Avoid “The Holiday Trap” and Stay Fit This Season!
Yes, indeed – the “Holiday Season” is upon us. Seems like last week was Halloween, but as I write this, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and next thing you know, Christmas will soon be here. There’s an interesting phenomenon observable in gyms and private personal training studios across the country, around this time. I’m not just talking about “Resolution-ers” either (though the content and logic of this article can be applied to those as well). Nope, this article is for those otherwise-devout individuals who find themselves getting caught in the “Holiday Trap” Somewhere in the space between the first few weeks of November and the beginning of the year, fitness dreams are deferred in concession to “all the holiday festivities”
It’s the first week of January in a crowded commercial gym. On the way to the front desk from a break between clients, I spot [name], and haven’t seen them since the week after Halloween! The conversation often goes something like this:
Me: Hey, _____ Where have you been lately? You were doing phenomenally losing weight and really chugging along towards your goals…
X: Yeah! Man I felt like I was doing really good there for awhile, and then The Holidays came along! Crazy times!
Me: Tell me about it…
X: We had two or three different Thanksgivings to go to – I absolutely WRECKED my diet there, then there was my work Christmas party, and my brother-in-law’s house, and then we had people in town for Christmas through the New Year.
Me: So when do we start back training?
It’s a conversation that never fails to amuse and make me cringe simultaneously. I’m amused because the conversation never gets old. I cringe each and every time because it pains me to hear that someone believes they could be “too busy” cavorting between holiday parties to invest time into their own health.
Real life happens. I understand this. There’s hustle, bustle, parties, recitals, receptions, on top of whatever else you’ve got going on. However, the “holiday trap” is one that we cannot afford to fall into! In as few as two weeks of inactivity, your body begins undoing the results you’ve earned in the gym – cardio goes first, and strength training results begin deteriorating after a month.
Let’s take some time and break down some of the reasons why this happens, and acknowledge some methods for getting through this difficult time of year, maintaining your fitness and keeping on path with your nutrition.
No matter what’s going on in your life during the holidays, it’s important to observe any potential obstacles first from afar. Most of us follow the same general holiday plans from year to year – it doesn’t change; we go from auntie’s to gramma’s house on Thanksgiving, we have the holiday party on the 11th, Billy’s recital on the 23rd, and so on… Your schedule is always changing as it is, the holidays are just a bit more dynamic. Avoid skipping workouts by PLANNING AHEAD. You have a calendar, somewhere in your life – whether you keep one for work, family events, or have one and choose not to use it. USE IT NOW. Family events don’t just “pop up” and holiday parties are planned at least a month in advance. Designate a time and date for each workout or training session. This applies to your food intake too, as there are no accidents when it comes to nutrition. You can offset your food intake by subbing a large holiday meal for one or two other daily meals, as well as making some conscious effort to limit portion sizes.
Grab a friend
Having a trainer during this time will help increase your accountability, but finding a fitness-minded buddy or family member works well too. Make plans to meet with your new workout partner on a regular basis over the season, whether you need to work out on the same days weekly, or just want to make it 3 times per week – set a goal and hold each other to it!
Get the family involved
Okay, look, I’m not realistically expecting you to invite your out-of-town guests for your normal Thursday Leg Day (unless, you know, they’re into that). However, if you can get people who are visiting to join you for a Thanksgiving 5k walk/run, or even to go for an exercise class at your local gym (I know my gym has several classes the morning of Thanksgiving and a “Turkey Burn” the day after) – everyone’s better off! If they’re not wholly on-board with your mission to stay fit over this potentially-challenging time, be sure to make time for yourself to stay the course!
Pick your poison
You can eat turkey, you can eat stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and probably even some pumpkin pie if you want! One favorite strategy of mine to pass along to clients, is to “Pick your poison” or “Do your damage wisely” The average family has two, maybe three events over the course of a holiday week. Sometimes these are packed into a single day, or a span a few days. Whatever the scenario looks like for you, choose one event to pig out at. Aunt Judy’s got that stellar stuffing? Go to town at her crib! Your coworker makes some bomb apple pie? Grab me a slice! Just don’t eat yourself sick! Watching Thanksgiving football or opening presents is made a lot less pleasurable when you’re suffering indigestion! Eat what you want, and enjoy – but remember that these holiday’s are about time with the family, not just the food!
Do something active every day
This might seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but if you make it a point to do something active every single day, you don’t really need to worry about how many times a week you’re in the gym. Not only that, but a higher activity level will allow you to consume MORE calories than someone who is sedentary. No matter what is going on over the course of your day, you have time to do something active. If this means getting out on a 15-minute walk before the table is set, hitting a spin class the morning after Thanksgiving, or going for a pump session after the family leaves Christmas afternoon, make it happen! Doing something active where you would otherwise be parked on the couch in a near-coma, signals a shift in your mentality, and helps further cement your commitment to living a fit lifestyle. No one said you need to take time away from your family (or food), but if you look hard enough, the opportunity is there to do something active every day! Plus, working out before eating a major meal will help mitigate fat storage.
Do something different
Challenge yourself to do something different this holiday season. If you’re normally found crushing stupid heavy weights in the gym, find a Hot Chocolate Run (or walk…don’t want to lose those gains…) in your area and a friend to do it with. Cold and snowy outside? Yes, hot chocolate and Netflix under your favorite blanket sound great, but let’s EARN IT! Get comfortable being uncomfortable – go for a hike at a local park or trail. If the weather is too crappy to leave the house, put together a bodyweight workout to do at home and save yourself the drive to the gym!
Recognize your shortcomings
This list is meant to motivate and inspire you. In my perfect world, people are active every day in some form or another. If that’s running, walking, lifting weights, riding a bike, or participating in curling, I’m just happy they’re moving! At the end of the day, however, I am a very realistic person. We are cut from the same cloth, and I’m no more immune to falling short of my goals and intentions than any one else. The important thing to realize is that the 35 days between Thanksgiving and New Years are no different than the rest of the year. There will always be an excuse, there will always be some reason to put off for tomorrow, what needs to be done today. It’s human nature to shove aside the things which we know are best, and search for rationalization of our excuses not only within ourselves, but also validation from those around us. What separates those who are successful, from those that are not is the ability to see things as they are, rather than what we want them to be. If you find yourself slipping-up during this time of year, acknowledge it. Know that you can recover, and you will. Don’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow,” or “I’ll start Monday ” There’s no excuse not to invest time in yourself, no matter what your reason or goal – ONLY YOU CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN!