Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness Science: Staying Fit for the Holidays

by Ron Kennedy • November 09, 2016
It’s that time of year again! With commercial momentum, social media, and a general mind set of parties, gift giving and cheesy prime-time specials, most of the community is shifting into holiday mode. Now a days, instead of segregated dates and events for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, between the stores displaying decoration items, pre-pre-pre Black Friday shopping specials, and posts about baking and cooking recipes to try at home, most assume the holiday season begins around Oct 15th and goes straight through Jan 3rd. I am certainly not one to discourage celebration, but too often in my almost 14 years of experience as a fitness professional I see the training clients we work with as well as many friends and associates through the proverbial “kosh in the wind” and let themselves go for the holidays in the hopes to quickly recover for the new year. Fitness and weight loss centers bank on it, marketing campaigns riding with guilt about over indulgence is targeted for it, and the crowds of fitness facilities, yoga studios, and spin classes reflect that mindset. Yet, please allow me to let you in on a little secret from an avid fitness enthusiast…

You can still enjoy the holiday season and not only prevent weight gain, but continue to pursue your health and wellness goals!!!

The holidays can be an internal warzone in terms of disrupting your best exercise and weight-control intentions, but preparation is the key to victory. Start each day with a game plan, just like a great coach going into a big game. First, track your food intake and activity level. Doing so makes you aware of the number of calories in certain foods. Even if you decide to eat higher-calorie options, you will probably eat smaller portions and make other adjustments to stay within your daily caloric goals. At Phoenix Ignition Fitness, we use a technique called “Modular Caloric Intake” where you modify your calorie intake for the day around your activity levels. For example, early in the day, or before exercise is a very reasonable time to ingest higher amounts of carbs since you will metabolic rate will be raised from the exercise and you will be active for most of the day burning and using the calories you intake.

Do your best to avoid the 'all or nothing' mentality when it comes to healthful eating and physical activity. In truth, there is more than just one way to live healthfully and be active. During the holidays, get a bit creative with fitness and opt for fun ways that make physical activity a family affair. From exploring new group fitness activities to building physical activity into holiday traditions. Taking a family walk around the neighborhood before opening Christmas presents, play a game of touch football after your Thanksgiving meal. Think outside the box when it comes to ways to have quality time with family and friends while also prioritizing your health and peak fitness levels.

Plan your workouts for the week and note them in your schedule to assure they are a part of your day. Also, remember that some exercise is better than none. Rather than skipping the gym altogether, make time for a quick workout. Personally, I typically schedule 1.5 to 2 full hours dedicated for exercise. Granted that includes pre-and post-workout stretching, core stability work, strength training, and focused cardiovascular conditioning (and usually a shower to follow of course). That is a serious commitment for most people, and I don’t expect most to be so dedicated. Yet, though you might not set the same expectations for your own fitness pursuits, having an extra 45 minutes before a having to be home, attending a holiday event, or causal relaxation and skipping a brief cardio session, resistance training, or even a swim is simply not holding yourself accountable to your commitment to you. Packing a bag with workout clothes and keeping it in the trunk only takes a few moments, and once the habit is established, you will begin to miss the feeling it gives you when you don’t follow through.

Enjoy the holiday... that’s singular, not plural. If you worry about eating too much on this single day, the reality is that one day won't make or break your fitness plan. Unfortunately, most people start a pattern of daily 'treats' in some form or another or skip exercise due to visiting relatives. That routine then somehow continues from Halloween through the end of the year. Enjoy the holiday, but don't let it go from a day of indulgence to a month of indulgence that leads to unwanted habits that continue beyond the holiday season. Everyone deviates from the path… even fitness professionals. Discovering humility in making errors is needed to grow, present company certainly included. But letting yourself trip, and turning that trip into a stumble, then a fall is completely up to you. Having a few to many glasses of wine at a holiday part does not entitle you to finish off a bottle every other night. Savoring one or two gingerbread cookies while watching frosty the snowman certainly doesn’t have to lead to weeks of eating sweets and being inactive.

Your success and failure is always under your control. Setbacks are part of the process no matter what you pursue, especially in health and wellness. No plan is ever as concrete as you might think, despite the creativeness and experience of the planner. Though if you take the time to recognize your weakness, avoid the trap of allowing a slight slip up lead you down the path of total abandonment, and stay focused on your long-term goals for maintaining a healthy fitness lifestyle, no amount of egg nog or pumpkin will detour you from your path.