How to Incorporate Activity into Your Holiday Routine

by Sam Kramer, MS, RD, CSSGB, LDN, CISSN

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. We spend quality time with loved ones enjoying delicious meals and merriment. Food is typically at the center of this season and it can be a time of indulgence. While one decadent meal or dessert will not ruin all the hard work from your exercise routine, it is important to stay active during the holidays and during the winter months in general when our desire to hibernate kicks in! Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you stay active during the holidays:

Set a goal and challenge yourself.

Last year, I set a goal to run a half marathon over the Thanksgiving weekend. I felt a need for a new routine as I had just relocated from South Florida to Ohio. It had been a few years since I had seen temperatures below 55 degrees (much less snow!) so I needed a way to jumpstart some new routines for winter. I’m a competitive rower and my on-the-water season had ended. I decided to try something new to get my body acclimated to the weather and also to mentally push myself and set an unwavering tone that winter would not deter me from my enjoyment of exercise! Admittedly, I tend to embrace the “pain cave” as I like to call it, but I know that suffering a bit is only a temporary state. I find that my sense of accomplishment is much more gratifying than not doing anything at all. By setting this challenge, I was able to reset my mind and prepare for something in the near future, and that motivation made me feel empowered. My goal was to break 2 hours since I had never run an official half marathon before and I hadn’t given myself a lot of time to train. When race day came I was ready to go, but I ran in terrible conditions. It was 39 degrees, raining the entire time, my glasses were fogged up, and I couldn’t feel my feet the entire time! But I ended up with a 1:43:56 (7:56/mi) time and now I want to do more of them. Please note, I do not recommend jumping into a half marathon if you are not well trained. It was relatively easy for me to switch to running because of my rowing experience, but if you are new to exercise, please train smart, start small and build-up to bigger goals. Challenging yourself too do something new should also be accomplishable and enjoyable so that you want to stick to the routine.

Treat holidays like any other day.

While holidays are a special time, in terms of staying active, I treat them like any other day. By keeping my routine, I can focus on the physical task at hand and mentally escape into my little world for an hour or two. I set the intention to beat a goal or finish a workout as if it is any other day of the year. I find physical activity to be a great stress reliever from normal life, and that can go a long way on holidays, too.

Hold yourself and others accountable.

The only person you must answer to is yourself. In theory, no one is going to make you get up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym before work except you. It’s a classic case of “mind over matter.” Personally, I tell myself that once I get moving, I won’t feel tired anymore. I also tell myself that I’ve had tougher experiences in my life, so if I can do that then I can do this. Establishing this type of “baseline” for motivation can be immensely helpful. To keep motivation top of mind, try writing out your tasks and goals on post-its and stick them where you can see them. If you’re a more social being, doing things in pairs/teams/groups can help you achieve individual goals. Holding each other accountable and creating communities and sharing experiences can be valuable for your journey. That’s why I love rowing. We are eight guys in a boat working our hardest to individually succeed, but we’re also working together to be in-sync with our timing, oar heights, speed and power. We are only as strong as our weakest rower, so we must be synergistic to achieve our common goal.

I hope my experiences and tips help you to achieve your goals. With New Year’s resolutions right around the corner, use that platform to jumpstart behavior change that is sustainable and enjoyable!

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