The holiday season is in full swing and the final countdown to Christmas has begun! One thing none of us have a lot of is time. Unfortunately, one of the first things that can go by the wayside is our workout calendar. We’re so busy finding the perfect gifts to give to others, accepting invitations and maybe even preparing our own homes to be the center of the festivities. It’s difficult to make ourselves a priority when we’re swamped, but you know what? You’re worth it. Here are 10 reasons to make sure you don’t neglect yourself and your fitness routine during the holidays:
- Great Stress Relief: No matter how much you love the holidays (and I do), they can be pretty stressful. It’s inevitable. One of the best benefits of exercise is that it’s a natural stress reliever. Exercise releases endorphins in your brain which act as a sort of “happy drug.” It doesn’t matter what activity you’re doing when you exercise. You’ll still reap this benefit.
- Get Some Me Time: The holidays are a great opportunity to spend more time with friends and family. Sometimes it even means visiting with people we don’t see any other time of the year. While all this togetherness is nice, it can also be a bit of people overload. Exercise is a great excuse reason to take a breather and have a bit of time to yourself. Hit the gym solo for a run, lifting or whatever other exercise you enjoy most. You’ll return to the marathon of festivities refreshed and better able to appreciate those around you.
- Be Energized: The holidays can be hectic and leave you feeling exhausted. Being too tired is a common reason people say they don’t exercise, but that’s actually a great reason TO exercise. Working out can give your energy level a fantastic kickstart. Unlike relying on caffeine (hello, Starbucks triple-shot latte) or eating sugar to keep yourself going, using exercise to boost your energy won’t result in that miserable mid-afternoon crash. A good sweat session will give you the energy you need to keep up with your busy schedule. Plus, you’re likely to sleep better when you do hit the hay. NOTE: It’s not recommended that you exercise right before bed. That can actually keep you awake.
- Make Good Choices: Food temptations are everywhere during the holidays. It’s impossible to avoid them unless you hole up in a cave for about 2 months. Exercise can help you face these food challenges head on. I always feel so powerful after a workout and have a renewed passion for my healthy lifestyle. This carries over into my eating. When I’m consistent with my workouts, it’s easier to remember the connection between what I put in my mouth and how it affects my body. This puts all of those temptations into perspective. “I’m working so hard at the gym to take care of my body. Do I really want to eat that?” Sometimes the answer is yes, but more often I’m able to walk away from the unhealthy stuff. Being fully aware of what you’re eating can also help you stay in control of your portion sizes for those foods you do decide to eat.
- Stick with Your Routine: Letting your workout routine go by the wayside during the holidays can make it easier to slack later. Scheduling may make it impossible to stick with your regular routine note for note. Map out your holiday plans 0n a calendar and form a workout schedule around the events you’re scheduled to attend. Then, stick to it! This will make it much easier to get back to your regular routine once the holiday festivities are over.
- Be Guilt-Free: There’s nothing wrong with giving in to some of those food temptations during the holidays. After all, there are many homemade treats offered this time of year that people don’t make at any other time of the year. If you deprive yourself entirely, you’re likely to feel deprived and fall take a flying leap off the wagon. As long as you keep a healthy level of indulgence, you don’t have to feel guilty. Exercise can help ease your mind about eating a few goodies. I am NOT saying that exercise is an excuse to eat with abandon or that you should think of food as a reward for working out. Keep those general rules of healthy eating in your mind and practice moderation.
- Test Drive New Get-Fit Gadgets: If your family & friends are aware of your quest for a healthy lifestyle, there’s a good chance you’ll be getting some kind of fitness-related gift this holiday. Don’t pretend you’re not dying to use it the minute the you unwrap that special something! Whether it’s a new workout outfit, new kicks, a heart rate monitor, a pedometer, a workout DVD or any other exercise enhancer, take it for a test drive! The newness may help your motivation to workout and it’s also just plain fun to use our new toys.
- Mood Booster: For most people, the holidays are an enjoyable time. As I mentioned above, they can still be stressful. We’re expected to keep a smile on our face through weeks of parties, gatherings, shopping and other festivities. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. We’re tired, we’re stressed (see above) and some of us are dealing with challenging people and awkward situations. It’s easy to become irritable and grouchy. Since we tend to take out our frustration on those closest to us, this can lead to snapping at those we love which we inevitably regret later. Exercise can actually make you a more enjoyable person to be around during the holidays and beyond. Your family and friends will appreciate and enjoy their interactions with you more after you’ve had a good sweat fest.
- Be A Good Example: As I mentioned above, we’re typically surrounded by loved ones during the holidays. Some of those loved ones may already be struggling to lose or maintain a healthy weight. While the holidays are probably not a good time for you to lecture your friends & family about diet and exercise, there is one very powerful tool you can use to encourage them: yourself. Watching you stay committed to your healthy lifestyle during the holidays may be all it takes for someone to decide to take that first step toward getting healthier. It can also encourage those who are already on the path to stick with their own workout routine.
- It’s Just Plain Good For You: We’ve all heard the physical benefits of exercise over and over again. Besides helping us lose weight (or maintain a healthy weight), exercise also help prevent chronic disease, lower blood pressure, strengthensour bones, tone muscles, lower our heart rate, lower cholesterol, ruduce the risk for breast & colon cancer, and much more. Those benefits don’t take a holiday, even if you do. Exercise is good for your body. Period.
What’s your workout plan for the holidays?