Ready or not, the holidays are here. With all the feasting and shopping and party-going and year-end budgeting, it can be tough to keep up a regular exercise routine.
But research shows that taking just a week or two off from exercise can erase months of favorable metabolic gains, and gaining just 1 percent of your body weight can have serious health implications.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of activity to prevent both of those things from happening. So by developing these five small, but effective, habits, you can survive the holidays with your health and fitness intact.
Schedule Your Workouts
Sitting down on the weekend and planning your workouts for the week ahead can be the most effective 15 minutes you spend on your health and fitness. By writing your workouts into your schedule, you’ll be more likely to regard them as protected time and actually do them.
Just stay flexible by checking in a couple of times during the week to make adjustments as soon as you know about things that have popped up. This lets you create a back-up plan for those extra busy days ,rather than being caught off guard and having to ditch your workout.
Put Exercise First
By far, the best way to ensure that you don’t miss a workout is to do it first thing in the morning. Not only does this guarantee that unforeseen interruptions in your schedule won’t interfere with exercise, but studies have shown that our will power is higher early in the day before we’ve had to exert a lot of self-control.
Devoting the first 20 to 30 minutes of each day to exercise not only makes it more likely to happen, but an early morning workout could help you fight food cravings throughout the day, too.
Recruit an Exercise Buddy
Another great way to motivate yourself over the holidays is to make a pact with a friend or group of friends. Even if you don’t workout together, checking in with someone else daily will make you think twice about skipping a session.
If your friends are all couch potatoes, head online to find an accountability partner. Around the holidays especially, social media is bursting with workout challenges and support networks.
If you can’t find anything in your social media feed, check out the forums on fitness-oriented sites and apps, like MyFitnessPal and Spark People.
Take Advantage of Seasonal Offerings
Your local gym is another great place to find inspiration, and it’ll almost certainly be offering specials on membership fees, class packages and monthly rates during the holidays.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a town with a few competing fitness centers, you may be able to enjoy free trial periods at multiple facilities. Not only can this practically get you through the whole season on the cheap, but it’s the perfect way to compare facilities and find the one that offers the best mix of value and services.
Plan Ahead for Travel
If you’ll be spending the holidays away from home, it’s imperative that you have a quick and easy travel workout in your repertoire.
This needn’t be your typical high-quality workout to be effective. A simple routine consisting of three to five exercises you can do with no equipment in a very small space is enough to keep you on track until you can get back to your usual routine.
The five exercises I suggest for my clients are one-legged balance stands, push-ups (modified if necessary), walking lunges, bicycle crunches and prone back extensions (Supermans). Doing two or three circuits with little rest between exercises will give you a cardiovascular workout as well as maintain your muscular strength and endurance.
And Squeeze in Mini-Workouts
One more thing: Because you might not get to exercise every day during the holidays, or the workouts you do get in might not be as robust as usual, try to focus on sneaking in short bursts of activity as often as you can throughout each day.
These “activity snacks” can be as simple as a trip up and down the stairs in your home, a walk around the block with the grandkids or a few deep knee bends during the commercial breaks when you’re watching football.
Studies have shown that walking just over a mile a day or doing three four-minute bouts of high-intensity exercise per week may be enough to help you maintain your weight and fitness level. By using the tips provided here, you should have ample time and motivation to do that much or more this holiday season.