Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Staying Motivated Over the Holidays

We all know what happens in December. The weather turns colder, daylight decreases to an all-time low, work commitments lessen while socializing increases, and it's very easy to fall off the fitness bandwagon. We all joke about holiday eating, how we're likely to need our stretchy pants, and of course, how right after Christmas we plan to hit the gym harder and/or set a new year resolution to lose the holiday weight.

In my opinion, it doesn't have to be exactly like that. December can definitely be a break from serious training, but it doesn't have to be a break from feeling good physically. If you maintain healthy habits in December, you're ready to hit the ground running in January to conquer those fitness goals you have. For me, getting active this December started a bit late after 3 weeks off completely due to my hip injury. But now that I'm back, it's been that much more important that I make fitness a priority, so I could get back to feeling like me, be energetic and able to be social over the holidays, and be ready for January and my plans to train for my 2014 races.

Here are my tips for staying motivated during the holidays. Perhaps I'm writing them a little late, but with Christmas dinners around the corner, and still a week away before New Year's resolutions are written, perhaps this is still relevant to you.

Schedule your workouts in advance
With December being a month of "active rest" for me, I have deviated from my usual Sun-Sat training schedule with long runs always being on Sundays, interval Tuesdays, weight-training Wednesdays, tempo Thursdays, etc. But even though I'm not following a strict regime, I'm scheduling workouts in to make sure staying active is actually happening. I'm just not freaking out about the quantity of runs versus weight training versus other activities. As long as I see there's a good amount of activity planned each week, I know I'm being good to my body. It helps if they are scheduled, in my calendar, and respected in the same way as social engagements. It's quality "me-time" and something not to neglect during a time where smiling and being the best version of myself for my loved ones is important.

Make it social

You're not following a strict personal workout regime, you need to schedule workouts, and the holidays are all about socializing, so why not combine them all together and make your workouts social. In planning your week's workouts, reach out to a friend to see if they want to join you, or find out what they have planned and ask if you can tag along. Working out with a friend or a group is a great way to catch up with one another and try something new. This month I've had the joy of running new routes, running with people I've never run with before and getting to know them, trying out new strength training circuits, and it's all been an absolute blast. I've been pushed in new ways, I've also pushed my workout partners, and I've not stressed about what distances I'm running or if it meets the requirements of a strict training calendar.

Wake up early and go early
For many, over the holidays work commitments lessen, and it would be very easy to have lazy mornings before busy days of shopping and socializing. When I'm scheduling my workouts, I remember that waking up early before was never an issue, so doing so now to make sure I get my workout in and start my day off right, is the way to do it.

The portable gym
You may be too busy to get to the gym or you're traveling over the holidays and don't have access to equipment. Putting aside a half hour for a body weight workout is a very good option. It's often easier to do this than plan runs while traveling: some winter climates aren't conducive to running outdoors, there aren't always available daylight hours when you have time, or you might not know where you're going. For a great workout, as all you need are your runners and some room indoors. Pump some tunes if you can. Do sets of pushups, burpees, jump squats, lunges, crunches, leg lifts, planks, etc., and boom, you have yourself a great workout.

Make it fun
Yes, a great way to make a workout fun is by doing so with a friend (as I've mentioned above), but it's important to make solo workouts fun too. For me, this has meant ditching the Garmin on my runs. I have a basic idea of how far I'm going, but without technology, I don't have any clue about how fast I'm going or how long it's taking me. I'm running because I love the sport and it feels good, not because I have to run a specific pace or distance to meet a training plan. I never run with music, but if you are one who does, consider swapping your playlist for some holiday tunes to get you in the spirit.

Moderation, not guilt
'Tis the season of baked goods, chocolate, restaurant meals, fine wines, and dinner parties. I am frankly tired of some health writers vilifying foods and saying you should "stay strong" not consume certain foods at all because of the type of flour it's made with or because of the sugar content, etc. This is where moderation comes in. Don't feel you have to be the one who says 'no' to everything your gourmet baker aunt has worked tirelessly to prepare for you. Having one cookie isn't going to break you. You can be polite and enjoy without indulging. Choose carefully, and enjoy every bite to their fullest so a small portion satisfies you. I take account for what I've eaten or plan to eat, not by counting calories exactly, but by recognizing that there will be some meals I have less control over. When I am the one in control, I plan to eat clean and leave home satisfied, so I don't over indulge at meals out. When I'm not in control of what I'm eating, I make myself very aware of how big my portions are. And it's hard to do this, but I do what I can to not feel guilty about enjoying my small treat. Enjoying food with loved ones is a big part of the holidays, and you don't need to feel like your goals have gone out of the window for partaking. Food is enjoyable for a reason, so enjoy it. Just don't overdo it.

For me, getting up early when it's cold outside and the warmth of my bed covers compel me is much easier when I keep in mind why I'm doing this. I work out because I enjoy it. I work out because I always feel better after I've completed a workout. I work out because I'm a priority. I work out because focusing on health allows me to be better in all aspects of my life. Why would I stop making this a priority just because it's harder to fit it in?

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