It's that time of year again! We're running around trying to get everything done between work deadlines, holiday parties, and traveling to see everyone before the year is over. It feels like everywhere we turn there is another batch of cookies to bake or begging to be consumed. And no matter how deep a clean the house just received, it's mere minutes before it looks like it's been stampeded through by a herd of muddy elephants.
Take a deep breath. Everything is going to be OK.
I want to offer you my tried and true Holiday Survival Guide. Because even though I am a fitness professional, I too struggle to find even minutes to exercise some days. But here's the thing; even if I don't do everything I want to do, sometimes just carving out a few minutes for squats and push ups is all I need to stay on track with my own fitness. Here, I'll tell you how you can not only maintain your own routine, but set yourself up for success come January 1st!
1. Use your calendar to schedule your workouts. By booking yourself ahead of time, when you get that email or pop-up notification, you'll know it's time to tie up your shoes and hit the road or the gym. Even if it's just twenty minutes that you take at home in between morning appointments and picking the kids up from school, that's plenty of time to do several body weight exercises and keep the muscles engaged. That is far better than just giving up on sweating altogether from Thanksgiving through New Years Eve. Plan a small amount of activity for at least 3 days a week, and try to carve out one solid hour for yourself on the weekend. Take that hour to go to a yoga class, take a long walk in the woods, or sweat it out hardcore on the bike. Whatever suits you.
2. Don't Sweat the Sweets. It's really easy to get caught up in a binge/deprivation cycle during the holidays. It starts with dry salads in the days leading up to Thanksgiving followed by a full-on carb coma. Then we try to survive on just coffee and samples at Costco until Christmas when it's another culinary blow-out. But the truth is, the more you stress about eating or not eating, the more likely you'll be to go to either extreme, which does nothing but perpetuate a very unhealthy relationship with food. Try to stick to three meals a day, no matter what (or 5-6 small meals if you prefer to eat that way), focusing especially on getting plenty of fresh produce. You'll be able to fill in any nutritional holes following a big holiday meal, and if you don't starve yourself, you won't be as likely to go all out at the next spread.
3. Keep your stress in check by remembering what this holiday season is about. It is easy to get swept away in the hustle and bustle of gift-giving, traveling, or trying to appease everyone who is coming over. At the end of the day, it's your time spent together that will matter, not whether that vegan veggie casserole met your sister-in-law's mother's approval. So take a breath and try to relax. Stress keeps you up. Stress causes poor food choices. Stress lowers the immune system. So when you feel that anxiety welling up inside ask yourself this one thing, "How important is this right now?" Often, it is our own expectations that cause us to fret over every last detail when in reality, no one else is concerned with whether or not you have mastered the art of the "tablescape." You're not Sandra Lee or Martha Stewart, so cut yourself some slack, already!
4. Set realistic goals. Now may not be the time to start a 100-day running streak or set outrageous weight loss goals. Because the second something puts you off track, the sense of stress and disappointment can be overwhelming enough that some people just give up on having any kind of fitness plan at all. So instead of worrying about working out every single day, you might aim for 120 minutes within a 7-day period. Instead of stepping on the scale every day, only weigh yourself once a week with the goal of losing one pound a week, or at the very least maintaining your current weight for the next month.
5. Own YOUR holiday. Cooking a dish for a potluck? Make it a wholesome veggie dish packed with nutrients that you'll be more than happy to dig in to. Family gathering out of town? See if there is a local Jingle Bell-themed 5K that you can walk or jog together (in costume is even better!). The room is a little too congested (with people AND food)? Offer to take Uncle Jay's dog for a walk while he tends to the roast in the oven. All of these little opportunities to do a little good for yourself will add up to a lot when you come through on the other side - a little happier, a little saner, and a little healthier than holidays past!
Whatever the next month has in store for you, know that you have the power to take control and make it your own. And even if a few days go by where you've only had pie and coffee and haven't made it to the gym... you WILL be OK! Getting back to normal shouldn't require insane workouts and gut-wrecking cleanses. Stay tuned next week for "My Five-Day Return To Normalcy" plan; no elimination dieting or juicing required.
Unless you like juicing or drinking juice. Which I do. It's yummy.
So now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, take a moment, get your head together, and get in this with your own solid plan to survive the holidays. Being prepared is half the battle, and if you implement even just a couple of these survival tips you will be just fine!