Merry and Bright, Healthy and Light

Nine Ways Fit People Stay That Way During the Holidays

‘Tis the season for egg nog, cookies, crispy latkes and all other manner of culinary merriment. ‘Tis also the season to be strapped for time, so it’s easy to understand why for so many of us, ‘tis the season to let our fitness lapse. Often, we fall so far off the wagon that when January 1 rolls around, our get-fit resolutions seem like insurmountable mountains. But with some planning and a little mental fortitude, you can stay in shape over the holidays. Here are nine things fit people do to stay that way while still eating, drinking and making merry.

Set Short-Term Goals

Why wait for a New Year’s Resolution to get on the fitness wagon? Focusing on and committing to a goal during the holidays is a great way to keep yourself on-task while you’re shopping, cooking and eating your way to festive bliss. Train for a 5K, do 100 squats per day, add 20 pounds to your deadlift, or simply lock yourself in for four workouts per week. Add those training sessions to your calendar to block off the time, and pat yourself on the back each time you complete one.

Exercise with a Buddy

Walking, running or exercising outside is a great way to also be social, as meeting up outside has been proven to be one of the safest ways to socialize during the continued pandemic. And putting a workout date on the calendar with a friend is great way to hold yourself accountable. So, layer up and hit the street, the park or the trail. Another plus: Being outside and getting some sun and fresh air is also a great way to combat some of the stresses of the season.

Utilize HIIT Workouts

We know time is of the essence during the holidays, so instead of a long, cardio slog, try high intensity interval training, which packs a serious punch in a short amount of time. Between 20 and 30 minutes is plenty when you alternate between high intensity cardio and bodyweight exercises, like burpees, jump squats and mountain climbers, with minimal rest in between. Even though the workouts are short, if you keep the intensity up, they burn the caloric equivalent of a lower-intensity workout that is twice as long. HIIT workouts will also keep your metabolic rate up for a longer period of time, which means you’ll burn more calories throughout the day.

Stick to a Routine

If you already have a workout routine that works for you and your schedule, don’t let the holidays derail it. Keep the commitments you make to yourself before adding in commitments to others. And if you don’t have a routine, set one before your schedule gets too crazy and do your best to stick with it. It’s also a good mental exercise to assess what derails your plans. Is it a lack of sleep? Then make getting to bed at the same time each night a priority. Is it finding time to cook dinner? Try to meal prep for the week ahead of time. Watching the kids? Incorporate them into your workouts by heading out for family walks.

Exercise in the Morning

If the aforementioned routine isn’t working for you, try to get your workout out of the way early in the day, because it’s much easier to find an excuse to skip it later on as daily tasks pile up; if exercise is your first priority, it will get done. Before normal working hours, you’re less likely to be distracted by phone calls, text messages and emails, which means you’re more likely to actually finish your workout. And you’ll also be a lot more productive if you pick an exercise you enjoy. You’re a lot less likely to get out of bed for an activity you dread than for one that energizes you.

Count Those Steps

If the idea of cramming a workout into your busy holiday schedule is just too stressful to imagine, keep an eye on your steps. And you don’t need a fancy fitness watch to do it. Most smartphones come with a health app that includes a step tracker. Aim for 10,000 each day. You’ll be surprised how quickly your trips to the grocery store, the mall and basketball practice add up. And if you’re coming up short, park in the last row of the lot instead of the first, or do an extra lap around the mall concourse before ducking into your destination store or the court before carpooling the kids home. Try pacing back and forth during work calls or television shows, or take the dogs for an extra walk; the steps are great for them, too!

Do Tiny Workouts Throughout the Day

Virtual school and virtual work means a lot of actual sitting, which decreases mobility, slows your metabolism and kills fitness goals. Try to move around for at least five minutes of every hour. Do 10 pushups between Zoom calls or 20 air squats or lunges at the beginning of every quarter of the football game. Try doing a wall sit for the two minutes you spend brushing your teeth or listening to your voicemails. Adding in bits of exercise throughout the day adds up!

Engage in Seasonal Activities

In many areas of the country, the holiday season also means snow, ice and limited daylight, which can often derail outdoor fitness plans. But, embracing the joys of winter by trying a new outdoor activity is also a great way to get some exercise. Ice skating, sledding, snow shoeing, skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding can all be done outside at an appropriate social distance. All burn loads of calories and they’re so much fun you won’t notice how much effort you’re putting in. And most facilities rent equipment, so no need to have your own.

Mind Those Indulgences

As the light of the holiday season fills our hearts, decadent seasonal foods also fill our bellies. And that’s great, because eating is a huge part of what makes the holidays so much fun. But, it’s called a holiDAY, not a holiMONTH. Try to limit your indulgences to a few special nights rather than the entire season. Indulging on a single day won’t make or break your fitness plans, but doing it every day for a month certainly will. Eat the foods you love, but aim for moderation. If mom is making her famous apple pie, have a slice, not four. And don’t approach your holiday meals as if it’s your last; when you’re full, stop eating.