The festive season is upon us and surviving it is crucial for your health and fitness success. If you are looking to start 2022 in a positive mind-frame and with the ability to launch in to some wonderful goals with great energy, then the last thing you want to be is tired, exhausted and feeling more stuffed than a Christmas turkey.
The last few weeks of December (in my opinion) are the best times of the year.
It is a time to celebrate accomplishments, catch up with family and friends and be thankful for all the great things we are lucky enough to have.
It is also a time of year when staying on top of your health and fitness can be incredibly challenging.
With a great year of hard work under your belt (especially everything 2020 & 2021 has thrown at us), the last thing you want is for that to be undone over a few weeks of indulgence.
With that in mind, below are some hints and tips designed for surviving the festive season and making it a bit more manageable.
Surviving The Festive Season Tip #1 – Nutrition – Make it work in your favour
Nutrition is always going to be responsible for 70% of our success, especially in those looking to lose weight or gain strength.
Why is this?
Because we eat far more often than we exercise. We need food to fuel everything that we do in our day to day life. The problem is that if we are consuming the wrong type of food, we are putting our goals in jeopardy.
So over the next month, knowing that there will be some challenging moments with your food, what levers can you pull to ensure that you give yourself a fighting chance of success?
Reducing the amount of calories in alcohol
The festive period is usually a time of year that involves increased alcohol consumption.
Surviving this bit alone can be the biggest challenge.
Events such as:
- End of year parties.
- Catching up with friends.
- The warmer weather meaning we are more inclined to be out and about.
- Visiting family.
All of these can cause alcohol to flow more freely than it otherwise would throughout the year.
I am the first to admit that Christmas isn’t Christmas unless there are some drinks involved. The best idea however, is to try and reduce the amount of calories that you will be having as not all drinks are created equal.
A great tip for surviving the festive season can be to smartly substituting high calorie alcohols with low calorie alcohols (swap the rum and coke for a vodka soda). This means that you are already making the best out of an otherwise tricky situation.
Lighten the Christmas meals
The festive period is always a time where food intake tends to increase as well.
Catching up with friends and family, out for lunches and dinners means that there are quite a few 3-4-course meals that you need to get through.
Similar to alcohol, Christmas wouldn’t be the same if we tried to cut all of this out. So what we need to do is find the best way to manage it.
There are some handy tips that will allow you to make the most of it though;
- Start the day positive. Eat a well balanced, healthy and nutritious breakfast to get the metabolism kick-started.
- Never skip breakfast as your body will go into ‘storage mode’ and hold on to the next meal.
- If you are cooking, make the protein the focus of the meal. Prawns, leg ham and turkey are all fantastic Christmas options and yes they wouldn’t be the same without the accompanying sides, but if you focus on the protein, you are less likely to have the increased carbohydrate intake
Increase the amounts of Vitamins and Minerals
The increased calorie content is not the only problem Christmas creates for the fitness routine.
Alcohol, processed foods and sugary desserts are all lacking in quality nutritional content. A whole month of these activities means that your body can really miss out on the value that good nutritional intake provides.
You need to make sure you are getting enough nutrients all year round. They ensure that your body is running properly, keep you safe from disease and infection, promote optimal health and much more.
The increased intake of alcohol and low quality foods also has a negative impact on your immune system.
Getting adequate nutrients can help strengthen your immune system and reduce your chances of contracting the common cold or the flu.
Surviving The Festive Season Tip #2 – Exercise – We need to do more of it
If we know that we will be eating and drinking a bit more over the coming weeks, then another way to ensure that you still move forward (or at least remain balanced) with your goals, is to exercise more.
This sometimes can be easier said than done, so here are some handy tips to ensure that your exercise increases.
Be prepared to mix it up
Exercising over Christmas is probably more difficult than any other time of the year.
You have more social commitments (so less time to exercise) and it can get easy to lose sight of your goals. Additionally, the increased consumption of alcohol probably leaves you with very little motivation to exercise.
Understand that some of the structure of a regular exercise routine might go out the window & embrace it!
Sure you might not be able to get to the gym every day, but if you find that you have a spare 20 minutes, put on your shoes and go outside for a run.
Not sure of what to do?
Ask your trainer for some advice and they can set you up with a 20-minute at-home workout that will get the heart pumping.
Something is always better than nothing!
The more flexible you are, the more opportunities you will have to do some exercise.
Use your time wisely
As already mentioned, time is always limited over the festive season.
Use the time that you do have wisely. If you realize that you only have 30 minutes instead of your normal 60 to do a workout, make sure that you use those 30 minutes as best as possible. No messing around.
Get the heart rate up, and do not stop moving until time is up!
There is no such thing as a bad workout if you go 100%, the only bad workout is the one you waste, or even worse, do not do.
Embrace the weather
Christmas time in Australia is always going to be hot, it is fantastic. I still remain hopeful that it will warm up this year.
The heat however, can also make exercise a bit more challenging.
Dehydration, fatigue and general lethargy are all common symptoms of extreme heat. Being too hot outside should not be an excuse to stop working out completely however.
Use the conditions to your advantage!
If it is hot, head out for a swim, it will be a lovely change from the normal.
Surviving the festive season tip #3 – Lifestyle – reconfigure it to your advantage
With so much going on over the next 4 weeks, it is important to understand that your lifestyle is going to be impacted more so than normal. It is unrealistic to expect that you can balance everything, but the more aware of the situation you are, the better you can manage it.
Here are a few tips to better handle the changes to lifestyle over the coming weeks.
Get some sleep
The extra social commitments you have over Christmas make it very difficult to get a proper amount of sleep each night.
Unfortunately, failing to get enough sleep can have a negative effect on your body. That is why over the festive period it is extra important to catch up on your sleep whenever you can.
If you have a free evening, try to get to bed extra early.
If you have a late night party coming up, try and fit in a nap beforehand.
Maximising the amount of sleep you get over Christmas can help you on top of your health.
Manage the stress
Christmas is a stressful time of year.
That is all there is to it.
Parties, presents, work commitments, food, alcohol, cooking, holidays, shopping…the list goes on and it can get very overwhelming.
A tip for surviving the festive season can be ensuring that you manage the stress that is involved with all of this as it is really important for your health.
Take time to process everything, plan in advance and write lists.
Getting it all out of your head and on to paper is the first step to managing what can be a very challenging time.
Following on from managing the stress is making sure that you always find balance with everything that is going on.
Balance will mean that you do not burn out and can keep going.
Always make sure that you find 15-20 minutes each day where you can focus on yourself.
Sit in the sun, read a book, go for a swim/walk, play a game.
Do something that takes the focus off all the other noise around you.
Your body will be refreshed and thankful for the opportunity to reset.
Surviving the festive season – in summary
The festive season is what you make it. It is that simple.
It can be a time where all health goals go out the window, where we forget to eat well and exercise less.
This will only cause you to finish the year feeling worn out, sluggish, loosening the belt buckles and like you need to start all over again in the New Year.
Instead, why not use this time as an opportunity to challenge yourself to see if you really are capable of? Give yourself the opportunity to manage the most challenging of situations.
I can guarantee you that you will finish the year feeling accomplished, motivated and successful. It will give yourself the momentum needed to turn 2022 into an even more successful version of the year just completed.
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