Keeping Fit During the Holiday: Balance, Don’t Binge

With all the melee that inevitably surrounds us during the holidays, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and notice a bit of shift in priorities.

Last week, we focused quite a bit on how to approach some tricky eating scenarios.

But what about exercise?

Are you finding that the workouts you were doing with such regularity have fallen lower and lower on the list of priorities to the point that now, they’re barely happening at all?

Considering that nearly 80 percent of adult Americans do not get the recommended amounts of exercise each week[1] throughout the year, we can only imagine how much that number may increase during the holidays.

Whether it’s because you feel you simply don’t have the time to get to the gym or you feel that there’s just no way to be able to enjoy the holidays if you’re ‘on a diet’, it often becomes the situation that the easiest out is to push it off until the New Year and deal with it later.

In a November survey[2] of MyFitnessPal, 88% said they plan to relax their food rules at least a little during the holidays, and 10 % said they planned to chuck the rules entirely.

But is there a downside to this, aside from the obvious risk of potential weight gain?

Actually, yes.

If you’re new to doing cardio, taking off for up to four weeks won’t do much damage to whatever cardiovascular fitness you have, but if you give up on your training for longer than a month, you’re looking at a total loss of any gains you made!

For those who are athletes, or at least on some kind of cardio training schedule, in four weeks or less of inactivity your VO2 max will drop 4-14%; after four weeks, that drop will be between 6-20%[3],[4].

Clearly, just stopping your training is not the way to go.

Instead, by prioritizing and doing a little rearranging, you can create a schedule that includes some form of movement, even if it may be out of the ordinary.

  • Don’t forget, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. While you love that one spin instructor who offers a 90 minute session on Saturday mornings, if you’ve only got 45 minutes to spare, there’s no reason to skip it entirely. Either speak to the teacher in advance and ask if you can cut it short and cool down a little early or get in on your own and get your sweat on solo. And short bouts of activity count, too. Three ten minute walks around the office promenade, three times per day adds up to 2 ½ hours per week…while you were on the clock!
  • Get the family involved. Feeling like it’s too punitive to creep out in the dark for a neighborhood run before the kids and your spouse wake up? Why not wait until sunrise and all head out together? Babies in the stroller or kids on their bikes with their helmets and you leading the way may not be the best set up for a tempo run, but it sure beats not moving at all!
  • Set a fun goal to keep you honest.   Let’s face it; while losing weight is a serious, important goal, it’s not exactly a walk in the park, so add an element of fun to take the pressure of. Why not sign up for the holiday 5k? Doing so can facilitate the transition from forcing a workout to training with a purpose.
  • Eat in a balanced manner to fuel your body and mind; don’t kill yourself on the elliptical trainer Christmas morning to create a calorie deficit that you will later fill up…. and then some.   With the average holiday meal nearly double in calories than the average, arriving at the holiday meal you’re attending in an overly hungry state will set you up for eating too much of the wrong foods and in vast quantities.   Food coma, anyone? Instead, be sure to get in a solid workout that you enjoy and follow it up with a balanced breakfast with ample fat, quality protein and a nice dose of veggies.
  • Last but not least, leave a little room for a splurge, but keep it to a special occasion. Rather than going nuts on cookies, pies and Christmas Cocktails at all the parties you’re attending, select a couple and plan accordingly. Choose special treats that are most in keeping with your real Paleo eating regime, such as my homemade cinnamon coconut sorbet, Chardonnay-poached fruit or handmade truffles. Not exactly the stuff cavemen would’ve been eating, but gluten-free, sans dairy and without man-made ingredients, better options than most.

No need to choose between appreciating the holidays and complete deprivation; you can find balance and enjoy them all at the same time!

[1] “CDC: 80 Percent of American Adults Don’t Get Recommended Exercise.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015

[2] “Holiday Eating: Why You Feel so Lousy after a Huge Holiday Meal.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015

[3] Dredger, Randy. “Responses to Detraining.”, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015

[4] Brown, Jill S. “Taking Time Off From Your Workouts During the Holidays? How Fast You Lose Fitness and Tips to Minimize the Hit.” The Huffington Post., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015