It's a tricky time of year. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are in the past, Christmas is on the horizon, and our stomachs are in a perpetual state of full. Whether it's goodies at the latest holiday party or the first batches of fudge and gingerbread cookies, you're probably filling up more than you normally do. There’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence this time of year--who can resist a cup of peppermint hot chocolate? However, it can be extremely hard to get going for your daily jog or yoga class with a belly full of holiday spirit.
Try to resist the urge to get lazy! It is always important to get your exercise in, but it is especially important during a season where you will be eating more (or a lot more) than usual. I know what you’re thinking--I’m already off the bandwagon! I might as well wait until January to start back up with my fitness regime. Nope, the time to get back at it is now! Here are 10 tips to get your fitness back on track during the holiday season.
1. Start ASAP. The longer you are sedentary, the harder it is to get your body moving again. Don’t wait until January 1st to start working out again. Chances are you’ll be a little hungover that day anyways. Get back to your gym/pool/classes/runs now! Exercise tonight! Even if it’s a short walk and a set of crunches. Do something to get your body and mind back in the game as soon as possible.
2. Think of it as stress relief. The holiday season can be extremely stressful. There are a million errands to run, a million presents to buy on a tight budget, and a million people to see. “I don’t have enough time” seems like a good enough excuse to skip the gym, right? Wrong. Think of exercising as your stress reliever, because after all, it’s a great one. You just spent all day at work, followed by a chaotic trip to Toys R Us. Working out is a great way to clear your mind and sweat out your anxieties.
3. Social hour. Now is the time of year when we often get together with our long lost relatives and friends. Your old college roommate wants to catch up. Your cousin is in town for 2 weeks and is dying to see you. Combine this social time with something active. Chat as you walk laps around the high school track then jog on over to the local coffee shop. Invite them to your Pilates class and then grab lunch. Not only will it make exercising more fun, your friend will be impressed by your dedication to fitness during this busy season.
4. Just go. The longer you are away from your fitness routine, the more you build it up in our mind. You dread that 3-mile run more and more with each passing day, knowing it will feel harder and harder. My advice? Stop overthinking it, and just go for it. Take that first step. Show up at the gym. Lace on your running shoes. Get out there.
5. Try something new. Sometimes it’s hard to get back at something because you're bored with it. That step-and-sculpt class was awesome at first, but now it’s old hat. Move on! Find something new that gets you pumped. Try a CrossFit session or a Krav Maga class. There are a million classes and workout programs out there. Find one that resonates with you.
6. Change your frame of mind. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you’ve been skipping your workouts. I’m so out of shape. I’m so fat. I’ll never be able to get back to where I was. The problem is that this type of thinking is not a good motivator. Who wants to work out when they're feeling bad about themselves? Now is the time to change your tune. Consider the positive aspects of taking a break. Maybe it has given your body time to heal from an injury. Maybe that hour a day has given you more time to spend with your spouse or kids. Whatever it is, acknowledge the positives. You are not a horrible person for slipping up on your fitness habits. We’ve all done it. Now’s the time to get back at it.
7. Easy does it. Your first workout after a slump will probably feel more difficult than you remember. Don’t let this deter you or get you disgruntled. If you generally run 5 miles and then do a set of 50 burpees, cut down for your first time back. Run 3 miles, and do half the burpees. Feel okay? Run a bit further. Feel exhausted? Call it a day. Tomorrow go further and push harder. Give your body a chance to remember how hard you can work.
8. Commit to a plan. It’s hard to get back at it without a plan. Come up with a short term plan that is achievable and specific. For example, I’m going to work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week before work. On Monday and Friday I will do my CrossFit plan followed by 2 miles of running, and on Wednesday I will take a cycling class. Having a clear cut itinerary makes your decision to work out easier from day to day. All you have to do is follow your plan.
9. Reward yourself. Pick a reward to give to yourself after a certain fitness milestone. Been back at it for 2 weeks? Get a pedicure. Been going strong for a month? Buy those cute yoga pants you’ve been eyeing. Big or small, rewards give you something to look forward to, and help motivate you on days when you don’t feel so hot.
10. Compete for the health of it. Find a friend that’s also in a workout slump, and challenge them to a month-long fitness competition. Count your number of workouts to see who is the most active that month. You can also get more high tech! Bands like the Nike Fuelband track your activity throughout the day, as do apps like Moves, which counts steps. These can make it easy to compete against your friends in a healthy way that's motivating for you both. The loser of the challenge has to buy the winner lunch. Competing can help you to be more accountable, more driven, and also more social.
Jennifer Cohen is a leading fitness authority, TV personality, best-selling author, and entrepreneur. With her signature, straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The CW’s Shedding for the Wedding, mentoring the contestants’ to lose hundreds of pounds before their big day, and she appears regularly on NBC’s Today Show, Extra, The Doctors and Good Morning America. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and on Pinterest.