The Holiday Survival Guide – Part Three

FitGift Happy Friday everyone! In this special edition of Fitness Friday, I give you Part Three of the Holiday Survival Guide. Here are four great tips on how to use your workouts to help combat the stress and strain (of your belt buckle) that so often accompanies the holidays.

Even if you follow the advice in Parts One and Two, you’ll probably still find yourself overindulging once or twice during the holiday season. Rather than let guilt get the best of you or give up on your healthy habits altogether, put these tips into action and you’ll not only win the battle against those extra holiday calories, you’ll be feeling jolly and spry right into the New Year.

1. Do Something Every Day –  I know, I know. The holidays are the busiest time of year for many of us, so how can you possibly exercise every day?! There are many ways, actually. You can wake up earlier; you can make a “rule” that says you can’t have any cookies or candy or chips or soda or booze until you’ve done your workout; you can literally run your holiday errands (or walk, if you don’t want to stand in line at the post office all sweaty); you can take the stairs every time you have the option to do so.  See, you can do it. The main thing is just to do it! You know you’re going to be eating stuff that’s not normally a part of your healthy diet, so now is not the time to also decide that you’re too busy to work out. That combination equals two to five pounds that you will put on over the course of one month and spend the next year trying to take back off. Shoot for 20 minutes a day minimum, at moderate- to high-intensity, but if you don’t have 20 minutes, that’s not an excuse- use whatever time you have and get it done!

2. Focus on Cardio –  If your exercise time is more limited during the holidays, then you should aim to get the biggest calorie-burning bang for your buck. In most cases, that means you should favor cardiovascular exercise over strength, agility and flexibility training. Don’t eliminate these other important forms of exercise, or you’ll find yourself feeling weak, stiff and clumsy come January 2nd, but by giving cardio workouts a place of preference, you’ll be more likely to burn the maximum number of calories possible. Don’t do the same workout every day – mixing up exercise modes and intensity levels will keep your metabolism on its toes, and it’ll help you avoid injury.

3. Push Yourself a Little – If you generally feel like you’ve scored a “win” just by making it to the gym, this is the season to rethink that attitude. Don’t make yourself miserable, but remember that exercise is kind of supposed to be a little bit hard. Walking at a conversational pace will burn only about three times as many calories as channel surfing will, but bump that pace up to a slow jog, and your calorie burn will increase eight-fold or more. Similarly, lifting heavier weights or doing more difficult compound exercises (deadlifts, pushups, pull-ups) requires much more energy than that comfortable set of biceps curls at the same weight you’ve been lifting for the past six months.

4. Two-a-Days are NEAT – Okay, this is kind of a trick – as in, a tricky way to make you think you’re not exercising, but actually you are. NEAT is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or the calories you burn while being active but not “officially” exercising. This includes stuff like walking to the store when you could have driven instead or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or simply standing up at your desk instead of sitting down. Normally, it’s a good idea to just consciously try to get more NEAT into your day. But during the holidays, I’m asking you to consider the old athletic coach’s favorite conditioning trick – two-a-days – and actually schedule some NEAT into every day.
First, you have to get your 20-minute (minimum) workout done.  That counts as #1. Then, at some other point in the day, or throughout the day, try to accumulate an additional 20 minutes (or more) of NEAT. At the end of your day at work, walk up and down the stairs for five or ten minutes before you go home. When you get home, take the dog for a brisk walk. Watch TV while you slowly walk on the treadmill or pace around your living room. Close all the blinds so the neighbors don’t see, crank up the holiday tunes and rock around the Christmas tree. You get the idea. Doing this stuff burns around three times as many calories as just sitting around does, so NEAT is no joke.

I hope these three posts have given you some ideas for how to have a happy, healthy holiday season that leaves you with great memories and no extra inches.

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