Have you put your Christmas tree up yet? If the answer is yes, it’s likely that you’ve already relaxed into the festive season with a mince pie in one hand and a tall, cold glass of milk in the other. Despite your efforts to stay trim and proper year-round, you can’t escape the cycle of overindulgence and gluttony every holiday period… after all, ’tis the season to be jolly.
By this logic, you’re not only lying to yourself, but you’ve told another porkie and father Claus is on the tipping point of jotting your name down on his naughty list, and we all know what happens to miscreants?
Wait, nobody gave you the memo?
On the back of two sedentary years in lockdown, Santa has decided to fasten his belt and run his own health and fitness bootcamp. There are only three stipulations :-
Counting calories is on hold until the new year
Chimney extensions don’t excuse complacency
Have fun and throw slushy snowballs at your neighbours!
Oops… Did Santa say three stipulations? He’s getting forgetful in his old age. He politely meant to say four. Stipulation number four – read and repeat after me – Santa can’t do this alone.
All of that sacrifice – the cookies, milk and mince pies can’t be for nothing. Think of all the presents he’s delivered to you over the years and channel that into actively following these 5 steps to a healthier Christmas.
- Plan ahead
- Reap the benefits of the season
- Set achievable goals
- Remember to stay hydrated
- Go easy on the alcohol
As the saying goes, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Consider dedicating a morning to creating a health and fitness schedule that you can follow irrespective of your commitments.
For example, in the event of working away or visiting family in the Christmas run-up, hop online and scout out any gyms local to that area and try to find out whether or not it’s possible for guests to stop by for the day and utilise their facilities.
Alternatively, reach out to friends and siblings in advance of your visit to see if they might have any sporting equipment going spare. Scratch that thought, why not get the entire family involved?
On the off-chance that you’re travelling from hotel to hotel, country to country, apportion extra funds for an all-inclusive experience, fitness rooms included.
By planning ahead, you’ll have the prior knowledge of the dates that gyms will close in your area. Your next best bet is to do away with equipment, rearrange furniture and sneak in a simple bodyweight workout away from distractions.
You can tailor this routine to incorporate high intensity movements ranging from squats to lunges, burpees, push ups and core work. If you’re a planning mastermind like myself, you can cut out the middle-man of having to plan your own routine by quickly loading up YouTube and searching for a Joe wicks home fitness workout on your phone/tablet/laptop.
If weightlifting and plyometric training is not your jam, head out into the wilderness in search of a nearby park for an easy breezy casual stroll or hearty morning jog. Don’t be afraid to modify your workout. Altering your workouts to fit the occasion is far more productive than avoiding fitness entirely.
On the nutrition front, meal planning is your greatest ally. Buy a few Tupperware containers and whip up a storm in the kitchen. Week by week, you’ll gradually eliminate any extra brain processing that would naturally cause you stress.
Under the circumstances that you head out for an evening of fine dining whereby you’ll have little to no control over the food you eat, have a small meal on the cusp of leaving, that way, you’ll be less inclined to overindulge.
Reap the benefits of the season
There’s no time like the present. Wrap up, slip on a pair of gloves and embrace the winter wonderland activities!
Kick off proceedings with a family friendly snowball fight in the backyard garden with the children. If you’re keen to express your competitive side, separate yourselves into two team and see who can build the best snowman in a fixed quantity of time. You’ll be having so much fun and exerting so much energy that you’ll be burning calories faster than you can burn the firewood back inside your home.
Dogs… that is all. Where would society be without these loyal furry warriors! If there’s one thing that dogs love to do, it’s to chase the Postman – think about jumping in on the action, by doing so, all three parties will start to feel fitter and faster.
Any local ice rinks? There’s not a lot funnier to witness than a friendly face hitting the deck and spiralling in a circular motion across the ice.
Set achievable goals
What’s better than a goal? Nope, not an own goal… an achievable goal! Exercise doesn’t need to be a day-long commitment. Set aside 30 minutes per morning / afternoon to achieve your objective of maintaining muscle or to keep a steady running pace. When a goal is realistic, there’s a higher chance of fulfilling that objective and avoiding disappointment.
