Hanging with the healthy lifestyle through the holidays
We get it. For many folks, the holidays are stressful: fighting with relatives, the endless parties, eating and drinking entirely too much, racing towards a sale on Black Friday — after all, those cute, designer boots marked down 75% aren’t going to buy themselves. Staying in shape is probably the last thing on your mind.
All that chaos and commotion can really do a number on both your physical and mental health. Did you know that you can lose up to 20 percent of your cardiovascular fitness if you quit exercising cold turkey from Thanksgiving to New Year? The average American gains approximately one pound (give or take) during the holiday season. However, adding short bursts of intense effort—and no, we don’t mean a swift elbow to the face of the woman trying to snatch your size at the aforementioned boot sale—can fire up your metabolism and even fast track your results. Truth: there’s no rule that says you have to start the New Year off overweight and feeling miserable.
This holiday season, think quality over quantity—and not just at the Christmas dinner buffet line. Although that is a good place to start…
According to an Australian study published in Women’s Health, women who cranked out high-intensity interval training three days a week for 20 minutes (for 15 weeks) shed more fat than those who exercised for 40 minutes at a lower intensity over the same period. Studies have also suggested that small doses of exercise—10 to 20 minutes at a time—can result in temporary mood improvement or anxiety reduction. Exercise raises levels of serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone), while reducing your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress-hormone levels. So just make the time. You’ll feel calmer and more confident through the holidays and beyond.
Ready to give this whole “healthy for the holidays” thing a try? Here are a few helpful ideas to keep you on track.
• Try superset circuits. (Go on, give it a Google.) These are exercises that work opposing muscle groups, torch calories, and tone all over. No equipment or gym needed, which makes them perfect for travel! Do as many reps as you can within a minute, moving to the next exercise without stopping. Rest for 90 seconds, and then repeat the entire circuit three or four times.
• Make a holiday training plan in advance. Don’t leave it to chance. Otherwise you won’t make it happen. For most, planning to work out in the morning is the best option, so that you don’t talk yourself out of it after a long day (or when a better option like a last-minute holiday get-together comes along).
• Just say no to eating yourself into oblivion.
• Recruit a training accountability partner. Maybe this can be your spouse, or your best girlfriend. Have you checked out the Pact app? The holidays might just be the perfect time to make a fitness pact. And you might even earn a few extra bucks in the process!
• When you can’t make it to the gym (for an hour), squeeze in small, shorter workouts throughout the day. Think 10 or 15 minutes (or less) every hour, on the hour. Try this: 20 pushups plus 20 bodyweight squats.
• Track your progress. This will keep you motivated. Don’t avoid the mirror or the scale. You don’t have to be obsessive, but avoiding the issue is one sure-fire way to pack on extra holiday poundage.
• Get the whole family involved! The holidays are family time. Sign everyone up for a local 5K. Or play (active) outdoor games as a group. Take a daily walk. Just get moving!
• Stay hydrated. The brain can sometimes confuse hunger for thirst. A large glass of water before a meal can lessen the amount you consume.
• Every year, Runner’s World Magazine challenges readers to run at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. This sounds like an excellent plan! If running isn’t your thing, come up with your own fitness challenge.
• Buy yourself some cute new workout clothes (or equipment you’ve been coveting) right before the holidays begin as extra inspiration.
It’s perfectly acceptable to indulge for a night or two, but you probably don’t want to do so for the entire holiday season. We are going to guess that you will be very disappointed with yourself come January 1st. And your resolutions will seem that much more impossible. So set yourself up for success! Your mind and body will thank you.