Festive Fitness Challenges To Keep You Moving Between The Mince Pies

Santa Claus on a bike
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Christmas time, as we all know, is a time for mistletoe and wine. A time when children sing Christian rhyme. All the kids in your neighbourhood will be doing it – it’s just what they do at this time of year.

It is not, traditionally, a time for fitness. People tend to stay indoors and eat and drink as much as they can, all the while being serenaded by their children singing Christian rhyme, no doubt.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no law saying you can’t sneak in a quick 5K, or a lengthy bike ride, before settling down to the next massive meal on the Christmas schedule.

To help you keep your fitness regime intact during the festive period, why not try your hand at one of the challenges below. Fair warning, some are harder than others – most people will find bashing out a 5K easier than doing 1,000 press-ups, for example.

Run Up To Christmas

This running event simply asks you to log as many miles as you can between 1st and 25th December. You don’t have to run every day, and there are lots of milestones to hit from 25km to 2,500km (15.5-1,553 miles) so runners (and teams of runners) of all levels will have a suitable target to aim for. Once you sign up the easiest way to log your miles is to link a Strava account, then at the end of the period you submit your total miles to see which festive medal you have earned. Kids can also enter – they don’t have to log distance, but will get a medal at the end with the idea being you make sure they stay active.

Sign up | £16.50 adult, £9 child

Advent Running

There’s no official organisation behind this annual event any more, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get into the spirit of Advent running by logging a 30-minute run (or any other type of exercise) every day from 1st December to Christmas Day. It might seem like a daunting idea, but we found that you quickly come to relish that half-hour (or longer) block as a time to escape the business of the season. Just keep in mind that the majority of your sessions should be easy or recovery runs.

Christmas Accumulator Challenge

Great Run has put together this virtual event to give you the chance to earn a medal for keeping active in December. The idea is simple enough: log 12 runs (or walks) between 1st and 25th December to bag yourself a Christmas-themed medal. If you want some ideas to mix up your runs there’s an Advent calendar with 12 tasks to tick off, including running a PB and adding Christmas decorations to your trainers for one run.

If just completing 12 runs isn’t enough of a challenge, there are overall distance goals of 30, 60 or 100 miles (50, 100 or 160km) to shoot for too, and you can of course run more than 12 times in the period.

Sign up | £15

Walking Home For Christmas

This charity challenge in aid of Walking With The Wounded can be as easy or as hard as you like. Simply sign up to walk a distance of your choice at some point between Friday 9th and Tuesday 20th December. That can mean walking a couple of miles from your house every day of the challenge, doing one carefully planned hike to draw some Strava art, or trekking a marathon.

Sign up | Free, plus fundraising

Race Santa

This virtual challenge raises money for children’s charity Barnardo’s and involves walking or jogging at least one mile a day every day from 1st December until 24th December. The aim is collectively to log at least 2,659 miles (4,279km), which is the distance back to the North Pole from London. This implies Santa is rounding off his present-delivering trip in London, which might not make sense from a logistical point of view, but those are details we can ignore when raising money for children.

Sign up | Free, plus fundraising

Rapha Festive 500

This cycling challenge, which has been running since 2010, asks riders to rack up 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. You can log your rides on Strava to be part of the official challenge, or you can pick up a Festive 500 brevet card at certain clubhouses if you want to record your rides longhand.

Sign up | Free

Christmas Day And New Year’s Day parkruns

Less of a challenge and more of a treat, there are special parkruns on both Christmas and New Year’s Day. Not every parkrun puts on events, and double-check the New Year’s Day start times as sometimes they are staggered in a way that allows you to hit two parkruns in one morning – the perfect way to kick off 2023.

Browse Christmas and New Year parkruns

1,000 Press-up Challenge

You’re probably thinking that’s too many press-ups, but the good news is you don't have to do them all at once – you get from 24th December until 1st January. The bad news is that’s still an average of 111 press-ups every day. Thankfully, we’ve got some tips on how to accomplish the pec-busting feat.

More Holiday Help

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.