The holiday season is upon us! If you are like many, you see the six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as one bacchanalian festival during which all health and fitness goals are not-so-casually tossed into a heap in the corner. Even if that isn’t your mindset, the fact that December is a dark and cold month canthrow you off your regular healthy track. This “party period” is followed immediately by the glorious insanity of the six weeks between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, when fitness is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. But we shall leave those six weeks for a later entry.
In all likelihood, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is not the best time to decide that you are going to amp up your healthy lifestyle. If you are capable of that sort of focus, more power to you. It’s a great time to get it together. For example, many gyms will offer you discounts on membership simply because they have to make their sales quota for the year. However, as it’s pretty unlikely that you will start to fiddle on the local elliptical machine while all the holiday parties burn, it’s probably better to focus on the things that you can do to maintain your health and fitness levels through this period so that you don’t wake on January 2nd screaming to the heavens for forgiveness. With that in mind, I offer my list of the Five Steps for a Healthy Holiday:
1. Map out healthy moments throughout your day and week. As the end of the year becomes more compressed, with deadlines coupled with social responsibilities, it is very easy to lose healthy time for yourself. Schedule gym time, even if the visit is not as long as you would like. On days where you feel that you have no time, allow yourself time to walk to work (at least part of the way) or walk to lunch as a healthy break. And during these walks, leave your cell phone in your pocket so that you can escape for a few moments.
2. Be strict about sleep. Part of what does us such damage in the holiday season is the lack of quality sleep. Press yourself to get 7-8 hours a night (I know you’re shaking your head. Stop that. You chose to read the article.) Remember: you can’t simply sleep fourteen hours on Sunday and expect to play catch up. Your body doesn’t work that way. Give yourself a chance to recover. Sleeplessness leads to crankiness (no one like a Grinch), a drop in productivity and extra pounds.
3. If you are hitting the party circuit, make sure you a) eat a little something before you go out so that you don’t gorge at parties, and b) when you arrive at the party, try not to stand right next to the food. In fact, stand far away from the food. If you want to be really organized, bring a little snack for yourself so that you’ll have something healthy to munch on, you can keep it healthy and stay on top of the portion size.
4. If you have an active social schedule that includes drinking, try to keep the ratio of water to alcohol 3:1. In other words, for every cocktail or glass of wine that you have, try nursing at least three glasses of water. This will keep you hydrated and will also keep you from having that one cocktail too many. The cocktails during the holiday season add up over time and, again, lead you to cursing existence on January 2nd.
5. Team up with a friend or two and make healthy plans for the holidays. This can be as simple as checking in with each other for support to arranging your own healthy holiday party.
The holidays are a time for celebration and reflection, for enjoying the company of friends and loved ones. You should enjoy yourself to the utmost. And, with a little preparation, you’ll get the most out of the holiday season and hit the New Year running!
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Michael@fitnessgurunyc.com.