Thanksgiving officially marks the beginning of the holiday season. Five weeks of family, friends, and FOOD! There will be no shortage of delicious holiday treats: pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas, frosted sugar cookies, gingerbread men, candy canes, and more! Every home and office essentially turns into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. These temptations, combined with celebrations, travel, and family obligations, make it is seemingly impossible to preserve our health and fitness over the holidays!
The holiday season is a time for celebration, quality time with friends and family, and giving thanks. We should enjoy ourselves and indulge; there needs to be balance. Often, we surrender to the temptations of the holidays before they even begin. We convince ourselves that our nutrition will fall apart, our training schedule will be sporadic at best, and we will definitely see those Christmas cookies on the scale. We transition into survival mode.
The holidays are a time to thrive, not survive. It is not the holidays that are detrimental to our health and fitness. Rather, it is all the days between the holidays that send us into a tailspin. After all, there are only a handful of holidays within the five-week holiday season. Over-indulging on Thanksgiving, eating one too many sugar cookies at Christmas, or drinking the entire bottle of champagne on New Years, will not derail our progress. It is the continuation of those behaviors between holidays that will lead to our demise.
Below are 10 strategies to achieve balance and enjoy the holiday season:
1. Be Real, Not Perfect
During the holidays, we all have hectic schedules and seemingly endless to-do lists. Time becomes the most precious commodity. There will be circumstances in which we cannot workout, and that is okay! There will be instances where it is impossible to eat ‘clean,’ and again, that is okay! If we chase perfection during the holiday season we will inevitably fail. Be realistic. Indulge (sometimes), exercise as often as possible, and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.
2. The Podium of Treats
The Podium of Treats is a simple and effective way to avoid eating anything and everything this holiday season. Create a list of your top-three (top-five, if you cannot narrow it down) favorite holiday treats. Once established, you must hold yourself to one simple rule: any treat that did not make the podium is off-limits. In other words, you can only indulge in the treats that made the podium. This strategy will help you avoid over-indulging at the office, your home, and social gatherings.
3. Meal Prep
As mentioned earlier, our behaviors between holidays are what make or break our health and fitness. Therefore, it is essential that we prepare. Meal prep does not need to be complicated or overly time consuming. Select simple recipes that require two, three, or even four ingredients. Use Crockpot and single-pan recipes to save time, and prepare enough food for three or four days. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Engaging in some level of meal prep will help protect against the cravings and temptations that surround us during this time of year
4. Morning Workouts
Finding time to exercise during the holidays can be challenging. Once the day begins, there are endless obligations: decorate the house, bake cookies, attend the family function, go Christmas shopping, visit grandma, host the in-laws, etc. Rather than attempting to schedule your workout amidst the chaos, exercise in the morning. Wake-up early, crank-up the tunes, workout, refuel, and refresh all before the rest of your family hits snooze for the fifth time.
5. Repeated Efforts
Maybe your schedule does not allow you to dedicate an entire hour to fitness, even if it is early in the morning. In that case, follow the Repeated Efforts strategy. Rather than devoting an entire hour, carve out 10 minutes to perform Burpees and Jumping Lunges, or any other combination of bodyweight exercises. If you repeat this process every two to three hours, you will have accumulated enough volume throughout the day to safeguard your health and fitness for the day.
6. Training Partners
Finding the motivation to exercise alone can be difficult, especially during the holidays. There are few things more difficult than leaving the house while your mom and sister are baking cookies, your brother is playing Xbox, and your Dad is watching football. The last thing you want to do is go to the gym. Create a system of support and accountability by recruiting a training partner (or two). Encourage and motivation one another to ‘stick with it.’ If you cannot find someone willing to commit, drop into the local CrossFit affiliate and take a class. You will find dozens of people who will have no problem giving you a 6:00am wake-up call or picking you up on the way to the 5:30pm class.
7. Bodyweight Workouts
Limited access to a gym is simply another excuse to continue watching Christmas classics like Home Alone and Elf while you munch on the latest batch of your mother’s famous snickerdoodles. There are hundreds of bodyweight exercise that require absolutely no equipment and can be performed virtually anywhere. There are dozens of free resources to create a comprehensive bodyweight program. In fact, CrossFit 446 in Pittsburgh, PA provides bodyweight variations of all the daily workouts. You can visit https://www.crossfit446.com/wod/ to access daily bodyweight programming.
8. Top-Five Exercises
When all-else fails, do what you love. When you and your training partner find yourselves lacking the motivation to workout, write down your top-five favorite exercises. Create a circuit or assign set and rep schemes for each movement and get started. Even if you repeat this process multiple times throughout the week, something is better than nothing, right?
9. Physical Activity
Exercise aside; the easiest way to safeguard our health and fitness during the holiday season is to engage in physical activity. Whether it is walking the dog, sled riding, building snowmen, playing with the grandchildren and nieces/nephews, or pick-up basketball at the local YMCA, we simply need to move.
10. You Don’t “Have To” Do Anything
Often, especially during the holidays when surrounded by friends and family, we feel obligated to do things. We convince ourselves that we “have to” do x, y, and z. We feel committed to the traditions, or we succumb to the peer pressure. Yet, in most circumstances, we do not actually “have to” do anything. It is okay to say “no.” It is okay to break traditions in order to safeguard the progress you have made. Take pride in your accomplishments; your family and friends will likely understand and support your efforts.