Staying Fit During the Holidays

training during christmas

If you follow any kind of fitness, diet, or nutrition plan, it can be tough to stay compliant during the holidays.

The cold weather season is full of work dinners, get-togethers with friends, and family reunions that threaten your regular workout schedule while also involving a lot of eating and drinking.

With the end of daylight savings and the start of winter, staying on the couch with a blanket sounds a lot more appealing than doing anything active outdoors.

And thus, with a calendar jam-packed with social events, and a pantry full of snacks, we have the perfect storm for the inevitable winter fitness fall-out.

Say No to “All or Nothing”

For some, it can be very easy to fall into a shame spiral:

  • You’ve already skipped one workout, so what's the point of going in the rest of the week?
  • You’ve already had one cheat meal, so why not make today a cheat day which eventually turns into a cheat week?

All too often, we let one slip up completely derail all the work we’ve put in, spiraling until we hit rock bottom.

Let's put this mindset into perspective:

Say you're going down a staircase, and you trip over one step.

Are you going to throw yourself down the rest just because you made a little mistake?

Of course not!

You recover and keep going (maybe a bit more carefully this time!).

This is the same approach we must take when we “mess up” our diet and exercise routine.

Prepare your next meal or do your next workout just as you would if you didn’t slip up.

Whenever you fall off the wagon, there's no need to compensate, just get back on.

No Lift, No Gift

Incentive is a great motivator, but that shouldn't be the case when it comes to food.

All too often, we are told that training hard means we can eat whatever we want.

training christmas season

We are reminded of this especially around the holidays, usually by family members, coworkers, and friends who are probably sick of listening to us talk about burpees.

By now most of us know that it doesn't quite work that way.

Just because you had an intense workout doesn't mean you deserve a cheeseburger.

Just because you ate a pizza doesn’t mean you have to add an extra training session to your week.

Falling into this mentality can lead to behaviors associated with disordered eating and having a poor relationship with food.

Exercise is not a punishment for something that you've eaten, it's a celebration of what your body can do.

Feel guilty about the second servings and extra desserts?

Completely normal. There are healthy ways to cope with that guilt. Doing long bouts of cardio or a chipper to “burn it off” isn't one of them.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

No one wants to be that girl or guy at the family function who whips out a Tupperware of painstakingly weighed out food.

food during holidays

It's probably not necessary to take such measures anyway unless you're competing in the near future.

On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to indulge in something that you're not truly enjoying just because ‘tis the season.

So how can we find balance between these two extremes?

Personally, my rule of thumb is to do what will make me feel proud in the end. Pay attention to that last part.

Sure, you’ll get instant gratification from eating the thing or canceling the workout, but if doing either leads to you feeling guilty later on, then it probably wasn't the best choice.

Simply try to be honest with yourself about what you want and from there, commit to a decision.

Draw Limits and Set Goals

Just as we tend to dwell on our mistakes, we also tend to gain momentum from our successes.

Setting easy-to-accomplish goals is a great way to create momentum and keep your spirits up.

That way your success rate stays high, and you’ll be less tempted to “break the chain”.

A lap around the block or doing a 10-minute workout video on YouTube are really simple ways to remind yourself that you actually enjoy being active.

Keep in mind that these goals should seem so small that it would feel more ridiculous to skip it even when you don't feel up to the task.

Bonus points if you can set goals that will deter you from going completely off-track.

For example,

if you have a big dinner coming up, pledge to stay well-hydrated that day or to meet your daily protein requirement so that you won't feel like going overboard at the event.

If you're going away for the holidays and won't have access to a gym, aim to take a daily 30-minute walk, spend 15 minutes a day practicing double-unders, or knockout a few sets of push-ups and air squats first thing each morning.

It may not seem like much, but a little goes a long way.

Final Thoughts

When holiday plans come at odds with the rigidness of our routine, we often fall victim to an endless cycle of guilt and either overcompensate or give up entirely.

Failure is easy to compound, but so is success.

Instead of being the victim, when you fall off the wagon, just get back on without trying to punish yourself or making up for your missed workouts and off-plan eating.

Even if you can't comply 100%, do your best to sprinkle in exercise and diet habits that are more aligned to your fitness goals, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem.

Being prepared to handle the change in diet and training is the best defense from the holidays, so make a plan and get ready to cut yourself some slack before it’s too late.

Winter is coming.