Over the holidays, it's a tradition to focus on food and festivities, and to put working out lower on your to-do list. Way lower, like maybe just above organizing your sock drawer. Who has time for the treadmill when you need every spare minute for shopping, cooking, fretting, decorating, partying, wrapping presents, lighting candles, and engaging in epic family arguments over trivial events that happened 20 years ago?
Yet you know if you let exercise slide you’re going to feel guilty.
Well, there are good ways and not-so-good ways to try to deal with your commitment to fitness when there are so many other demands on your time.
Some Crappy Ideas for Handling Exercise Over the Holidays:
1. Skimp on sleep so you have time to work out. Yes, very tempting. But Charlotte at The Great Fitness Experiment has some excellent (and hilarious) reasons why this is not a wise course of action.
2. Sit on your butt until New Years so you can make a bunch of resolutions to get fit again. Sure, that may be what everyone else around you is doing, but why give yourself all those weeks of bad behavior to undo? If you’re a New Year’s resolution person, you’ll be in a much better position to make a few tweaks to your health goals come January 1st if you haven’t let it all go to hell in the last couple months. Jody at Truth2BeingFit has a couple of posts on planning for the holidays, Part I and Part II . And as the Fit Bottom Girls point out, research indicates that exercise “gives you mad love for yourself,” and during the stressful holidays, can’t we all use more of that?
3. Resist all food temptations and go on a strict diet. Yes, it can be easy to think that you can “make up” for skipping workouts and fight off holiday weight gain by starving yourself, but this nearly always backfires. You will feel fatigued, deprived, and cranky, and you will likely pig out in a big way the first time you let down your guard. Most people do better to focus on healthy whole foods they actually enjoy for most meals, then allow themselves a few treats on the actual holidays, not every single day from Thanksgiving to New Years.
Some Better Ideas for Staying on Track:
1. Break it Up. As Charlotte points out, if you can’t carve out a huge block of time at the gym, small bouts of exercise are just as effective. Try to at least find 10 minutes here and there throughout a busy day. I keep some weight equipment and a floor mat next to the washing machine, for example, and every time I put in a load I take care of 1 or 2 exercises. Or there’s the tried and true “Park your car farther from the mall entrance” technique—find ways to get 5 or 10 minutes of walking in throughout your day. Or heck, freak out your coworkers and periodically go to the break room and knock out some pushups or burpees.
2. Combine weights and cardio. Yes, it’s called circuit training and it’s more miserable intense than doing your cardio and strength training separately. But if you’ve been thinking about trying it, the time-pressed holiday season is actually a good time to give it a go. Basically, you do your strength training at aerobic levels of intensity, without taking huge breaks between sets so that your resistance training “counts” for both. And for a deceptively simple but effective workout that takes only 20-30 minutes, check out this clever little trick that Deb put together at Weight for Deb.
3. Learn to say No. MizFit has some great reasons and lessons on how to do this. But especially during the holidays, you may find yourself taking on all kinds of extra tasks because it’s a Tradition—and you figure your family and friends and PTA expect you to do what you always do. However, this doesn’t mean you’re obligated to do these things forever, if you feel like some of them are stealing time you need to take care of your own health. Think about scaling down or skipping a year. Whether it’s making an elaborate turkey dinner or buying tons of presents or sending out dozens of holiday cookie baskets, YOU get to decide which activities are enjoyable and meaningful enough to justify the time they take. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!
4. Embrace Football Widowhood. Well, if you love football, this won’t work. But have you noticed that there are an insane number of football games on during the season, as well as boring parades, and other lame holiday specials and reruns? So it’s a great time to wean yourself away from the tube if it’s getting to be too much of a habit. (And do NOT go run to the internet instead.) Instead, escape with some girlfriends for a walk (even if weather dictates it being a Mall Walk). Or if it’s night time… haven’t you been meaning to do some crunches or yoga or mediation? Or get together with a pal to go dancing or rollerskating or bowling? There’s got to be something better to do with your time than catch the 22nd viewing of “Frosty the Snowman.”
5. Lower your expectations. While you may want to shoot for staying on track 100%, realize that hitting about 80% of your normal routine is actually a victory. The holidays provide opportunities for joy and togetherness, and being obsessive about your exercise routine can turn you into an annoying stress case and potentially ruin a special time of year. Cut yourself a little slack!
Do you slack off your exercise routines during the holidays? Any good tips for staying on track?
(Note: Crabby McSlacker blogs over at the whiny health blog Cranky Fitness, along with her fearless cobloggers, Jo and Gigi.)
More from living