What do you think about when you hear, “the holidays”? For me, it’s all about getting gifts for my friends and family; my vegan chocolate pumpkin pie; midnight mass on Christmas Eve; Christmas lights at the Grotto in Portland; and that warm, grateful, slightly drowsy feeling when you sit in front of the fireplace after eating a really hearty dinner. And *none* of these iconic holiday things have anything to do with working out intensely and getting chiseled.
While I don’t think losing x lbs over the holidays is–or should be–anyone’s main objective, it’s possible to embrace both the traditional aspects of this season and your own personal fitness. Sacrificing your personal fitness routine for communal activities can make you feel resentful instead of thankful; and starting the New Year with extra weight distracts you from focusing on the positive. Here are the 5 tips for staying fit during the holidays.
1. Make workouts your first priority, every day.
You probably get things done by prioritizing the important stuff and letting the less important things slide. If you don’t always think of workouts as your first priority, change that mentality over the holidays and put it on top of your checklist. Try working out first thing in the morning so that you don’t feel “selfish” when you take time away from family later on in the day.
2. Get Creative with your Cardio
When there is less time to workout, the smartest thing to do is focus on Resistance Training and High Intensity Interval Training, both of which have greater “after burn” effect than straight cardio. If you’ve only got so much time, prioritize weights over the jog. But don’t feel guilty that you’re not getting your heart pumping: anything that gets you moving qualifies as cardio, such as making a snowman; brisk walking while shopping; skiing (over 500 calories an hour), skating (over 460 calories an hour), sledding, snowshoeing; dancing; even cleaning around the house. Just make sure you’re moving around.
3. Fit in mini-workouts of 30 minutes or less, focusing on Resistance Training and HIIT
If you can’t find time to go to the gym, change, workout for an hour, and then shower before getting ready to go to a holiday party, don’t give up everything. Studies show that you don’t have to do a marathon session to reap the benefits of exercise; even a few minutes of exercise here and there can add up to burn serious calories.
Try waking your body up with a gentle, 30-minute yoga at home, with plenty of sun salutation sequences (no need to even change out of your pajamas!). In the afternoon or evening, do another 30-minute session, this time focusing on getting your heart rate up with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). At night, if you are baking something or watching a movie with family, grab a pair of dumbbells and start lifting!
Some workout suggestions: Got 30 Minutes? Try this Calorie-Torching Insanity Workout
4. Research Your Destination Beforehand.
A lot of us travel during the holidays, which means being away from our local gym or yoga studio. Not having your go-to place for fitness can throw off your routine, to say the least. Do the research on gyms and studios at your destination before you leave so that you can be prepared. I also like to get excited for the new gym/studio, which makes me more likely to take advantage of it. Read up on the gym and pool at your hotel. Your layover airport might even have a yoga room (e.g. San Francisco International Airport)! If you’re staying with your relatives, see if they can get you guest passes to their gym.
5. Exercise with your family.
Any other time of the year, exercise is solely a “me” time for yours truly. I need that solo run to get my head clear! But one of my favorite things about the holidays is being active with my family. If your family holiday tradition revolves more around feasting-watching movies, try making a new tradition that’s more active. My parents and I love to go golfing together (courses remain open throughout the season, as long as there is no ice on the grass). Another favorite winter activity is going hiking in the snow. Even if your personal routine is compromised, you’ll stay fit and active–and get major quality time with the folks.
Photo: Nicola Albertini via Flickr