Ah, Thanksgiving Week — when the holiday season really kicks into high gear.
Of course, the pandemic put a serious crimp in most everyone’s holidays in 2020 and 2021 — but this holiday season feels more like the traditional ones of the past.
Yes, COVID-19 remains a persistent presence — but not necessarily the overarching threat it once was.
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So it’s perfectly understandable if you’re looking forward to enjoying your first event-filled holiday season since 2019.
However, just in case you’re a bit out of practice when it comes to celebrating a busy holiday season while also maintaining your fitness and nutrition plans, we’ve got some suggestions to help you get through the next six weeks with both intact.
Staying in shape
Doing something is better than doing nothing.
Austin Brock, certified fitness trainer and co-owner of Slash Fitness in Delray Beach recommends that you try to fit in 15 to 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on a cardio machine.
“If you don’t own a cardio machine or have access to one, any park or open area will do,” he says.
He says elevating your heart rate to around 80% of your max — and sustaining it for one to three minutes if possible — is a great way to burn calories.
“Then, follow that with lowering your heart rate to 60% of your max heart rate for the same amount of time,” he instructs.
Repeat this “sprint-recover” interval three to five times to complete your workout.
Rely on bodyweight exercises when necessary.
If you’re doing some holiday traveling or entertaining visitors, you might not be able to get to the gym. That’s when you need to go old school.
“Pick a handful of bodyweight exercises you can handle like pushups, squats, lunges, planks and burpees,” Brock says. “Set a timer on your phone for one minute and do, say, 15 reps of one exercise, then rest for the remainder of the minute. Then switch to a new exercise for the next minute.”
Repeat your chosen exercises in this “every-minute-on-the-minute” (EMOM) circuit three to five times.
Do your training in “snack-sized” bites.
According to Brock, “exercise snacking” refers to doing at least 10 minutes of any exercise two to three times per day whenever you can fit it in. If your work efficiently, he says, you will get the same benefits of your typical longer training session. So think quality over quantity.
Schedule your exercise — and stick to it.
Brock has found that exercise commitments work best if you schedule them.
“It becomes much more of a commitment to yourself if your write or type it down and set reminders,” he says.
The most important thing you can do, he believes, is “hold yourself accountable.”
Team up with a friend or loved one.
Find someone in your circle and become holiday exercise buddies.
Check in on each other, set goals, create friendly competition — basically anything that ensures you’re in consistent contact and will hold each other accountable.
In addition, at this time of year gyms often offer special holiday pricing that doesn’t require a long-term agreement. In other words, consider the holidays a great time to try out new gyms.
Maintaining your nutrition
Portion control is key.
What are the holidays without baked goods, sweets and treats at every turn? But overindulging too often is the quickest way to undo a good eating plan.
So Delray Beach chiropractor and nutritionist Dr. Jon Segal recommends that you don’t deprive yourself — but rather eat what you enjoy moderately and mindfully.
“Take small portions of your favorite foods and eat them slowly,” he says. “By eating them slowly, you’ll be less likely to overindulge.”
Don’t go to parties on an empty stomach.
If you’re hungry when you arrive, you’re more likely to overindulge.
That’s why Segal recommends you eat a bit before your get-togethers.
Good choices, he says, for pre-party fueling include “lean proteins like chicken, turkey, seafood and the like. They’ll help keep you feeling full for longer periods of time.”
Limit your alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is always full of empty calories — and never more so than during the holidays when the offerings often have extra sugar, cream and other highly caloric additives.
If you’re going to drink, Segal recommends you not have more than one drink per night — and that you stick to alcohols that are lower in sugar “such as prosecco, champagne, wine, whiskey, gin and vodka.”
Follow the 90-10 plan.
This is one of Today show nutritionist Joy Bauer’s go-to recommendations: As long as you follow healthy eating habits 90% of the time, you can indulge a bit the other 10% of the time.
Often, we mistake being hungry for simply being dehydrated — so prioritize your water intake.
Drinking water before and during parties will also help you feel full and thus less likely to overindulge.
When you are tempted to go back for seconds or thirds of a favorite dish, try this trick: Drink a 12-ounce glass of cold water and wait five minutes.
Chances are, that urge to overindulge will have passed.
And as always, before embarking on any new exercise or eating plan, consult with your own physician.