For those of us who work hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle (or are currently working towards achieving specific health and fitness goals through a healthy diet and exercise), the upcoming holiday season can be a very stressful time. The six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are filled with events that celebrate friends and family with festivities and fun! Unfortunately, these distractions can interfere with the healthy eating habits and regular exercise routine that ensure we continue to look and feel good. Before you jump to any conclusions about the number on the scale this upcoming January, let’s look at the facts about weight gain during the holidays.
There is a common myth that people gain 5 to 10 pounds during the holiday season. In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Americans gain an average of one pound of additional weight during the holidays (click here to access the article). This study followed 165 racially diverse Americans (50% male and 50% female), with an average age of 39 years and average weights reflective of the general U.S. population, from the pre-holiday period through the post-holiday period (October to January). Unfortunately, the majority of the participants did not lose the weight after the holiday season and individuals who initially weighed more were more likely to gain more weight than those who weighed less.
Staying fit and feeling healthy during the holidays is possible! Below is a “Holiday Fitness Survival Guide” to develop an effective strategy to maintain your fitness and health during the holidays and to get you back on track in the New Year.
8 Tips for Keeping Fit During the Holidays
Staying fit and active during the holiday season is possible. There are more obstacles to overcome but it can be accomplished. Below are a few tips to help you stay fit during the holidays (and keep you on track for the start of the New Year):
- Keep things in perspective.
- Adjust your fitness goals for the holiday season.
- Develop a six week holiday fitness plan.
- Identify obstacles that interfere with the plan.
- Identify solutions to overcome obstacles.
- Take it one day at a time.
- Recognize small victories and reward yourself.
- Enjoy your holidays with friends and family.
Keep Things in Perspective
The six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is not the time to start a weight loss program. It isn’t even a time to be truly focused on exercise and fitness. To be perfectly honest, the last thing you need is to add even more stress to your plate when you’re already dealing with hectic schedules, last minute parties, time away from home and additional responsibilities that get thrown your way. Simply maintaining your current level of fitness during the holiday season is enough of a challenge. Just start there.
Adjust Your Fitness Goals for the Holiday Season
For most of us, it may be unrealistic to stick to your current fitness goals during the holiday season (i.e. lose weight, gain muscle, run a marathon) because schedules are rarely consistent. By simply adjusting your short term fitness goals during the holidays you can stay on track and go into 2013 with a positive attitude because you didn’t “fall off the wagon”. Examples include:
- # of workouts per week
- # miles on the treadmill per week
- # yoga classes per week
Develop a Six Week Holiday Fitness Plan
Be prepared! Take the time to plan out the six weeks in advance to realistically schedule your workouts amidst all the holiday chaos. In a calendar outline the following (including times):
- Special events and parties
- Travel time
By physically seeing the complete holiday “picture” you can effectively schedule your personal time and the calendar makes you more accountable to your responsibilities (to others and yourself).
Identify Obstacles That Interfere With the Plan
Although you have a plan, obstacles and challenges are inevitable. Take the time to think about the types of obstacles that will get in the way of your scheduled workouts. Examples include:
- No free time (i.e. family responsibilities, final exams, taking extra shifts at work)
- Extensive travel schedule (i.e. several hours on a plane or on the road)
- No access to a fitness facility (i.e. traveling to another city)
Identify Solutions to Overcome Obstacles
Now that you’ve identified potential problems, take the time to create a backup plan should problems arise. Examples include:
- Scheduling your workouts first thing in the morning before any schedule changes can occur.
- Scheduling ten minute exercise breaks during your road trip (i.e. short run, jump rope, pushups, sit-ups).
- Finding a suitable hotel that has a fitness room onsite.
Take It One Day at a Time
Although you can plan the entire six weeks in advance things will inevitably need to change to accommodate unpredictable situations. Just take it one day at a time. If you miss a workout, figure out another time where you can realistically fit it in. If you can’t fit in a whole workout, do as much as you can in the time that you have available. Maybe even break up a 60 minute workout into 4 x 15 minute exercise breaks. The goal of any exercise program is to ensure people continue to do it. Positive experiences reinforce positive behaviors. Physical activity is meant to alleviate stress and be a positive overall experience.
Recognize Small Victories and Reward Yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of the holiday season and lose sight of the things that are important to you. Because the underlying theme of the holidays is “giving” (i.e. giving thanks, giving gifts), it’s only fitting to also recognize your dedication to fitness and reward yourself for a job well done! Track your progress as you work towards your short term goals for the holidays and reward yourself for sticking to the plan. Treat yourself to a meal at your favorite restaurant, a 30 minute back massage or a night indoors with the cell phone and television off. By rewarding yourself for good behavior you are more likely to continue down the same path. Besides, everyone likes presents!
Enjoy Your Holidays with Friends and Family
The holidays are about celebrating friends and family. They involve moments filled with joy, laughter and happiness … the makings of wonderful memories. Most times we go through the motions and forget the reason why the holidays exist. Although it is easy to get stressed out about the “small stuff” be sure to take a step back and remember what’s important. If you have to sacrifice your workout to spend time with family that you haven’t seen in five years … that’s okay. If you’re dedicated to your fitness, the workout will be there tomorrow.
Final Thoughts …
The team at TodaysFitnessTrainer.com would like to wish you all a happy, healthy and safe holiday season! All the best to you and yours in 2013!