With Halloween on the horizon, the onslaught of holidays is about to begin. Holidays are great! They’re a time when we gather friends and family to enjoy a sense of togetherness, warmth, and comfort that seems to be sorely lacking during the rest of the year. That said, that sense of warmth and togetherness often comes with a few too many pumpkin pies!
For those of us trying to maintain our fitness goals, the holidays can be a minefield of sugary confections and fattening homemade goodies. We’re more tempted to kick back, relax, and neglect our exercise routines.
Staying fit through the holidays is a lot harder than we think. It takes intentional effort even for the most dedicated athletes and endurance runners.
If you want to stay on top of your fitness goals through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and into the new year, here are my top tips!
6 Strategies for Staying Fit During the Holidays
1) Get Up and Move
It sounds easy, right? It’s not so easy when you’re stuffed with turkey and just want to watch the game. Sitting too much and growing sedentary over the holidays can be hazardous to your health. Instead of vegging out in front of the TV, opt for a brisk run. Take a walk with a family member you haven’t seen in awhile. When the holidays hit, the temptation is to slow down and stop. Don’t give in! We’ve got to balance it out with activity.
Even if you just get up during the commercials to walk or do light exercises, it will keep your blood pumping.
2) Set Hard Goals
When you don’t have particular fitness goals in mind, it’s a lot easier to fudge your routine. You can pick a “cheat day” on the fly. Suddenly you have a whole cheat week! We make bad nutritional decisions and we make exceptions for the holidays. While it’s okay to afford ourselves a little break, it’s not going to help you maintain or reach any goals.
One of the ways you can stay active through the holidays is to find and set those hard goals. Find a winter race and train for it. Pick a workout or lifting form that you really want to master. Maybe you want to finally nail that 8-minute mile. The goal itself is personal and isn’t all that important: just having one is. It keeps you focused and motivated.
3) Merge Holiday Fun with Fitness
Being active and fit doesn’t always have to look like running a race or hitting the gym. During the holidays, get creative with your fitness. You can play in the leaves with the kids, pick up the football, or enjoy a crisp fall walk.
You can turn holiday shopping into an opportunity to exercise. Put on your sneakers and hit the mall the old-fashioned way instead of shopping online. You can get some great exercise just by power-walking store-to-store to pick up gifts for your family.
4) Don’t Let Leftovers Linger
One of the biggest mistakes we make during the holidays is indulging in the “holiday spirit” (i.e. food) for the entire two months rather than just for a day or two. We have one big meal and then feast on the leftovers for as long as we possibly can. If you were hoping to meet fitness goals—especially body weight goals—you’re in trouble. You can indulge for a day and not have a problem. It’s when your leftovers stick around that it becomes one!
When you start having a little treat here, a little treat there every day during the holidays and having wall-to-wall leftovers, that’s when your health plan gets thrown out of whack. Avoid trouble by limiting your indulgence to the actual holiday so that bad habits don’t form.
5) Get Others in On It
Being the only person in the family working out over the holidays can be tough. You’re running, they’re watching Christmas specials. You’re having a salad, they’re having sugar cookies. When you’re going solo in your quest for health, the temptation is doubly hard to resist. If you have a partner who is willing to exercise and pursue a healthier eating plan with you—even just part of the way—it will make your life a lot easier.
Talk to your spouse, a friend, or family member. See if you can get a buddy on board. If you can have someone to help keep you accountable, it may just be the motivation you need to stay on track.
6) Take Extra Time to Plan
The holidays are stressful. They’re busy, especially for adults. You may find yourself straining and stressing to find time to run and work out at the same times that you're used to. Remember: any exercise is better than no exercise. Even if you’re just going a mile or two or lifting weights for fifteen minutes, it’s better than just writing off your entire day. If you can't dedicate a whole hour of your day to fitness, dedicate what you can. It’s still worth doing.
Holding fast to a lifestyle of health and fitness during the holidays is tough, even for experienced athletes. But if you go in with a game plan from the beginning, you'll make it through just fine.