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Gazelle Girl 101 Race Series: Holiday training tips

Hard training begins in January. In the meantime, take a flexible and fun approach to staying physically active over the holidays.
Making Tracks

Making Tracks /Lisa Rose Starner

About the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon

The Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5k began in 2013 as the first women’s-only half marathon event in Michigan. The run, organized by Gazelle Sports, connects women through movement, achievement, celebration, friendship and fun. Proceeds from the event will benefit Kent County Girls on the Run, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), the YWCA, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s all organizations dedicated to empowering women of all ages. For more information on the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5k, visit


The Rapidian is proud to be a media sponsor for the race this year! Citizen reporters Roberta F. King and Lisa Rose Starner will be writing about running and the event. If you're a veteran or novice runner and have a story to share, let us know.

It’s that time of year again — when the holiday parties, plates of butter cookies and glasses of cabernet are the temptresses, singing to us like sirens on the rocks with their promises to smash the best laid plans for a workout or training run. For us runners, there is always the worry that the hectic holiday schedules will significantly affect fitness levels and training goals for spring races like the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k. 

Experts say that taking a leave from running, or altering the training schedule to accommodate Aunt Betty’s cookie party won’t significantly affect your winter training program or the overall performance on race day in the spring. {Alas, a Holiday Miracle. I hear angels singing, do you?}

While that advice doesn't offer carte blanche to go ape over the cookie platters at Aunt Betty's, it does create an opportunity to relinquish the tight reigns on ”the training plan” and take a more flexible and fun approach to keep physically active over the holiday and then be ready to start the hard training in January. 

Remember: in a training plan, road miles simply cannot be replaced with another activity. The only way to get better at running is to run. Certainly, if you can get in your runs, get them in! But, since the holidays mean a more erratic schedule and an exponential increase in stress of trying to "fit it all in," mixing it up with other fun outdoor activities over the holidays can serve as cross training, prevent runner burnout, and can be designed to be group/family friendly (especially important if holidays include family members that want to be active but don't quite understand the running habit - yet). 

Here are some ideas to try that will keep your heart rocking and your quads and glutes burning while you mix it up for the holidays:

Ice-skating. What’s the phrase? If you can run, you can ice skate (or something like that). GR locals know one of the most fun and magical locations for ice skating is outdoors at Rosa Parks Circle located in downtown Grand Rapids in the city’s center adjacent to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It’s our own little Rockefeller, and is also where the start of the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k will be in the spring. There are also many private rinks in the area featuring rentals and open skate throughout the holiday season. 

Skiing. And if you can skate, you can ski. Whether it’s classic cross country or downhill adventure you crave, the snow machine has been ON in Michigan since Thanksgiving, allowing nearly all the local hills and resorts to boast record base conditions this early in the season. For cross country lovers, Kent Trails provides miles of fantastic cross trails, and many ski resorts offer both rentals and groomed trails where you can spend the day testing your cardio, quads and glutes on the skis. For a resource on all things ski related, including resort and conditions reports, check out MISkiReport

Sledding Hills. Wax the toboggan, it’s time for some sledding. West Michigan boasts some great sledding hills- especially on the dunes at the lakeshore's state parks (Hoffmaster is especially nice). Hiking in and up and down the dunes is an excellent workout. And if you are in the city, there are plenty of local hills as well as in Grand Rapids as well (check out the GR Sledding Hill Guide). And for tubing, Pando is also a local favorite for tubing down the hills, and has trails and gear for the ski enthusiast. 

Roller skating. Roller skates! Yes, the '80s are alive and well (infused with a bit of Lourde top 40 hits) at rinks in the West Michigan area including Tarry Hall in Grandville. So, limber up and get your best Limbo moves ready- it’s time to lace up and go for a roll!

Trampolines. Want to blow through a ton of calories playing on trampolines? Check out SkyZone Indoor Trampoline Play. This is exactly what is sounds like! Indoor trampoline play great for kids and adults alike. Check it out- you can even book “court time” to accommodate a group for an organized session of Dodgeball. 

Hiking. Enjoy the benefits of the great Michigan outdoors in winter. Grand Rapids is surrounded by extensive trail networks that are ready for a nice Christmas or New Year’s hike with family, a trail run or even a session on snow shoes. There are the Kent Trails, GR Parks as well as several local nature centers that maintain groomed trails for hiking. It’s magical outside in the woods and it's good for both spirit and body.

Running Races. There are some of us running junkies (ahem, you know who you are) who will want to get a race or two in over the holiday. The classic year-end Wolverine World Wide Resolution 4 mile Run/Walk is a great way to wrap up 2013 on New Year’s Eve, and then you can wake up and race all over again with a New Year’s Day race at the lakeshore for the Sgt Preston Yukon King Run. (I'll see you on the starting line for at least one!) 

Heavy emphasis on activities that are in the out of doors? Yes. Don’t let the snow and cold be a deterrent to getting outside. The cold winter air is great to help build immunity and stay strong during cold and flu season: it just requires a mental re-frame about the winter weather and a bit of clothing planning. Not a fan of being outside in the winter? Engaging in some of the fun activities above will help you build your winter chops for the cold and hopefully result in enjoyable winter running. Getting outside regularly in the elements- especially for your running sessions- will greatly benefit your overall training and will have you better prepared for race day. Remember, there is never the wrong weather- only the wrong clothing (read Gazelle's tips on layers for winter running HERE).

Do keep your eye on the prize and plan on getting back into the saddle in January for dedicated training. It's important for injury prevention to ease back into your weekly mileage if you have to scale back over the holidays, or slowly build your base if you are just starting out. Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k training kicks off right at the New Year, so download the plans and get the miles on your calendar to help keep your training on schedule. Also in early January, consider signing up for the Priority Health Run Camp to support your training goals. This is a great opportunity for new and experienced runners alike to train with a group at their ability level for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, the 5k, and The FifthThird Riverbank Run. This group training begins on January 11 and Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids is hosting an informational night to learn more on January 7. 

All in all this holiday season, keep your stress low. Being flexible and creative in your approach to staying active will help lessen the stress of "not getting in the miles" during the holiday break. Be sure to take time to be present and don’t sweat the small stuff when it comes to your training plan. Just make sure you do sweat some over the holidays. And in January? Get ready to turn up the burn. 

Happy Holiday Trails!


For Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k registration information, click HERE. The Rapidian is a proud media sponsor of the event, and commends the race's effort to stay hyperlocal in their work to promote healthy lifestyles for women and girls in the Greater Grand Rapids area. 

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