Consistent Christmas: How to Keep up Your Fitness During the Holiday
Over the next couple of months, nights will become colder, darker and wetter, meaning it generally becomes more difficult to drag ourselves to the gym. But as we approach Christmas the opportunities to overindulge increase and our day-to-day structure in making sure we get our regular dose of exercise can be hard to upkeep.
For some people, this can derail their hard work at newly found health and fitness habits and for others, it can be a source of stress and anxiety to lose their all-to-familiar fitness regime.
The good news is that no matter what your fitness level or experience, there is plenty you can do to stay in shape – or at least limit the damage of the festive period. Here are our top 5 tips to keep on top of your fitness routine over the holidays.
PLAN IT INTO YOUR TRAINING
Over the festive period, chances are that fitness facilities will be closed more often, the weather will be challenging to exercise outdoors and you will be committed to travelling on certain days, spending more time with friends and family. This means that the opportunities to keep in shape can be (often frustratingly) limited. However, as we know this is going to occur, we can plan our training to simmer down somewhat over the festive period.
Before the festive period comes around, you’ll need to ensure you are pushing yourself to the limit for those crucial weeks leading up to the festive event. As Christmas arrives you’ll then be ready and, most importantly, your body will require a few days extra rest and a little extra fuel for recovery.
This is a principle used by athletes from all sports to improve performance, working hard with scheduled ‘de-loads’ that allow the body to recover, adapt and even come back fitter than before!
This might not be for everyone, but for those serious about making physique or performance gains, it is a legitimate approach to take and we can make this workaround ‘natural’ disruptions to your training around the year.
CYCLE YOUR CALORIES
OK, so the above point might only apply to those who really push themselves to the limit. But for those who just want to stay in shape and avoid the annual Christmas weight gain, we can also think about adjusting our calorie intake – think about your potential reductions in activity and those parties that are laden with tasty, but calorie dense foods. It is the sum of our days, weeks and month’s energy intake versus expenditure that will determine how much fat we store over the course of several weeks or months.
This means that although we might have one or two days where we are likely to overindulge over the holidays, we can at least ultimately limit some of the weight gain ‘damage’ by being a bit more sensible on the days where we are not likely to be exposed to the pressures of holiday eating and inactivity. This approach is known as calorie cycling and can be used in several situations.
For example, if you overeat on your typical daily needs by 1000 kcal on three days that week (3000 kcal), but then reduced intake by 400 kcal on the other 4 days (1600 kcal), then you only have a net gain of 1400 kcal that week, which equates to less than ½ a lb of stored body fat. OK, it’s weight gain but it’s not excessive for nearly half a week of over consuming A LOT of extra calories!
We can also apply this to exercise; we might not be able to get the gym as often as we’d like, but with more time off we can probably spend a little more time in the gym with each session to offset the times when we simply can’t make it or it is running on reduced hours.
GET YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY INVOLVED
One of the most misunderstood aspects of fitness is that if you are not in the gym or in a class working up a sweat then you might as well not bother exercising. The reality is, however, that simply being more active, walking more and taking part in more active leisure time is a great way to burn extra calories and often more than people realise.
For example, let’s take a thirty-minute circuit training class in the gym. That might use up to eight times what we would do at rest per hour. However, walking at a brisk pace burns 4 times more than we would at rest, so that means it would take around one hour at a brisk pace to burn the same number of calories as in our class. Not exactly a bad trade-off considering that even most relatively unfit people can do this with comparably little effort!
Of course, structured exercise has other health benefits, but the kinds of activity that you can get the family involved with; such as hiking, visiting the ice rink, trampoline parks etc are a great way to keep everyone in shape over Christmas while spending time with loved ones and get all the benefits of exercise without ever really feeling like you are!
Maybe the gym’s closed, maybe your sports club has wound down for the holidays, or the weather is terrible or… Well there’s enough excuses we can come up with to not to exercise over the holidays, but no matter what our goal, we can throw on our favourite ABBA tracks and work out at home.
There is a ton of different style of home workouts you can do; yoga to improve your mobility and stability, home cardiovascular workouts to improve your fitness, or even some bodyweight/gymnastic style exercises to build some strength and develop a new skill.
It might not be your chosen sport or activity but there is always something you can do over the festivities… and who knows, you might like it!