By Ry-Ryan Lim
Imagine the following scenario: It’s the middle of November. Your alarm goes off…time to throw some clothes on and head to the gym! As you’re bumbling around, blindly feeling around to find your phone to shut it off, you notice the crispness of the cold morning air. The comfort and warmth of your bed tempt you as you feel the fatigue of your poor diet and social schedule beginning to wear on you. You could skip your workout today. It’s just one day, right?
One day turns in to two. Two days turn into a week. Before you know it, Thanksgiving has passed, and you haven’t been to the gym in a month. Holiday parties and gatherings have completely tanked your diet. You convince yourself that you simply are far too busy to continue your workout routine and promise yourself you’ll pick it back up after the holidays.
You waltz back into the gym after New Year’s, ready to jump back into working out and eating healthy. Your warmup run feels like a marathon. Your typical working weights feel heavy. Your muscles and joints are stiff. You quickly realize that you have to start all over again, because you failed to keep up with your routine. You promise yourself that you’ll never do this to yourself again, and that you’ll do better next year.
Between work, family, planning, and parties, finding the time for the gym seems like a daunting task. With all the sugary, carbohydrate-laden, delicious food, alcohol, lack of sunshine, and colder weather, many of us are tempted to spend our free time laying around buzzed with full bellies rather than hitting the gym for your workout. However, we soon regret it when the holidays are over.
Luckily, we’re here to help! Here are seven tips to help you avoid disrupting your fitness routine during the holiday season:
- Maintain your mindset: Go into the holidays this year determined and dedicated. Make a promise to yourself that you are going to stick to your holiday health plan. Don’t make excuses when the time comes for your workout. If you don’t have time after work, hit the gym beforehand. If you are out of town, go for a run outside or a hike. You can even involve your friends and family! Any movement is better than no movement.
- Don’t use working out as a punishment: We’ve all been there…you feel sluggish and gross (and maybe even guilty) for eating copious amounts of garbage, so you head to the gym and go full-send into your workout. Not only is this an injury waiting to happen, but we start to train our brain into thinking that working out is a punishment instead of something that should be enjoyable. This is your time, and you deserve to make yourself a priority.
- Change your mindset from “cheat day” to “treat”: I hate it when athletes talk about cheat days. It enforces an all-or-nothing attitude towards food, which leads to a full day (or holiday) of eating anything your heart desires. This mindset is dangerous, as it encourages us to think of food being “bad”. Food is fuel. Even a single day of a caloric surplus will lead to weight gain. A planned, single treat at the end of the day is a far healthier mindset as opposed to falling into a cycle of punishing yourself for several days after eating like crap, only to crave that one day you allow yourself to go all-out. Not to say you can’t enjoy a delicious holiday meal, but limiting yourself to one serving or plate is something you can thank yourself for later. Moderation is key!
- Accountability: Maybe you need a workout partner, like a friend or family member. If training isn’t their cup of tea, group fitness classes and personal training are a couple great ways to stay motivated! They are easy to plan and add to your schedule, include workout buddies, and have a coach keeping you excited and energized the entire duration of the class. Not to mention, if you’re a member here at The Experience, your coaches and classmates will notice and miss you when you’re gone! Having that extra accountability is crucial, and helping others stay on track while you are trying your best to do the same is definitely beneficial.
- Find something to train for: Have you ever wanted to try running a 5k? Maybe you’ve considered dipping your toes into competitive weightlifting? Regardless, having something to train for is another helpful accountability tool for getting through the holidays unscathed.
- Go outside: I’ve lived in San Diego now for about 7 years, and in that time, I’ve gone from that obvious transplant wearing shorts and a tank top in the middle of January to wearing multiple layers just to get through my morning commute. Even when it’s cold, there are plenty of reasons to get outside! Seasonal affective disorder is very real. Exercising outside lets you benefit from fresh air and vitamin D, which helps with calcium absorption, maintaining bone strength, and keeping the immune system strong. Invest in some good cold-weather exercise gear and catch some of those rays!
- Remember how you feel when you train: We know how tempting it is to stay in bed an extra hour or go straight home after work. Reminding yourself why you started and how you feel after a good workout can really help you focus on your goals. After just 10 minutes of exercise, your brain releases serotonin and dopamine, which are “feel-good” chemicals that help reduce anxiety and depression. And, of course, there are always the physical factors to consider. Britney said it best: “You want a hot body? You better work, bitch!”
Remember, maintaining a healthy exercise routine and diet through the holidays and winter months means there won’t be that pressure to get back into shape come spring. Don’t set yourself up for failure. This is the year you’re going to promise yourself to stick with it. Now manifest that into the universe and get back to work!