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Local man trying to stay in shape during the holidays

Tips for Staying in Shape During the Holidays

You’re on a roll throughout the year. You eat healthy. You go to the gym regularly. You take care of yourself. You have a routine, and it works.

And then, around November, things start to fall apart. The holidays are here, and they’re bringing far more than pumpkin spice and peppermint lattes. All of a sudden, everywhere you go, you’re faced with temptation. You head home for Thanksgiving to face all your family favorites. You go to work and find the break room filled with goodies. You’re out for drinks or parties every other night, and all the extra obligations keep you away from the gym.

Don’t fret. Start by acknowledging that your healthy eating and fitness routines are going to be disrupted — and try out these tips to stay fit and keep on track during the holiday season.

1. Keep Moving

The more you move, the more calories you burn. This is especially important to remember if you can’t make it to the gym (or if weather is keeping you away from your daily run). Look for little ways to add extra movement to each day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the far end of every parking lot. Do some shopping at the mall rather than buying all your holiday presents online. Step up to help wash the post-feast dishes or to run errands for family members.

You can even set your phone to remind you when you’ve been sitting too long. If you’re lounging around to watch sports on TV, get up every commercial and do a few lunges or squats. Every bit of movement you can add to your holiday non-routine will help you stay healthy and fit through this tempting season.

2. Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to keep fit during the holidays is to go into each event with a game plan. What are you going to do when a co-worker brings in a zillion Christmas cookies and insists you try each kind? How much do you plan to drink (or eat) at each of the three parties you have lined up this weekend? It’s fine to indulge in a treat or two when you’re at a special event, but if you fill your fridge with indulgences, you’re likely to regret it come the new year.

Whenever you can find out ahead of time what food is being served, you’re headed in the right direction. That’s easier to do, of course, with family events, where you know that Aunt Tammy’s mac and cheese is worth every bite. It’s also helpful to prepare in advance by quickly studying the calories of the treats you can expect to be served. For example, you may like pecan pie — but you may not want to waste 500 calories on a single slice. (After all, just one slice per day, and you’ve gained a full pound by the end of the week). Think about having just a bite or two — so you can devote the rest of those calories to, say, spiked eggnog or something you truly love.

3. Set the Bar Low

Don’t try to lose weight or hit new fitness goals during the holidays. The “all or nothing” mindset that may fuel your fitness routine during the rest of the year simply isn’t going to fly in December. This is a time for enjoyment — and for maintenance. If you don’t slide backward along any of the metrics you care about, you’ve won the season. Instead, use your skills in planning ahead to balance health and pleasure. Just having a plan in place will help you be mindful of what you’re eating and how you’re moving, and it will help you to avoid bad habits (double dessert every night, say) so you can get back into your regular routine quickly on January 2.

The attitude of setting a low bar can help you as well when you do have time to get in a workout. Don’t feel you have to find that full hour you devote to fitness during the rest of the year. Ten minutes working out with kettlebells or a quick 1-mile jog will remind your muscles what they’re meant for and keep your mindset healthy as well.

4. Stay Fit on the Road

If you’re going to be traveling during the holidays, make sure your hotel has a gym where you can get in a quick workout. Staying with family? You may want to call local gyms to see if they might offer you an ultra short-term membership that lets you keep to your routine.

If you’re driving to your holiday destination, pack a gym bag filled with resistance bands and other lightweight equipment — as well as shoes and workout gear so you’re ready to squeeze in a quick workout whenever you have the opportunity. If you’re a runner, take advantage of the opportunity to explore new neighborhoods (bundling up appropriately for the weather, of course), and check out all the holiday decorations as you run, or look for a local fun run. And don’t forget all the healthy fitness opportunities available to you if you’re headed for snow. If you’re staying with your extended family, that could include sledding with your nieces and nephews or even a good, old-fashioned snowball fight.

5. Stay Hydrated

Your body needs adequate water to stay healthy — and the holidays can wreak havoc on your normal hydration routine. While you’re off partying, hanging with friends to watch the game, or dining with family, you may end up drinking sodas or alcohol that make you veer away from water. Water helps cushion your joints, it keeps your whole system in balance, and it can keep your stomach full as well. When the weather turns nippy, head for green tea or peppermint tea to warm up instead of more caloric hot chocolate — and keep a glass of sparkling water in your hand at parties so you’re less tempted by that holiday cheesecake.

