Holidays are typically not the time of year to start a fitness or weight loss program. But, for many of us battling weight gain during the holidays, a pro-active plan to stay in shape and eat right is crucial. It is tempting to ditch your workouts and fill your days with holiday treats, office parties and endless hours of cooking. But, now more than ever, you need to STAY ACTIVE.
Believe it or not, one of the major causes of weight gain during the holidays is the lack of activity. Time is spent on the constant merry-go-round of parties, shopping and, of course, eating. You tend to be more tired, less motivated and less flexible. Sticking to your regular exercise routine is crucial for staving off those extra pounds and keeping yourself stress-free.
Forget the rules. Shorten your cardio routine to whatever time you have to spare in your day, whether it is 20 minutes or even just 10 minutes. Look for activities that are easy to do on a moment’s notice, including walking, running, jumping rope and jumping jacks, as well as running up and down stairs. Try to work hard for your entire workout, keeping your intensity high and your perceived exertion at level eight or nine.
Another suggestion is to wear a heart rate monitor during your workouts to ensure that you are working efficiently and within your target heart range. You can finally utilize that Fitbit or Garmin that has been sitting on your nightstand. If you anticipate long waits at the shopping malls and grocery stores, try walking a few extra laps while monitoring the number of steps to deal with the added stress and get more exercise. The daily goal is to reach 10,000 steps using these wearable devices, so seize every opportunity to move, whether it means parking on the opposite end of the lot or running the stairs instead of using the elevator.
Instead of trying to fit hours of exercise into your day, why not make your workouts more efficient with circuit functional training? This is a quick workout that incorporates strength training and/or light calisthenics consecutively without rest for a certain period of time or certain number of reps.
Circuit training targets all your muscle groups and helps you stay fit by keeping your heart rate elevated throughout the entire workout. Here are a few guidelines:
- Choose three to six different exercises, alternating between strength training and cardio. Do not rest between exercises. Move quickly from one exercise to another.
- Write your exercise down prior to your workout to ensure no pauses between exercise stations.
- Determine how long you would like to do each exercise using either a time limit or a specified number of repetitions.
- Decide how many circuits (or how many times) you will go through the stations. Beginners generally do one circuit, while intermediate/advanced exercisers do two to three circuits.
- Always warm up properly before you start the circuit and cool down, including stretching, after your workout.
Example: 10-10-10 Workout
Do exercises in the order below for three times in three minutes, moving from one exercise to the next without stopping:
- 10 side lateral raises with dumbbells
- 10 plié squats with weight(s) held in the center
- 10 deadlifts with dumbbells or on stabilizer/Bosu
- *** Repeat the order for a total of three minutes, then rest one minute at the end of the third round***
- 10 push-ups with rotation (reach arm to ceiling and alternate 10 repetitions)
- 10 single dumbbell bicep curls in a kneeling position (complete one side first)
- 10 roll-ups from the floor to standing position (for more intensity, put a weighted ball at your feet to grab as you stand up from the backwards roll)
***Repeat the order for a total of three minutes, then rest one minute at the end of third round***
Doing double-duty during the holidays makes it easy to blow your diet by skipping meals and treating every party like it’s an invitation to indulge. To avoid sabotaging your healthy eating during the holidays, Blythe Peters, R.D., L.D.N., a registered and licensed dietitian with over 20 years experience, gives her top six recommendations:
- Start with a plan to eat healthy. Peters notes the following red flag foods at the holiday buffet table which may not fit into your goals for healthy eating: cream soups, salads with heavy dressings and/or many toppings, fruits in a creamy sauce, casseroles, fried foods, heavy gravies, dips, cheeses, desserts and candy.
- Choose one treat. Once at the party, pick out one thing to indulge in, such as a serving of a holiday dessert or special casserole dish. Just remember, the portion sizes are important.
- Don’t starve yourself or skip meals to save calories for later. This will lead to overeating or binging which does not fit into a healthy eating plan.
- Try to view all the foods and beverages available before embarking upon the meal. This will give you an opportunity to select which foods are healthy and which foods to avoid. “Eating slowly,” says Peters, “will help you to feel full and satisfied, not deprived.”
- Avoid saying “holiday weight gain is inevitable.” Peters explains that eating healthy during the holidays is about choices. Choosing healthy foods will enable you to feel good during and after the holidays.
- Peters also acknowledges that the better choices for alcoholic beverages include wine, beer or basic liquors. Avoid mixed or fruity drinks and have a glass of water for every drink you consume. Be warned, one serving of eggnog may have as many as 350 calories a cup.
Also, don’t let your food diary go. If you already write down the foods you eat on a daily basis, then continue it during the holiday season and monitor your caloric intake. It has been shown in research that people who keep a food journal actually consume 15 percent less food than those who do not.
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays, skip your workouts, and over-indulge. But the best way to enjoy the festivities without going overboard is simply to plan. Make the time to work out, which will ultimately help to reduce the holiday stress and keep off those extra pounds. Plan ahead—eat a snack before you go to the party and choose the healthier options at the party.
So this year, make a decision to stay active and eat healthy. You now know how to indulge without depriving yourself of all the fun.