Mindful Exercise

When your holiday to-do list includes everything under the sun, you may find yourself thinking about your gift lists or day dreaming about your office Secret Santa while you're sweating it out at the gym. Though the Christmas season tends to turn you into a multi-tasking machine, during your workout, staying focused while you exercise will help you get the best results from your workouts.

Woman doing yoga position

Do away with distractions

The Christmas holiday season certainly poses obstacles to tune in to your body, breathing and movements, but there are other fitness hindrances that can also sap the effectiveness of your workouts. These hindrances may even be things you do in hopes of enhancing your exercise. To help you do away with distractions and reach your fitness goals, fitness expert Kelli Calabrese suggests getting rid of the following fitness-sabotaging "extras" and practice mindful exercise.

Move to the right tunes

Calabrese says while listening to music may help you increase the duration of exercise, skip the music with a slow beat. "A faster beat could actually increase the rate of the exercise, especially during cardiovascular exercise," the fitness expert explains. "Our natural tendency is to move to the rhythm or beat of the music so if you want to exercise longer and faster, listen to more upbeat music."

Bottom line: Download songs with a fast tempo, or for a holiday kick, play songs like Mariah Carey's upbeat All I Want For Christmas. (Or try one of these top workout playlists)

Be selective about your fitness buddies

Gossiping and exercise don't go hand in hand, and not all friends make beneficial fitness buddies. It may pay to be a bit selective. "Knowing a buddy who is committed to exercise makes you less likely to skip your session," says Calabrese. "Also, choosing a partner whose fitness level and experience is slightly higher than yours will push you to improve your own level of fitness versus exercising with someone with a lower level and motivation for exercise."

If you find that your buddy is too unreliable, rests too much, talks too much or you can't agree on the terms, like deciding on the location, time, type of workout, it may time to go it alone or find a new exercise wingman. "The partner you choose will make all of the difference in your success or failure in working out and reaching your goals," says Calabrese.

Bottom line: Opt for a fitness friend who is disciplined because this will help you keep your focus.

Keep conversations brief

Whether you have a workout partner or exercise with a group, don't let your socializing be a roadblock to your fitness goals. "For those who are more advanced exercisers and split their routines up so that they have a long endurance day (such as training for a marathon) it helps to have a partner, and when you know the intensities are targeted to be lower, the conversation helps the time go by," explains Calabrese. "That is one of the reasons that people join running and cycling clubs. The camaraderie is important."

But, as a rule of thumb, Calabrese notes that you should be able to say a sentence or two while you are working out, but if you are carrying on a conversation, you are probably not working hard enough.

Bottom line: When working out with others, tune in to your physical activity and limit your conversations.

Leave the TV off

Do you catch up on your soaps or sitcoms while running on the treadmill or doing the elliptical? Watching television while working out is proven to help people work out longer, however intensity is almost always lower. "You may want to save the TV watching for days that you need a longer cardio workout, but the intensity is not as high," Calabrese advises. "It's easy to get lost in the programming and lose sight of how hard you are working."

Bottom line: Keep viewings of The Grinch or Elf for a cozy couch session, not your workout.

The more important point: Just exercise

If the thought of exercising without your favorite distractions is enough to make you skip your workout, by all means, continue to use them, just be aware that you may not get the reach the fitness goals you are striving towards. However, the most important point is you will still be exercising.

"People need to do whatever it's going to take to exercise regularly," Calabrese says. "If that means music or a friend or the TV, they should plan for it, however they should also take into account their goals, results and intensity. If they are meeting their health needs with moderate exercise, those options work fine." However, if you want to become more competitive and accelerate results, you also need to make sure you are not sacrificing your workout intensity.

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