6. Get Some Sleep

It’s easy to think of nighttime as the time when you’re not doing anything to promote your fitness, but actually sleep is essential to your health and well-being. Stick to your normal sleep schedule as much as possible, especially if you’ll be crossing time zones as you travel. Sleeping in an unfamiliar room, whether it’s your childhood bedroom or a hotel room, can make sleep difficult, so do what you can to maintain healthy sleep hygiene. Turn off all screens an hour before bed (yes, even your phone), or put them on Night Shift or another yellow-light alternative. Stop caffeine before dinner, and keep your room as dark as possible. Ear plugs and a sleep mask can make a difference if your new environment comes with unfamiliar noise or light.

7. Find Time to De-Stress

Stress puts pressure on every part of your body. It makes you crave caloric comfort foods, wrecks your sleep, and encourages you to be sedentary rather than active. And let’s be honest here: the holidays are packed with stress. Whether you’re worried about finding the right gift for that special someone, dreading having to spend time with some of your less pleasant relatives, or just fretting over the expenses associated with the holidays, you’re likely to feel extra stress at this time of year.

Taking time for a little self-care can be crucial. Breathe and let things go a couple of times a day, and get away from all those people putting demands on you for a short time. Here’s the good news: your workout or run is a great way to find some “me” time to protect your sanity and your physical health.

8. Pair Up With a Workout Buddy

Accountability is always a good idea when it comes to maintaining your fitness routine — and during the holidays, it can be a make-or-break element. Even if you prefer to exercise alone, finding a buddy can keep you to your schedule, even if it’s an abbreviated one. Having someone waiting for you to get to the gym or ready to run a few miles alongside you can help you keep your promise to yourself.

Consider setting a challenge for your workout buddy — if you miss a workout, you have to pay the other person a small sum of cash. And don’t overlook those nieces and nephews — you won’t get your normal workout if you spend time playing with them or go for a run pushing a jogging stroller, but you might have the time of your life.

9. Limit Your Alcohol Intake

From wassail to eggnog to some festive Champagne on New Year’s Eve, the holidays sometimes seem like a never-ending open bar. As fun as that can be, there’s a lot of wisdom in the idea of drinking in moderation. For one thing, alcohol brings calories that have no nutritional value — and if you’re drinking things like spiked eggnog, those calories can be significant. In addition, alcohol notoriously lowers your inhibitions, making you more likely to overindulge. And if you’ve had too much to drink, getting up for that early morning run is going to feel even harder.

10. Wear a Fitness Tracker

If you already wear a FitBit, Apple Watch or other fitness tracker, you know how much it can motivate you to increase your movement. Keep it going (or buy one as a holiday present to yourself) during your holiday break. You can use it to track your steps, your calories, and your heart rate — and it’ll even make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep. Wearing a fitness tracker also helps you see how much you’re moving while you’re running those errands and parking far from your destination. When you see how much effort you’re putting into movement and exercise each day, you’re encouraged to keep the good work going.

11. Switch Up Your Workout

If your routine is going to be disturbed anyway, now’s a great time to switch things up and try some things you don’t normally do. Maybe you’ll head to a local yoga class, or you might choose to run outdoors in the crisp winter air rather than logging miles on a treadmill. If you don’t have time for your standard long workouts during the holidays, try some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to work up a sweat and crush some calories. If you’re the guy who separates your workout into body parts, heading to the gym for leg day or arm day, now’s the time to ditch that part of your routine and opt instead for exercises that work multiple body parts at once. Think about setting a goal that you’ll accomplish by January, when you’ll return to your normal routine.

Health and Fitness Through the Holidays With Boston Vitality

At Boston Vitality, we are committed to the wholeness and health of men in Massachusetts. When you’re in need of hormone replacement therapy, peptide therapy, or other help with men’s issues, we are ready to stand by your side and help you find exactly the right treatment. Reach out to us before the holidays or in the new year to get the support and help you want to drive you to a new level of vitality and well-being.

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