The holidays pose a challenging time for people who are trying to be healthier. Everyone seems to want to throw in the towel on health and fitness, and then try to pick it up again in the new year. And anyone who has done this will tell you it's a lot harder to get that towel off the floor with a 10 extra pounds around your midsection.
So don't wait until after the holidays to get into shape: get in shape - and stay in shape - during the holidays. Impossible, you say? Far from it. The holidays are actually one of the ideal times to get in shape.
Here's why - and how - you're going to do it.
1) Take Advantage of the Dead Zone
Ever try to get onto a treadmill or use the bench press at the gym the first few weeks of January? Yeah, you're going to get most of your workout fighting your way to the equipment you need. Swarms of people looking to make good on their fitness resolutions clog up the gym at the beginning of the year, so it's not exactly the best time to try to form a solid relationship with your new regime.
Instead, get cosy with your new training in December, when everyone is taking time off to eat and drink their fill. The gyms and studios are relatively dead in the weeks preceding Christmas and New Year, so you can work yourself into your routine in comparative solitude. By the time all the trepidacious newbies flock to the gym in January, you'll already be feeling secure and seeing the results of your hard work.
2) Think Ahead
Let's state the obvious: there's a lot of temptation around the holidays. Let's state something seemingly less obvious: just because it's there, doesn't mean you have to give in to it. Your best defense against temptation is going to be a solid offense. In other words: think ahead.
If you know you have a party that night, replete with food and drink, prepare yourself for it. Most people won't eat all day (or for most of the day) so they can gorge at night. All this usually means is they end up eating three times what they usually would have if they had simply eaten reasonably and healthfully during the day. Sure, little indulgences are going to happen, but prevent a total pig-out by eating well before a party. This will stop you from chugging champagne with the fervour of a frat boy or eating your bodyweight in cheesecake balls.
3) Be Mindful
Mindful eating is a great way to drastically reduce your calorie consumption. All it involves is thinking before you eat. Don't just stuff that puffed pastry in your mouth as soon as you see it: think about it. Think about what else you have eaten that day. Think about how you will feel after you eat it. Will eating it move you closer to or further away from your goals?
Yes, most of the time it is going to lead you further away, but if you have had a long streak of working out regularly and eating well, treating yourself in moderation won't derail your fitness train. So practice mindfulness: look before you leap, and think before you eat.
4) Re-Invent the Party
We all want to see our friends and family during the holidays, but who says it always has to be to stuff our gobs and drink our faces off? Rather than meeting with food and drinks as the focal point of the event, why not make an activity the centre of attention? Go skating. Sledding. Plan a hike, run, snowshoe, or cycle - depending on your company as well as where you live. By all means, enjoy some refreshments before or after or during the party, but being together is the main reason for the season. Sitting around and getting stuffed like a turkey or drunk as a skunk isn't a prerequisite - especially if you're trying to get in shape.
5) A Gift to You, From You
Cool and comfortable gym gear will be a cornerstone of any successful foray into fitness. Gear pictured is from The Upside men's wear collection.
Get yourself pumped to pump iron by gifting yourself some killer new workout clothes. Nothing will make you feel more motivated to workout than looking amazing. You may love your college sweatpants and bleach-stained Spiderman t-shirt, but they probably won't incite the same sort of triumphant energy as some seriously sweet workout duds.
There you have it! Five simple steps to keep you on track to getting in - and staying in - shape over the holiday season. Happy training!