"For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today." - Malcom X
The holidays are a great time to test our mental toughness since we will be out of our routine, seeing friends and family and going to parties, tempting us to eat more and train less! It's all about goals and preparation. If you fail to plan, it will be easy to fall into the go-with-the-flow trap, keeping you out of your usual routine and making it harder to get back into it in the New Year. Of course a balance to everything is key. After all, it is the holidays and you want to let loose a little bit!
Here are some tips to keep you mentally and physically strong during the holidays:
1. Make realistic goals and try something new
Training twice a week instead of your usual four times is okay and is definitely better than not going at all. We all know that once we stop heading to the gym, it is really tough to get back in there. Set a realistic goal for yourself in terms of frequency of exercising since you may not have any “time” (not a real excuse!). Try out a 20 or 30 minute HIIT workout instead of your usual program. Trying something new might help make the task more motivating, and at the same time it will leave you with a good sweat! If you don't train at all this holiday season, it will be that much harder to hit the gym in the new year, trust me.
2. Do your research and plan your workout ahead of time
If you're traveling, try and get some information about the fitness facilities and other exercise opportunities so you can PLAN AHEAD. If you don't have a program set up, let's face it - you are more likely not to go.. even if you brought your running shoes and training clothes. Here is what is going to happen: The equipment will be different than what you’re used to, you won’t know how to adapt (which may lead to frustration), and you will probably lose motivation since you have no idea what workout you can possibly do in this new environment. Plan a quick training and create a “travel workout” that includes mostly body weight and light dumbbells since gyms at hotels and resorts won't have your usual squat rack, bench press, and all that other fun stuff. Tools like a skipping rope, elastic bands, and a TRX are inexpensive and portable options that are easy to pack and use pretty much anywhere, including outside in the sun (they make excellent Christmas gifts too). You know more than you think, so create your own workout with exercises you like which will give you more motivation to follow through. The internet has an unlimited supply of program ideas.. or hit me up and we can work together to get you a workout before you leave!
3. Lace up those ice skates
If you hate the snow and cold like I do, this next tip may not be as appealing to you but it can serve as an opportunity to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. At this point you’re getting a two for one - training your body AND brain! This time of year usually gives you the chance to enjoy winter activities… which can be a great alternative to exercise if you don't feel like going to the gym or doing your regular workout routine during the holidays. Try something new - ice hockey, cross country skiing, skating.. or pop into a hot yoga studio to get your sweat on when it's minus twenty degrees outside. Bring a friend and it won’t even seem like exercise.
4. Don’t go to battle unarmed
The holidays usually mean get togethers with family and friends that involve unlimited amounts of food and alcohol. Now I am definitely not telling you to be a bird about it and only eat small little portions - this is a great time of year, enjoy the food! If you know you are going for a feast.. you can plan to eat a little less beforehand and get in those veggies leading up to your get together, since we all know we rather stuff our faces with things like desserts, meat smothered in gravy, cheeses and bread. Also - don't go into the feast super hungry! This is the worst because you'll end up eating your face off (or I do anyway). My trick is that I eat a lighter and smaller meal of vegetables and lean meat before heading off to the “famjam” knowing that I won’t waste space in my stomach over there on boring veggies, and will probably consume more fatty foods. Arming yourself with a snack helps you be in control, and you're less likely to overeat if your stomach is not screaming for food.
5. Avoid the dreaded food baby
Avoid eating until you feel like exploding. Just because it’s a “cheat day” doesn’t mean you have to abuse it - balance is key, and so are smaller portions. No one likes to feel lazy throughout the day anyway. Take your time and try and practice some mindful eating - challenge yourself to enjoy each bite (okay maybe not each bite) and notice the different flavors and textures, hopefully this will slow you down a bit. You can also try and develop some tricks like maybe finishing a few glasses of water before getting seconds... a buddy system with a friend or family member could also help with this since believe me, you will probably not be the only one struggling with this. Maybe you can even make it into a game!
6. Manage your body and your belly
If you are lucky enough to travel this time of the year, try and stay somewhere that allows you to cook your own food. Making your own meals and snacks will not only save you some cash, but it will also put you in greater control of how you are fuelling your body. Experiencing a different culture through food is definitely a must, but you don’t necessarily have to do it 3 to 5 times a day. Plan ahead by checking out which restaurants or types of food you want to try, as well as what you plan on cooking while you are away. The last thing you want to do is waste time on your vacation looking for recipes or wandering the aisles of the grocery store. On the other hand, if you are staying at an all inclusive - well that gets a little trickier. If you are anything like me and love to eat as long as there is food available and in front of your face, resorts can be a true test on mental toughness (can’t...stop...eating!). Plan your day and decide on what times you want to eat and stick to your schedule. Challenge yourself by limiting your portions and setting an alarm or some kind of reminder that will help you follow through with regular eating times since your body likes routine and consistency anyway.
7. Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach
Finally, if you're one of those last minute shoppers and still have not hit the malls for gifts yet, make sure you pack a snack and eat before. It's so easy to walk around all day and either eat at restaurants or FORGET TO EAT (blows my mind how people forget to eat). Please eat people. Your body pretty much stores fat for energy when you do not fuel it properly. Put an alarm if you have to! Eating before your shopping adventures will make the experience more enjoyable (or as enjoyable as it can be) since you won't be grumpy. You will also be less likely to stop at a fast food spot if you can just reach in your bag or pocket for a snack from home.
Back to basics
These tips were not meant to stress you out. I hope you leave here with some strategies for this holiday season, or at least some ideas to think about in order to stay mentally and physically fit. Planning and setting realistic goals will always help you manage tougher situations. Don’t be scared to step out of your comfort zone, reward yourself for your successes and efforts, but most importantly - know that it’s okay to fail; failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. Some strategies will work, and some will not, but that’s okay. It’s important to forgive yourself, appreciate the effort you put in, learn from it, and then move forward. The new year is coming up quickly and despite popular belief, you don’t have to wait until January 1st to try something new.