How to Get and Stay Ahead During the Holidays
My first boss used to say to me, “Know your plan. Act your plan.” Wise words, which I don’t always follow.
The truth is many of us don’t always know the plan or stick to it. As we wind down each year and the holidays fall upon us, we lose sight of the plan when it comes to diet and exercise. It’s human nature to coast as you near the end of something. Add in the stresses of the holiday season, increased travel, and plenty of parties, and many get derailed in regards to diet and exercise.
Start next year off right by finishing this year strong. Here’s how not to get sidetracked during the holidays and stick to your diet and exercise plan.
Finish Strong and Travel Well
Instead of coasting home in 2014 or, worse yet, getting way off track with your diet and exercise, push hard to the finish line of this year. Your body needs just as much exercise during the holidays, if not more.
"Don’t forget to pack two of my favorite travel companions - your running shoes and a jump rope."
Having done my fair share of travel over the years, it’s interesting to observe how many of us pretend that somehow when we travel, we’re not playing for keeps. That is, we abuse our bodies in ways we don’t in our normal lives. Still, travel or not, we are always working to a goal. Those who are successful in any endeavor are so by forming habits. Those habits don’t change because of circumstances like travel.
Yes, it is difficult to exercise and eat well over the holidays and especially when traveling. To succeed, it requires a plan. Before you go to a party, know how much you are going to eat or drink. Before you get on a plane, your carry-on should be packed with plenty of healthy snacks. And don’t forget to pack two of my favorite travel companions - your running shoes and a jump rope.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
One thing that seems to be lacking during the holiday crunch is time. Something has to give when you work, travel, and socialize more. For many, that something is their exercise routine.
With time constraints you need an efficient workout and arguably the most efficient type is HIIT. HIIT workouts tend to be full-body workouts and are definitely anaerobic by nature. You don’t need tons of time or equipment to do a HIIT workout - just twenty to thirty minutes and your own body weight.
"With time constraints you need an efficient workout and arguably the most efficient type is HIIT."
One of the huge benefits to HIIT, besides efficiency of time and the amount of muscles used, is the calories burned. You might not burn tons of calories during thirty minutes of exercise, but if that exercise is anaerobic, your body will burn excess calories for 24 to 36 hours after the fact. That is efficiency! Find a HIIT routine during the holidays at home, at your gym, or even one you can travel with.
Nothing zaps your energy like skimping on your rest, and when you lose sleep it isn’t just energy you lose. It’s not news that lack of sleep compromises your immunity. Studies show that sleep deprivation can increase cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Lack of sleep also makes it more difficult to find the mojo to exercise. One way to help that quality of sleep? Meditation. A 2009 study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found mediation to be a effective in the treatment of insomnia. It makes good sense. Clear your mind of stress and focus on breath and mindfulness.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to exercise. According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercise significantly improves the sleep of people with chronic insomnia. Exercise and mediate regularly and sleep tight.
Skip the Eggnog
Hitting the sauce will sabotage your goals more quickly than anything - and you and I both know it. Empty calories from alcohol not only expand your waistline, but they leave you feeling sluggish and less likely to hit the gym hard the next day.
"This isn’t college, and you don’t need six drinks."
No one likes a party pooper but it’s okay to raise that glass for your holiday cheer, take a sip, and then put it down after one drink. This isn’t college, and you don’t need six drinks. After one cocktail, switch to soda water and think about how good you’ll feel in the morning.
Another idea: Even for that one drink, skip the fruity drinks and eggnog and opt for wine or lower-calorie beverages instead.
Start Working Your 2015 Plan Right Now
In the Movie Rocky III, Rocky’s trainer, Apollo Creed, shouted at him in an effort to get him motivated, “There is no tomorrow!” It worked for Rocky because it was the truth. And it’s the truth for us, too.
There is only now, and now is the time to take your first step. Don’t wait for 2015 to get started on a goal. Gyms are way overcrowded in January and February with people who have no intention of sticking with it. Don’t be one of them. Hit it hard through the end of the year and see what it is like to get out ahead of the pack.
Skip the Fitness Fads - Permanently
Yo-yo diets are bad for your health and fad exercising yields no long-term results, so why bother? The only goal that matters is the one you live at, so do yourself a favor and skip the fads.
Establish what it is that you like to do. For instance, start with the notion of doing physical activity you actually enjoy. Go figure that we humans tend to stick with things we like. If you like to play tennis, then play more tennis.
When you ground your physicality in and around activities you enjoy, then exercise is much easier to buy into. In order to be a proficient golfer, martial artist, yogi, or basketball player, the fitter you are the better. Finish this year by falling back in love with the physical activities you enjoy. If you don’t know what they are, then start exploring.
"Establish what it is that you like to do. For instance, start with the notion of doing physical activity you actually enjoy."
Wherever you are on your fitness and wellness journey, today is an opportunity to start anew. The holidays need not derail you from your goals, and you need not wait until 2015 to start working toward them. In truth, years are just ways to mark time. They are neither beginnings nor endings of anything. In between each year mark, life happens. Today, finish strong and you will start tomorrow further ahead.
1. Aho Vilma, et al. “Partial Sleep Restriction Activates Immune Response-Related Gene Expression Pathways: Experimental and Epidemiological Studies in Humans.” PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (10.
2. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "Meditation May Be An Effective Treatment For Insomnia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2009.
3. "How does exercise help those with chronic insomnia?" National Sleep Foundation.
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