Health & Fitness

The 5 Easiest Ways to Stay Fit Over the Holidays

The Holidays are busy times. Shopping for gifts, attending parties, and traveling to visit family often take priority over your own needs. With chestnuts roasting on an open fire and the smell of baked goods in the air, it’s easy to overlook the simple fact that skimping on exercise now will extract a hefty toll in the new year.

Holiday Exercise
Check Resistance Off  Your List

Everywhere we look we are bombarded with articles on avoiding holiday weight gain and how to indulge sensibly. It’s all relevant, practical and helpful information. But will you really follow the advice given? Probably not. Why? Because of your own mental resistance. Mental resistance is the number one obstacle in your way this season – not that plate of cookies.  It’s simply easier not to work out. It’s simply easier to indulge. It’s simply easier to say, “I’ll wait until January”. But why let your resistance win? In the end, you are the one that pays the ultimate price. Every year, a few pounds creep on. And every year, those same pounds are not lost.

The Ultimate Gift

While you may not be able to stop all the Holiday eating, you can still stick to your workouts. It may seem daunting and pointless to try to exercise now, but it’s really not. In addition to building muscle, burning fat and keeping your heart and joints healthy, exercise provides a very valuable benefit: Keeping you sane. And sanity, in and of itself, is the most priceless gift this time of year.

15 Minutes to Save Yourself

If you don’t have time to hit the gym, exercise at home, in your hotel room, or at your parents’ house. Use express workouts to get the most out of your limited time. 15 minutes is very doable and you will feel and look better for it. Think you don’t have time? Do it in front of the television. Or when you first get out of bed. Really. It’s very easy to fit in.

Time-Crunch Secrets

Need more motivation? Here are 5 easy ways to blast fat while indulging in Holiday fun:

(Photo: ACE)

Single Leg Push Up (Photo: ACE)

1. Move that Body (Weight). Forget machines and weights this time of year. Use your own body weight for a fast, full workout. Push ups are amazing at toning the entire upper body. Lunges and squats shape the legs and rear. Planks, mountain climbers and bicycle crunches define your stomach and strengthen your back. If you have a stability ball that’s even better. The number of challenging exercises that can be performed with the ball are nearly limitless and keep your workouts far from boring. For a free and comprehensive library of exercises with body weight and props, visit the American Council on Exercise (ACE) web site.

2. Quality, not quantity. When pressed for time, the best way to see results is to work short but hard, with good form and quality exercises. Don’t waste valuable time this season with isolated bicep curls and side leg lifts. Elevate that heart rate while training your muscles (jump squats are a perfect example, or step ups on a sturdy step stool). Force a few extra reps during push ups. Hold your position at the bottom of a squat.

3. Keep in motion. Move from exercise to exercise with no rest in between. Design a circuit that flows from one exercise to another and cycle through it twice. Squats. Steps ups. Planks. Mountain climbers. Push ups. Bicycle crunches. Side planks. Jump squats. Dips. Done. Shop.


(Photo: ACE)

TRX in Use (Photo: ACE)

4. Bring portable equipment with you when traveling. The best pieces of lightweight exercise equipment are exercise tubing and the TRX Suspension Trainer. Rubber resistance is versatile, inexpensive and very challenging. Purchase some exercise tubing with handles and a rubber “figure 8” for an intense muscle toning, fat burning session. Or invest in the TRX Suspension Trainer, where every part of your body is worked with a small wonder that fits nicely in your luggage. This full body workout strap system used by athletes and military personnel anchors  easily in doorways, trees, or an overhead bar.

5. Go intervals. Intervals are hard and burn a lot of calories. It’s easy to design body weight intervals (exercise harder until heart rate elevates then flow to an easier, more targeted exercise.) Add some plyometrics (run in place, jump over a small object, perform jumping jacks). Or take it outside for some sprints during your walk. It’s a fast and effective way to stay fit with minimal time investment.

Don’t forget – resistance training offers a higher “after burn”, so you continue to burn calories long after you stop your workout sessions. Squeeze in bits of exercise here and there…and face the New Year with fewer resolutions.

Helen M. Ryan is an ACE-certified trainer, certified Spinning® instructor, Pilates instructor, author and speaker. She specializes in helping people fit weight loss and exercise into their busy lives. Read Helen’s story or download her free LA’s the Place Fit Life e-book.

About the author

Helen M. Ryan