How was your fitness routine over the holidays, mes dumplings? Maybe you stayed in town and made it to the gym per usual; maybe you traveled and got more out-of-the-box with your activity. Or maybe, if you’re like me, you went home to visit your parents, caught a nasty cold on Day 1, and barely had any physical activity. I was looking forward to hiking, skiing, and running outside in gorgeous west hills of Portland, but none of those things really panned out. (I did make it to Pure Barre Portland one day–yay!).
Whether you planned to fit in a lot of exercise and somehow couldn’t make it happen, or consciously took some time off since it’s a special time of year, chances are you might be itching to “reset” your body after being thrown off your routine for a week or two. In the past, this time of year–flying back from yearly visits or vacations–used to stress me out a lot. I normally exercise 5-6 days a week, so just going easy for 7-10 days used to make me feel really soft and lazy–hardly how you want to feel going into the new year. But since then I’ve figured out that hitting reset button on your body is really not that stressful–and it only takes about 1 week, or as much time as you took off. Here are my best tips to reset your body post-holidays.
1. Add High Intensity Interval Training.
When I eat more decadent, high-fat meals and cocktails like during the holidays, I feel more bloated right around my midsection. The best way to get rid of the belly isn’t crunches–it’s High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). According to research, women who did HIIT 3 times a week, 20 minutes at a time, lost more fat than those who did steady cardio 3 times a week, 40 minutes at a time. In addition to your usual steady run, add a HIIT session of sprints alternating with walks. If your usual run takes effort level 6-7, I suggest running at effort level 8-9 for 1 minute, then walking for 2 minutes, and repeating this at least 5 times (15 minutes total). Aim for 3 HIIT sessions this week in addition to your other exercises.
2. Embrace longer fasting periods.
One of the most talked-about fitness trends in the past few years is intermittent fasting, which reportedly results in fat loss and weight loss. This practice requires you to fast for 14 to 24 hours at a time and limit eating to few hours of “feasting” time. There is some debate on whether this can be practiced safely and sustainably, and critics say fasting leads to slower metabolism and muscle loss. But while I don’t practice intermittent fasting, embracing longer fasting periods does help reset the body after the holidays. First, it reminds you what your hunger signals feel like, after long periods of eating on social and emotional cues (holiday cookies! Mom’s famous pie!) rather than your biological cues. Second, it compels your body to turn to fat for energy source when you exercise. For a short, one to two-week period, longer fasting times work to re-train your body to anticipate lower satiety level.
This might mean eating your normal meals but holding off on your afternoon snacks or your morning latte. I tend to have a “fasting period” from waking to late lunch, or from early lunch to dinner.
3. Don’t skip strength training.
A run is so meditative and uplifting but now is not the time to skip resistance training! Resistance training creates more muscle and has an after-burn effect, hours after you stop exercising. It also tones your body so you feel leaner and tighter right away (a positive, satisfying motivator right after the holiday indulgence!). My favorite toning workout is barre, but you can feel free to mix it up with weights, body weight, TRX, pilates, and more.
4. Take yoga classes.
Yoga is great any time, but it’s especially crucial for post-holidays when you might be feeling stressed and anxious about having to play catch-up with your fitness. That mind-body connection brings perspective, too: yes, you swapped your hardcore runs for leisurely walks with your family (or perhaps cuddling next to the fireplace), ate more than you do normally, and felt soooo happy. That’s hardly anything to beat yourself up about, especially since you’re more or less close to where you left off, anyway. Holidays (or any 1-week period) really can’t make or break your body! It doesn’t take a lot to come back to the way things were before the break; taking a few, conscious steps to adjust your body is all that’s necessary. Be gentle and positive!
How do you feel about post-holiday reset? I’m like, halfway there 🙂
Also in fitness inspiration: I Tried It: 8 Week Bar Method Challenge
Photo: Mary Hood