It’s that time of the year again – diet and exercise debauchery season. The season for hitting the roasts and beers more than ever, brushing aside the fitness regime and worrying slightly less about overall health, with that looming New Year’s resolution left to make everything alright. It is however possible to thoroughly enjoy a happy Christmas and enter the new year feeling fit rather than fat: it does takes a little forward planning and a few ounces of self-discipline.
So, why not just take the month off and leave the fitness program for the new year? After all, you will be waking up fresh and determined with a resolution come January 1st. Or will you?
Coming up with an excuse not to exercise is the easiest thing in the world and completely neglecting your routine will build up both kilograms and stress come the New Year.
The first step is to be realistic – the holiday season will affect your exercise to some extent, and the trick is to make adjustments that will help you keep a level of consistency rather than attempting to mimic your ‘normal’ routine. This may require taking an honest look at your schedule, and instead of trying to squeeze exercise in forcefully, your best bet would be to take other things out: the goal should not be to do more, but rather less and to do it well.
“I just don’t have the time” is the age-old excuse, and with Christmas parties and events around the corner, it is extremely easy to fall into this trap. However, workouts do not need to be particularly long to be beneficial, especially if you are willing to work hard. For instance, 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training can burn more calories than 40 minutes at a steady state – using this trade-off between duration and intensity can greatly benefit you from a time-management perspective and make workouts seem less daunting as it can enable you to break down your daily exercise into short bouts rather than one single prolonged session (research shows that activity bouts as short as 10 minutes are effective).
With this, creating a more basic workout that can be done at home, including exercises which can be done without any equipment such as squats, planks, crunches and many others, will remove the time spent travelling to and from the gym. Increasing your time management skills over the holiday season is another useful tool; organizing your day from the evening before and prioritizing tasks beforehand will help you find the precious time to exercise.
Regarding the season’s eatings
The next big hurdle is, of course, the food. With unhealthy or calorie-rich options more plentifully available than usual, it is easy to trick yourself into thinking that just because it’s there, you are somehow hungry for it. Why it would be Scrooge-like to suggest that you forgo all treats and extras this festive season, you can greatly limit the damage done by selecting your festive foods carefully. Often enough it is the extras – the nibbles, side orders and desserts – that inflict the greatest damage in terms of weight gain; this is because during the holiday season they are more abundant and you are – like it or not – encouraged to consume them, be it at parties, events and the like.
Try choosing healthier nibbles such as roasted chestnuts, unsalted nuts and dried fruits over crisps and chocolates and think twice before opening your mouth: do you really want it, or are you just eating it because it’s there? Avoid skipping your usual meals too – many assume that by limiting the usual food consumption, this will somehow make up for the extra calories consumed at dinner parties. The reality is that you would be more likely to overindulge and get those unwanted, sneaky calories by arriving hungry.
In a nutshell
Most important of all: Be realistic
New Year’s resolutions can’t officially begin with a throbbing headache accompanied by excessive thirst. If you wake up on 1st January with a hangover and a strong urge for a double espresso and a fry up, is this really the day to begin the ‘first day of the rest of your life? Instead, start on the 2nd, and use the 1st to finish up on the Quality Street chocolates and clear the cupboards of any other tempting food that is not in keeping with your new regime.
Spend some time formulating and writing down your health and fitness goals, ensuring they are challenging but realistic. Keep it mind: it is about consistency, not ‘greatness’. Rather than ‘killing’ your ‘epic’ workout, focus on keeping to the regime regardless of the challenges and do not get discouraged by the fact that some training days are not as good as others. Rome was not built in a day – make small day-to-day steps towards your goal will pay off in the long run.
Patience, patience, patience
Fitness and weight loss do not happen overnight. That’s why it is important to have a time frame for your goal. Set mini goals to work towards along the way – we can call these ‘small victories’ which you can use to gain strength, confidence and faith in yourself.
Last, don’t forget to keep track
Keep a food and exercise diary or log to monitor your progress and help you stay motivated. Seeing an achievement, however small, written down gives it that extra bit of satisfaction too!