Fitness At Christmas

Don't become a new year statistic, it's called silly season for a reason we all know.

The Christmas holiday period is typically extremely busy and can also be extremely indulgent. In short, health and fitness are not generally found at the top of Santa's naughty or nice list, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Yes, Christmas is a time of celebration, and often excess, frequently resulting in firm New Year’s resolutions to get fit and lose weight, so it’s not surprising that many people struggle to maintain a healthy focus in December. If your fitness takes a back seat at this time of year, you’ll probably identify with some of the following problems:

  • too busy with Christmas preparations to fit exercise into my day
  • get invited to loads of indulgent Christmas parties
  • love Christmas but I know I overdo the eating and drinking
  • January, I always have to try and make amends for the effects of the festivities
  • have already subconsciously written off December 

I am the first to advocate balance, and believe letting your hair down every known and again is super beneficial, but does this mean we jump on a months bandwagon, undoing months of hard work…… What if you could find the balance of still feeling great and having all the fun !

I have put together a few little tips that will help you stay on track. 

Maintenance Exercise Routines

One of the hardest things to do when your time is in short supply is to maintain an exercise routine. If you usually exercise a few times a week, the extra demands on your time can mean that something has to give. However, reduced training doesn’t mean that your fitness levels have to plummet. Research has shown that a couple of weeks of maintenance training can result in minimal or even no fitness losses.

Indeed, in certain cases performance can actually improve after a short period of reduced training because the body has the opportunity to recharge and rebuild. Hence on returning to full training, you can find that you have renewed vigour and enthusiasm for your sessions. - #trainsmart

Commit To Stay Fit

Simply plan, inform and execute. Plan in some shorter and/or less frequent exercise sessions. Explain to your friends and family the changes you’re making, but also the importance of keeping your fitness going, and then put your plan into action. Remember that feeling you have straight after a workout.

A Little Exercise Is Better Than Nothing

Accept that your workouts will be shorter but also realise that they can still provide training benefits.If you usually enjoy several jogging or running sessions, cutting your training time by half will still keep you fit.Instead of completing two or three sets of each resistance training exercise, reduce it to one or two sets. Your session will take less time but you’re still exercising the same muscles, so your strength won’t disappear.

Quality Over Quantity

If your typical training week includes some more challenging sessions, it is important to maintain them. Instead of interspersing them with recovery workouts where you exercise lightly, focus on every session being high quality training. You can then omit the easier sessions, which will save time. A recovery session now becomes a rest day. The key to success with this strategy is to make sure you don’t let up on the quality of each workout. That way you are keeping your fitness edge that you’ve worked hard to achieve.

Time Efficient Exercise Strategies:

-Resistance Training Workouts

A typical session with weights in the gym involves completing two or more sets of a range of exercises, with a recovery period of anything between 30 seconds and several minutes between each set. This recovery period is an essential component of your training, but it is time during the festive season that you can ill afford to spare. Instead of relaxing and recovering between sets, for a change, try carrying out complementary exercises during the recoveries, for example: alternating between the following muscles:

  • and upper back.
  • and triceps.
  • and lower back.
  • and hamstrings (front and back of legs).

-Cardiovascular (CV) Workouts

Every workout should include a thorough warm-up and cool-down so there is no opportunity to save time there. However, in the main body of your session, there is an opportunity to reduce the duration but still get calorie burning and quality training benefits. Instead of doing a ‘steady-state’ CV session, try a few of the following time saving alternatives:

  • Five Minutes Brisk Followed With Five Minutes Easy
    Whether you’re jogging outdoors or working out on a piece of gym equipment, alternate faster efforts with equal time recoveries. You get a greater training effect than just a steady workout and so you can cut your session time down yet still remain fit.
  • A Short, Intense Time-Trial
    Again, any piece of gym equipment can be used, or walking, jogging or running outside. Decide on a time or distance that you’re going to exercise for and then after your warm-up, really go for it against the clock. It’s tough – but great training and a shorter session brings as many benefits as your usual longer workout. Always remember to include a thorough cool-down afterwards.
  • Hill Training Programmes
    For a change, select a hill training programme, vary the resistance on the rower, cross-trainer or bike, or simply put more effort in on the hills for your outdoor training. This way you are substituting more quality for steady-state training, so a shorter workout brings greater benefits.

The Key take-home-message is all about training smart, prepare set a workout in your diary like any other social event - PLAN, INFORM, EXECUTE.