We are smack dab in the middle of "the holidays.*" This is the biggest time for excuses when it comes to exercising. I was talking to a friend a couple of weeks ago who is on a weight loss journey who said that her goal is to maintain or only gain a pound or two during the holidays. I told her that she is setting her sights too low and that she shouldn't expect to fail.
There are a few tips to keeping on track during this busy time.
1) Have a Goal-
It needs to be a specific goal. Stating that you will exercise during the holidays probably won't get you up in the dark or during a storm. A race goal in January or February is a great way to get motivated during the holidays. Two years ago, I had thought about running my first half marathon in January. I printed out a Higdon training plan and half-heartedly started training. Excuse after excuse kept me from running. I didn't even sign up for the race and so it was easy to let it go. Last year and this year I signed up for my January races to keep myself on track. Even simple goals like "run 20 miles per week" or "go to Pilates every Wednesday" is better than no goal at all.
2) Have a Plan-
A schedule is my way of making sure I get my mileage in. The best way to get your exercise in during busy time is to make it a planned part of the day. I know that right now if I ran when I felt like it or had time, I wouldn't do it at all. I have to get up early to do it before my kids get up and my husband goes to work.
My plan is not set in stone, however. I overslept a day last week and didn't have the time to get in a run before the activities of the day had to begin. If my schedule didn't have wiggle room, it would have sent me into a tailspin of stress. Instead I told myself I would just have to run another day. If that didn't work out, I knew that it would all work out in the end. If an exercise schedule causes stress, it is not doing the job it is meant to do.
3) Watch the Treats-
Duh, right? This seems pretty obvious. However, this time of year, holiday treats are EVERYWHERE. When you have plates of Christmas cookies from the neighbors staring you in the face and you have five million things to do, it is so easy to have a lunch of shortbread and brownies instead of a salad or a pita. Try to keep some easy meals on hand. Even a Lean Cuisine or pre-made salad** will work for a quick grab during this chaotic week.
The good news is that the more you are exercising, the more you want the healthier food (most of the time), although this time of year that gets harder and harder. I think that many diets have it backwards. They start with the food and calorie counting and add the exercise as almost an afterthought. If you focus on the exercise, you will find that you can't do it well if you are eating nothing but junk. My friend Kelly had a pretty rough run on Saturday. She realized that it was due to eating crappy all week and having several meals consisting of holiday treats. She was really bummed because that long run is the only time all week she gets to herself and she ruined it by failing to fuel properly. This week she is thinking about everything she eats and how it affects her long run, one of her favorite parts of the week.
But what about the parties? The best way to keep from pigging out at a party is to eat a small, healthy meal before going. One of the mistakes I make is not eating all day before some sort of event (because I am usually running around like a crazy person trying to find something to wear or cooking something to bring to the party). If you aren't starving, you can pick and choose what you want to eat instead of shoving anything into your face. It is ok to indulge a little. I mean, what is the point of running hundreds of miles if you can't enjoy good food? The key is moderation.
I hope that you all enjoy the next week or so. I hope you are able to spend it with friends and family. In all the chaos of the next couple of weeks, I hope you are able to squeeze in a little time for yourself to run, swim, ride, do some yoga etc.
*I actually meant to write this post before Thanksgiving, but have barely had time to keep up on regular posting. Sorry these tips are so late in the season.
**Careful... some of those pre-made salads are loaded with fat and calories.