It's that time of year again—the cold weather, the friendly gatherings, the expanding waistlines, and the piles of excuses for not completing your workouts. With all the holiday parties and travel during this time of year, people's priorities tend to shift and the workout regimen seems to fall by the wayside. There are survival strategies you can employ, however, if you want to start the new year in the same body you have now. Here are a couple tips to help you avoid missing your workouts and to prepare you for the heavy consumption of food and alcohol.
- Show up, no matter what: Don't skip your training appointments. There are parties to go to and travelling to do—but you need to really prioritize, and plan ahead. Make your workouts the first thing you plan for each day, knowing that otherwise they'll fall through the cracks. If there are conflicts, try and reschedule.
- Workout early: Get your workouts done in the morning. At this time of year, your exercise so easily becomes a victim of late deadlines, cold night weather, or sudden get-togethers. Even if you're a nighttime workout guy, make a commitment to get your exercise first thing in the morning from now until the new year. That way you'll always know you're going to get your workout in—and you'll jump-start your day.
- Do the calorie math: Much holiday eating can be predicted. So, plan your meals around holiday dinners. If you know you are going to be gorging yourself on Thanksgiving, then for that week, keep your calorie count lower throughout the whole week. By conserving elsewhere (though not skipping meals) you can get your calorie count for the week somewhat close to your normal goal even if you eat a couple of large meals.
- Count all the calories: Alcohol adds a new element to the holidays. Many of us carefully monitor our intake of solid food, but treat alcohol as though it didn't count. But in fact, meal plans count alcohol not only as a grain, but also as a fat. Heavy drinking has serious consequences for your waistline. So, plan your week according to alcohol consumption. If you know you're going to be going to some heavy-duty holiday parties, limit your alcohol and your fat intake in the week before. This will help to keep your calories down as well, as to keep your fat intake around the normal level.
- Treat holidays as real days: It's tempting to become a total sloth on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. But that's not a good idea. Going for a walk or a run on the holidays will help to manage your appetite and speed up your metabolism. And, it will put you ahead of the game (not to mention getting some of the eggnog out of your system). Plan to get your exercise in early, before the family comes over for the 5,000 calorie meal.
- No food to go: As you leave a family gathering or friend's party, it's guaranteed that someone will offer you an aluminium foil packet with some leftover dessert in it. But don't take it. You already ate dessert at the table, which is fine—but do you really need any more? Leftovers spread those calories across the rest of the week, and we've already talked about conserving on the non-party days. How can you do this with plates of pie all over your kitchen? Restrict your eating of sweets to the party, and don't let those cookies darken your door.
- Food eaten at the office is still food: It's not just the calories you take on board at parties and the holiday dinner table that will set you back; and, in fact, those calories you're likely to be aware of. But you need to watch out for the stealth calories that sneak in elsewhere—particularly at work. People will bring you food as a gift at the office, or will bring in their own leftovers. When you are sitting at your desk, possibly bored and potentially stressed, you are a sitting duck for these treats. You need to be conscious of your consumption. Total denial is not necessary; you can have a piece or two of yummy office treats. But then stop yourself, or your pants will be hating you for the next several weeks.
About Mike Clausen: Clausen is the founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006. He has been actively involved in sports and weightlifting since high school, and continues to use that knowledge when training his clients. Clausen is both A.C.E. and N.A.S.M. certified and has been training clients professionally for six years. He enjoys making his clients stronger, both physically and mentally, giving them the tools to create an efficient body and to do things they thought were not possible.