Equally, do your best to avoid burnout through overcompensation. Just because you ate an entire Christmas pudding the night before does not force you into a position of working out for two hours straight in a desperate attempt to burn off calories. For one, you face injury, and secondly, your body will be far too sore to follow a consistent schedule of exercise activity.
The next point is not applicable to everyone, but for some, use the Christmas period as an opportunity to mentally reset. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with lists of new goals in time for the New Year.
Keep going through the fitness cycle that helps you to feel happy and provides enough oomph to release endorphins without going overboard and breaking your back to become the next Olympic weightlifter / runner, that is, of course, unless you are an Olympic / Paralympic athlete preparing for competition in the New Year!
Remember to stay hydrated
Hydration nation – where you at? Glug, glug, glug… Water is the fountain of youth. 70% of our bodies are composed of water. Not only does water enhance sporting performance by facilitating our bodies to function under duress, but it also plays an important role in satiating hunger.
I’m not here to play scrooge and fend you off that extra truffle, but I will duly inform you that truffles will not curb your appetite. On the other hand, or in the other hand, grab a jug of water to ensure that you stay hydrated and mentally sharp throughout the festivities.
Another tip to squeeze all of the juicy goodness out of your food is to chew your food. This is great for digestion and allow your gut to make a responsive connection with your brain to confirm satiation.
Go easy on the alcohol
If, like Santa himself, your buttocks are firmly imprinted on the armchair during your Christmas hibernation and you fancy a tipple or two of alcohol, which soon becomes three, and the next thing you know you’re napping at noon, I say more power to you!
The issue arises when you feel empowered to use bucks fizz as mouthwash, start dipping your chocolate digestives into baileys instead of a warm cup of tea and replace your gravy with a jug of mulled wine.
Moral of the story, don’t use Christmas as an excuse to skip meals, become dehydrated or lose sight of healthy habits through excessive alcohol consumption.
In moderation, alcohol is a relaxant, breeds confidence and can take the external pressures off your shoulders, but in excess, alcohol encourages binge eating and dampens your willpower to resist greasy, salty foods that have a high calorific count.
Moreover, alcohol poses a risk to maintaining a healthy immune system. Viral colds run rampant at Christmas. With the amount of travelling, lack of sleep and continuous changes in the pattern of weather and the foods we eat, we need to be conscious to keep colds at bay.
Bonus step – Sit further away from the food
The tables are set, plates are filled to the brim with Christmas delicacies as far as the eyes can ogle. You’re convinced that the minced pie in the corner is flirting back and without hesitation, you extend your arm across the table, swiftly bypassing the fruit and veg, open up the void (your mouth) and stuff not one, but two minced pies into the bottomless pit that is your stomach. The world is your oyster, the food is your world for as long as you continue to sit within reaching distance.
It’s time to put Henry the hoover back in the cupboard. In this event, I urge you to exorcise self-restraint. The most effective means of executing control is to sit as far away from the dinner table as humanly possible. The effort exerted to wander to and fro from the table will quickly tire you out and give your brain time to convince your gut that you need a siesta away from food.
Last but not least, don’t give yourself a Christmas stuffing! To claim that you are still in the growing phase is not a valid excuse to pile your plate with thousands of calories on Christmas Day – this is more than the amount of calories you should eat in an entire day, and you’ll only regret it once the heartburn, lethargy and indigestion kicks in. Take breaks to assess your hunger – don’t eat a KitKat!
Any name – is that you? In good Rudolf, Dancer, Vixen and Prancer’s names – I can’t believe you managed to make it this far! You followed my Christmas bootcamp by the letter of the law!
I think you deserve to have a very special Christmas! I may be on a diet – but don’t tell Mrs. Claus if I ask you to leave out a tall glass of milk (make it skimmed!) – I’ll convince her that it’s my weekly cheat meal.
Happy holidays to one and all! HO HO HO!
Your one and only,
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