Story by Jeff Howard
Photos by Jillian Clark
The holidays are almost upon us and that means lots and lots of shopping, fun, food and festivities. There’s no better time than the holiday season to enjoy family and friends, as well as the occasional extra helping of mashed potatoes or dessert. But what happens when the sofa suddenly sounds better than a super-sweaty workout? The reality is, it’s all about maintaining your mindset and keeping yourself in check until the new year kicks in! So here are my tips to keep you fit and healthy this holiday season:
1. Make a regular exercise date with yourself or a friend
The hustle and bustle of the holidays can take a toll on your health if you don’t make time to take care of yourself. As you’re preparing your to-do list, take a long, hard look at your calendar and schedule in time for your workouts. It may mean taking something else off the agenda, but it will be worth it. Use your smart phone or cell phone to set reminders so your exercise date won’t slip your mind, even on your busiest days.
2. Save time with intervals.
Interval exercise not only helps you burn calories and fat faster than exercising at a steady state, it also strengthens your heart and helps keep it healthy. I recommend that you work in at least 20 minutes of interval exercise in which you alternate short bursts of intense activity (15 to 60 seconds each depending on your fitness level) with easier recovery periods on most days of the week. Walking outdoors is the simplest way to do interval training, but you can also do intervals indoors when the weather is bad. Try intervals on the treadmill, elliptical or a stationary bike, or simply do some jumping jacks or running in place in your living room. You can also take your workout to the mall: walk intervals around the perimeter before, during or after holiday shopping.
3. Turn chores into an exercise opportunity.
When it’s time to get the house in shape for the holidays, set a timer on the oven or your cell phone for 10 minutes, and then see how much of your house you can declutter before the buzzer goes off. This will mean dashing from room to room as well as upstairs and down. Or, while you’re waiting for a pot of water to boil or doing the dishes, relieve the boredom with 10 leg raises to each side and 10 to the rear. You can also do some counter-top push-ups by standing back, putting your hands on the edge of the counter and doing some half push-ups.
4. De-stress with yoga or meditation
Yoga is an excellent way to reduce seasonal stress while improving strength, flexibility and balance. Set your alarm to get up a half hour earlier than usual in the morning to do a few relaxation and breathing exercises. Or make time for some deep breathing during the work day: sit comfortably with your eyes closed and your spine straight. Allow yourself to breathe naturally for a few minutes, letting go of any tension in your body. Then, begin inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly, counting to six during the inhalation, and doing the same count for the exhalation. Repeat six to ten times, and then return to your normal breathing.
5. Brown Bag It
If you’re not packing your own lunch each day, you’re not going to drop any weight. When your stomach is about to eat itself at lunch, you will more than likely choose something that’s not healthy and packed with calories. So don’t set yourself up for failure. When it comes to healthier eaters, the adult brown-baggers are usually the winners. Even with the cookie and chips they often bring, they eat better and eat less.
6. Eat before your big event
Ahh, holiday delicacies. Turkey with all the trimmings. Dessert. How about another cup of eggnog? It feels like the calories are adding up just thinking about it. To prevent overeating, I suggest you eat something healthy with a large glass of water before heading out to an event. I show up pretty full and therefore, don’t feel the need to have a full plate.
7. Buddy up
Your entire family will be all in one place for the holidays. Or maybe it’s your good friends visiting from out of town. It’s the perfect opportunity to pick a holiday workout buddy, or even a workout group. The more, the merrier. Make fitness a family affair. Take a family hike or bike ride or family challenge like seeing who can take the most steps weekly.
8. Cut yourself some slack
A few too many cookies or a few skipped workouts don’t spell disaster. This is a busy time of year, but don’t let this create a negative mentality that has you putting your health on the back-burner until January. You’ll always have a new day with which to set new goals. VT