays and maintain fitness, yes, at the same time.
1. Plan Ahead
“This sounds like an obvious one, but it’s essential,” Hall says. “If I don’t plan my workouts, they usually don’t happen.” Hall checks his calendar each night before bed to determine his best workout window for the next day. His preference is to get up early, as in at 5 a.m., when everyone else in the house is still asleep, so he has no excuses not to workout.
2. Be Consistent
McIntyre stays on track by working up a sweat every day, even if those workouts are shorter than his norm. “Work out every day—30 minutes is all you need.” He maxes out his efforts on truncated workouts to make the most of limited time.
Read More: 3 Great 30-Minute Running Workouts
3. Drink Up
Water that is. Staying hydrated helps you feel better overall, especially when rich foods and alcohol are involved. McIntyre downs a couple glasses of H2O before holiday meals, so he isn’t inclined to reach for seconds or thirds.
4. Eat Smart
Instead of chowing down on tasty treats all day, McIntyre enjoys one holiday splurge meal a day, and eats clean the rest of the day. “It keeps me from picking at sweet treats all day!”
Hall likes to enjoy the typical holiday menu as much as the rest of us, but he’s gotten smart about making healthy recipe substitutions. Examples are reducing sugar in recipes or replacing mashed potatoes with mashed sweet potatoes, for less of a blood sugar spike.
Read More: 8 Ways to Survive Holiday Meal Indulgences
5. Timing is Everything
Hall uses the “magical window” after completing a hard workout, when you’re body actually needs sugars to top off glycogen stores, to his advantage. “If your want to hit the desserts guilt-free, but don’t want to lose your results, make sure it’s after completing a hard workout.”