The holidays get so hectic that it’s easy to let your fitness goals slide. That’s a shame because the very benefits that exercise and good nutrition offer-more energy, better sleeping patterns, increased ability to focus throughout your day, stress relief, and a greater sense of balance-are the very things we need to get us through this busy time of the year! Fortunately, if you plan ahead a bit and employ some simple strategies, you can enjoy the holidays to their fullest, feel great doing it, and find yourself ahead of the curve come the New Year!
1) Make a plan. Keep a log and schedule your exercise routine as you would with any work appointment. Hold yourself accountable for a healthy lifestyle, or better yet, get a friend to be your accountability partner.
2) Start first thing in the morning. It’s always more difficult to motivate yourself to exercise after a long day when all you want to do is relax, and this is even more true at the holidays when you have social engagements to attend and shopping to fit in. Morning exercise will help start your day on the right foot, wake you up, and provide you with the energy to go!
3) Find a routine that’s flexible, efficient, and doesn’t require a lot of special equipment. Workouts such as the Upper Body, Lower Body, and Total Body circuits created by the Tisch Sports Performance Center team require only a little floor space, and use your body weight for resistance. An efficient workout won’t take up much of your time, and doesn’t require you to get to the gym to use the equipment, so no excuses! If you’re so inclined, incorporating Pilates or yoga a few times a week will help develop your balance and flexibility for a better-rounded program.
4) Work fitness into the fun. If you’re the type to stand off to the side or at the bar when people start to dance at a party, this is the time to jump in! You’ll have more fun, burn some calories, and the time you spend dancing is less time you spend nibbling, so it’s a win all around. If it’s a family gathering, there are lots of creative ways to get everyone in on the fun with games, taking long walks together, or even outdoor chores. Fitness doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit!
5) If you?re traveling, plan ahead. Pack your sneakers and fitness clothes first so you won’t be tempted to leave them behind. Download a few of your favorite workouts onto your laptop, tablet, or smartphone so that you always have them handy, even if you find yourself someplace without internet access. If you prefer group classes, look up gyms and studios in the area before you arrive and see what they’re offering while you’re in town. If you can, register for the class right away so that you’ll be more likely to follow through.
6) Eating at holiday parties and dinners calls for some strategy too. Watch out for sneaky, extra calories. Alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, liquor and mixed drinks can carry anywhere from 80 to > 200 calories in a glass. Try to alternate with non-alcoholic beverages such as water or seltzer with lime. If you’ve been dancing, those beverages will also help you rehydrate. Walk away from the appetizer tables once you’ve selected a few so that you’re not tempted to keep grazing when you aren’t hungry.
7) Keep it in balance. You’re not doing yourself any favors by starving yourself prior to a holiday party and then overindulging. Instead, eat small meals throughout the day to provide you with the energy you need such as greens, lean protein, fruits and healthy fats (i.e.: avocado).
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Jessica Hettler is a physical therapist, board certified clinical specialist in Sports Physical Therapy, and certified athletic trainer with the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.