The holiday season can be hard on your workout routine. The season tends to bring more social outings and more desserts and drinks than usual. It can also bring more stress due to perceived expectations, family friction, and a break of your normal routine. In short, the holiday season can be tough on your health, fitness, and well-being.
If you already workout regularly, the holidays can make you feel thrown off and either cause you to scrap the entire idea of a workout until after New Years’, or it can make you feel like you need to punish yourself with any workouts you do get in.
But inactivity ends up moving you further from your goals. And overdoing it in workouts is a fast track to developing aches, injuries, and disordered habits with exercise.
Conversely, if you don’t already workout regularly, the holidays can feel like an insurmountable mountain. “Why even bother getting started?”, you might think.
But if you’ve got goals of incorporating more healthful habits into your life, or getting fit and strong for the first time (or the 20th time) in your life, the longer you wait, the longer it takes.
In this article, I’ll show you the most important insights you need when choosing how you’ll get your holiday workouts in this year. And if you’re short on motivation to get started, keep reading, I’ve got guidance for you about that, too.
Is Weight Training Or Cardio Better?
While both weight training and cardiovascular exercise are good for your health and fitness, the question is if one is better. Let’s take a look…
Weight training increases the strength of your muscles, connective tissues, and bones. This helps you become more physically capable. It also reduces your potential for injuries and boosts your metabolic rate (which influences your body composition and energy levels). And, it increases your confidence.
Cardiovascular exercise is important for the health of your heart, lungs, and the rest of your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It also influences the health of your mitochondria that live in your muscles. If you remember one thing about mitochondria, remember that they are known as “the powerhouse of the cell”. Without well-functioning mitochondria, your health suffers.
You won’t burn as many calories while doing weight training as you will while doing cardio… BUT, your metabolic rate will remain elevated for longer after your weight training session is over. And, building muscle helps you have a higher metabolic rate overall, which cardiovascular exercise does not do.
How To Apply This To Your Unbreakable Body: If your time for exercise is limited, don’t pick one at the exclusion of the other. And, don’t try and mash weight training and cardio into a Frankenstein-esque combo workout.
Rather, simplify your weight training to something you can do easily in your own home 2-3 days per week. The holidays are a short period of time in the span of a very long year. Save the complex workouts for another time. Set up a simple set of exercises that you can get through in 30 minutes. Push-ups, squats, and bent over rows are three simple moves you can do with household objects if you don’t have access to a gym. Or, follow a pre-made program so that you don’t have to spend time writing the workouts you should be doing.
The Unbreakable Body: Jump Start program is a highly effective and fun pre-made program that builds your mobility and strength and is easy to follow. It can be done at home without fancy gym equipment. You can get it for 30% off right now.
Then, with any remaining time you can devote to health and wellness, get outside for some fresh air (bundle up!) and go on a walk. More on why walking is so great during the holiday season in just a moment…
Is Walking Really Effective?
While walking may not look from the outside like it’s a great way to stay fit, it actually is an invaluable tool for maintaining health and fitness. And, it’s very accessible to any age range and requires no expertise or equipment aside from a pair of shoes.
While walking doesn’t burn as many calories due to its low-intensity nature, it provides benefits for your metabolism that you probably aren’t thinking of (but should be).
Leisure walking, as my pal Dr. Jade Teta calls it, has a positive impact on your NEAT metabolism. “NEAT” stands for Non-Exercise Associated Thermogenesis. It’s the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It’s a small but impactful part of your overall metabolic rate.
Now you might be thinking, “surely it would be better to speed-walk than to walk at a more comfortable pace!” Nope, you want to leisure walk. Here’s why:
Walking at a leisurely pace can reduce your cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a role in your stress response. Excess cortisol can make it harder to lose weight and maintain muscle. In addition, stress increases tonicity (or tightness) in muscles. So if you’re living a stressed state and your body is producing more cortisol, it can make your tissues feel more achy.
How To Apply This To Your Unbreakable Body: Start seeing walking as a chance to boost your NEAT metabolism, to lower your cortisol, and to get some fresh air. All of these things can have a positive effect on your health, fitness, and overall well-being. If you don’t know how to dress for the weather, don’t worry, I didn’t either when I first started walking.
Start with a fitted base layer shirt, wool is a good option but performance fabrics work, too. Then, depending on how cold it is, either put on a looser midweight layer, like a flannel shirt, and then your jacket, or skip the midweight layer. Choose gloves and a hat based on your personal tolerance to cold air on your skin. Mittens work better for people with fingers that chill easier. To know if you’ve dressed correctly, you should feel a slight chill when you first start out. If you’re fully warm right from the get-go, you’ll become too hot as you walk, due to your body temperature increasing.
How Can I Get Motivated To Workout
During The Holidays?
There is a common misconception about motivation, that it is what causes you to act. In fact, motivation more often arrives after you’ve already started taking action.
People often spend a lot of time thinking about the thing they want to do before they actually do it. And that thinking can become a form of procrastination because “if you don’t have all of the information before you get started, how will you know what to do once you get going?”
The fact is, you don’t need all of the information in order to take the first step or do the first workout.
This is yet another reason why I like pre-made workout programs for myself during the holidays. The program is already laid out, all I have to do is show up and follow directions. Even on days when I don’t feel like exercising, I still can show up and follow directions. Then, before I’ve had too much time to think about it, I’m already halfway through the workout and feeling proud that I am getting it done.
How To Apply This To Your Unbreakable Body: Set a ritual or routine for your workouts and other health choices during the holidays. Rituals and routines are highly beneficial for moving you to action, which then increases your motivation. Examples of routines and rituals for workouts, especially during the holidays when time and schedules might be tight:
“I always workout first thing in the morning. Whether I have 5 minutes or 50, I workout first.” This builds a routine, and routines build habit.
“I commit to putting on my running shoes at 4pm, no matter what.” Putting the shoes on is a first step to getting you out the door for a walk. It gets you one step closer to the next action you want to take.
Another way to build motivation is to make it fun. If you’re bored out of your skull with the workouts you’re doing, you’re making it even harder on yourself to find motivation in the workouts. That’s one reason why in my Unbreakable Body: Jump Start program, every workout ends with a ‘movement game’. Each game is a short and sweet challenge I give you to help you explore movement, to test your hand-eye coordination with games that incorporate your body and mind, and to help you enjoy living in this Unbreakable body of yours.
The holiday season does not have to be a time of frustration with your workouts and health habits. It also does not have to be a time of giving up and waiting for Jan 1.
If you would like more guidance on how to workout during the holidays to build and maintain your fitness, take care of your health, and enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of exercise, get started with my Unbreakable Body: Jump Start program. There is a Beginner Level and Experienced Level to choose from. It’s 30% off right now and the workouts in the program will take you through the holiday season and into the New Year.
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