Photo credit peterastn
A reader suggested I write about staying focused over Christmas. It’s a great idea and so I shall.
At this time of year there will doubtless be many magazine articles suggesting ways in which you can navigate the demands of the festive season, ‘survive’ the office Christmas party and all that nonsense.
My take is different: I say sod all that, why should Christmas be any different from the rest of the year?
It’s basically a big, fat excuse to be lazy about your health because you’ve got more shopping to do than normal. If you see Christmas as an opportunity to let it all hang out, you probably need to re-examine your motivations for better health and fitness.
Dan John tells a harsh story about a woman who was on a diet and in the last few days of her diet she said she was looking through cookbooks, presumably planning all the indulgent meals she was going to have once her diet was finished. As Dan says, “she failed”. Because what’s going to happen the day after she ‘finishes’ her diet? Or the month after? Or six months later?
If you’re looking forward to Christmas as a time to eat, drink and be merry excessively before knee-jerking into detox mode in January, then you’ve failed.
The ideal situation is to evolve a diet and training regime that can take the odd indulgent meal or party in its stride, and cope with the demands of family life, especially around holiday times. If you really can’t keep strictly to your usual routine – and I realise we all have people in our lives who simply don’t get this concept – then here are some things to think about:
Short, sharp workouts
Have some short, intense workouts ready that can be done in 10 or 15 minutes a day. If you can’t find 10 or 15 minutes a few times a week, you’re just not trying hard enough.
Burpees with a push up really get my heart rate going, so any routine incorporating burpees works a treat. Mix them up with push ups, air squats, swings with a kettlebell or dumbbell if you have them, some kind of overhead press and you’ve got a great circuit. Do 15-20 of each as many times as you can in 10 minutes. Or make up your own combination.
More workouts from gubernatrix:
You don’t have to have a kettlebell or a dumbbell. An overhead press with a bag of compost or something else from the shed (nothing sharp, people!) works just fine. Go crazy and make it a clean and press. Then add in some windmills or turkish get ups – which again can be done with many different implements if you haven’t asked Santa for a kettlebell this year.
I’m not about to preach to anyone about alcohol but if you are serious about your health, diet and training, you gotta keep a lid on the drinking. Really. There’s no way around it. Drinking is detrimental to athletic performance, fat loss, muscle building, recovery – you name it.
It’s your choice how many times you drink but Christmas should not be an excuse for guzzling more alcohol than you do the rest of the year. I meet plenty of people who say that they are ‘not prepared to give up’ their drinking, or most of it. That’s fine, but they will find it much more difficult to achieve their health and fitness goals than those who do.
I always go for a run on Christmas day before lunch. Not because I’m a huge running fan but because getting out in the fresh air on a national holiday is just nice. People smile more, the kids are excited. It freshens you up before lunch. If you can’t get out on Christmas day, Boxing day is always a good option. It’s generally the day when everyone gets up off their arses and goes out with the family, so make it an active one!
Start healthy Christmas traditions
My Christmas day workout/run has been a part of my Christmas tradition for a few years now and when I have kids, this will be part of our family tradition too.
It could also be a great way to keep the kids entertained after they have broken all their new toys. ‘Honey can you bench press the kids while I’m putting the roast on?’
In the UK countless families have evolved a ‘tradition’ of huge, belt-popping meal, followed by falling asleep in front of the Queen’s speech, followed by heading to the pub if they haven’t already passed out. Don’t let this be you!
Have a goal for the festive season
It’s easy to let goals lapse over the festive season. We tend, sometimes subconsciously, to plan for December to be something of a black hole where normal routines are concerned, knowing that we can ‘start again’ in January.
Be different this year. Have a plan that starts now and takes you right through the festive season. This will keep you on track better than that nagging voice telling you that you need to do ‘something’ to stave off disaster.
Have a goal for mid January, whether its fat loss or skill based or an increase in your lifts. You can achieve a lot in a month.
A goal to be ready for your goals?
If you’ve let things slide recently, how about having an interim goal to be in shape for purusing your longer term goals?
So instead of starting off your new programme in January feeling fat and unfit, start it feeling reasonably good and ready for more. If you want to drop fat next year, perhaps have an interim goal to maintain over the Christmas period. If you want to improve your lifts, have an interim goal to work on some of your weaknesses in preparation. If you don’t want to push the heavy weights, use these few weeks to learn/improve a skill – the olympic lifts or leverage clubs perhaps.
I’m planning something along these lines myself. I’m refining my diet to get it in shape for the new year (I find it’s useful to ‘practise’ a new diet before getting into it properly), I’m getting in some practise on key skills that I want to develop in 2010 and getting outside for some short sharp workouts. Perfect!
What are your experiences of getting through the festive season unscathed?
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