How to Balance Fitness & Fun During the Holidays
No, you’re not going to lose all of your hard-earned progress in the gym if you take a week or two off to travel, see family, and eat holiday treats. But for many people, slipping out of their fitness routine for a while makes it easier to do it again and again. This can become a downward spiral of your good health habits.
On the flip side, staying too strict and forfeiting holiday fun can feel lonely. How do you strike a balance between nurturing your social ties and wanting to workout on Christmas?
So what do athletes do? How do the people who make fitness a part of their identity handle the holiday chaos? Keep these tips in mind when the season starts to creep in on your routine.
Holiday Burnout is Real
Living in modern society comes with the pains and pleasures of the holiday season. There’s such a huge variety of life experiences that come along with the end-of-the-year chaos.
Juggling company parties, traveling between families, disagreements at the dinner table, interrogations about your private life from that one grandma, overspending on gifts, enduring old traditions, making new ones, missing family members…
The pressure to *enjoy everything* is enough to make anyone want to stress-eat an entire pie.
And what about the awesome progress you’ve been making in the gym recently? You’ve stuck to your training, you’re feeling decently strong — chances are you’re in one of two camp:
- You’re ready to justify over-indulging as a reward for your hard work, consequences be damned.
- You struggle to enjoy those holiday treats without feeling guilty, so you reject as much seasonal fun as possible in favor of your gym habits.
“Falling off the wagon” or “obsessed is how the lazy describe the dedicated.”
So, how can you still enjoy life with the least amount of disruption to your training? If you’ve currently got a solid routine, what easy strategies will net minimal impact to your gains?
If you need a few tidbits of advice to balance your holiday life with your fitness routine, the TrainHeroic blog team is here for you.
First: What Are Your Goals?
It helps to identify your “why” for training. Are you aiming to compete relatively soon? Have you struggled with self control in the past and need to lose weight? Are your goals more about longevity and feeling good in your body?
It also helps to be honest with yourself when it comes to your default lifestyle habits. Which do you struggle with more: being flexible with your friends/family or sticking to your routine?
These ideas really come into play for #7 in our curated list below.
The Athlete’s Top Tips for Balancing Fitness & Fun
1. Program a Deload
The simplest way to maximize your schedule is to actually fit your training around your life instead of your life around your training. If you’re writing your own programming, make the last couple of weeks of the year (or whenever you’re likely to be in the thick of traveling) deload weeks. Scheduling your down time at this point in your training cycle can make it easier for you to enjoy the time off.
2. Watch Your Stress
Protecting your mental health around family can be tricky, but stress is the number one factor that detracts from the lighthearted fun of the holidays. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when it makes sense. If you’ve seen or are seeing a therapist, use the methods they give you for handling stressful conversations with family members. Prioritize your wellbeing while maintaining your compassion for the rest of your tribe. Get good sleep. Hydrate. Spend some time outside. Take your meds.
3. Mobilize Anywhere (Stretch in the Airport)
Bring at least one mobility tool with you when you travel. Lacrosse balls are a good choice since they’re small. But if you have a mini massage gun, floss bands, or other portable tools available, shove them in your carryon and use them! Set a timer for two minutes while waiting to board and do couch stretches on the seats by your gate. Who cares what other airport goers think? You’ll never see them again. Best case, you’ll inspire some of them to stretch too.
PS. Check out our huge mobility guide for ideas on staying pain-free and mobile for life.
4. Do Fitness For Fun
Never underestimate a low-commitment/low-expectation active recovery workout. In the spirit of “something is better than nothing,” hit the hotel gym and see what you can make up based on the random equipment they have. Do a session with ONLY your favorite lifts or play around on a machine you never try. Use that “me time” to take a break from the craziness. Remember: a spirited snowball fight totally counts for active cardio.
5. Use Bodyweight Workouts
Being able to adapt to the environment you find yourself in is incredibly useful and important for your training (and life in general). If COVID shut downs taught us anything, it’s that you don’t actually need any equipment to get a workout in. Keep a rotating list of bodyweight movements and mix them up when you need something quick. When in doubt, try something like this:
50 air squats
30 push ups
20 sit ups
Or even simpler: 300 push ups for time (holy chest pump)
6. Exercise Portion Control
Christmas cookies and special chocolates might be the best part of the holidays. The variety of holiday treats only comes around once a year, so it’s easy to get excited and over-indulge especially if you have “food-pushers” in your family. It’s ok to politely decline treats; you’re an adult and no one can guilt you into eating something you don’t want. If on the other hand, you have trouble controlling yourself around the treats, practice portion control. When in doubt, use the palm of your hand to determine portion sizes.
Check out this awesome blog for more nutrition tips centered around seasonal eating:
Basic Blood Sugar Management for Those Hefty Holiday Meals
7. Check Your Perspective
This one is for the highly-motivated, training-obsessed gym rats who are most likely to be the only ones working out on Christmas Eve-Eve. The gym is basically empty and the staff are counting down the hours until they can leave. We admire your commitment, but we’ve also been in that lonely place. Consider checking in on the “social” bucket of your life. Are you missing out on some important bonding moments with your family by shunning the indulgent holiday traditions? Those important people won’t be around forever.
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