The 12 Days of Fitness - Daily tips to stay healthy over the holidays
Just one focus or workout each day can help you stay healthier and maintain your fitness goals while still enjoying the festive season. GoodLife Fitness personal trainer Nsuani Baffoe offers one tip per day. Start when you can.
Day 1 – Set the stage for seasonal success
- Scheduling: If you don’t plan for the holidays, fitness can take a back seat to other activities. Try to schedule a minimum of six workouts during your 12 days of fitness. If you get eight, you’re a star. Invite your family and friends for a walk or jog, or go skating. Plan ahead for the days you’ll be feasting or sipping cocktails at a work party. Hydration also plays a key role in how you’ll feel the next day – especially with the alcohol and extra salt in holiday meals.
- Meal planning and shopping: Plan for your healthy meals and snacks around the big events. Stock up on veggies and fruits, lean protein options like tofu, chicken breasts, fish, lean beef and legumes. Prepare some of your favourite slow cooker meals so you’ll have something nutritious for lunches and after work.
- Pack a bag: Pack a bag with your gym gear and keep it in your car. Things take longer during the lead up to Christmas. If your bag is in the car, you’ll have a better chance of making it to the gym or your favourite fitness class.
Day 2 – Start with strength
Cardio is great for maintaining your fitness levels, but if you’re trying to counter the effects of lots of eating and drinking, strength training is the most efficient option. Strength training typically involves the biggest muscle groups in our body – glutes, hamstrings, quads, back, chest, and core. Stimulating these areas will raise your metabolism by improving your basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy you burn in the day while at rest. Choose opposing compound muscle groups to start – deadlift paired with chest press or squats paired with chin/pull-ups.
Day 3 – Stretching, stretching, and more stretching
Stretch when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed. Simply stretching can help focus your mind and prepare your body for the day ahead. It’s also a great way to encourage good circulation and trigger your body to release ‘feel good’ hormones that will help balance how you feel all day.
Day 4 – Let your heart be your guide
Rather than setting a time limit on your cardio workout, challenge yourself by setting a target heart rate and continuing your run until you achieve it. Take the number 220 and subtract your age. This will give you a baseline number for your heart rate when training. Multiply that by an intensity percentage -- 55% for beginners all the way up to 75% for the advanced exerciser. That will give you your target heart rate.
Day 5 – Prioritize and moderate your food choices
Here are two good ways to maintain nutritional balance at a time when balance can be tough.
- Fill up on veggies at festive meals. Eat the healthy stuff first and you’ll be less likely to overeat when it comes to the good stuff.
- Choose your carbs wisely. If you love your grandmother’s freshly baked bread, but you’re not a huge fan of cereal, skip your morning cereal in favour of a piece of buttered bread straight from the oven during the big holiday dinner.
Day 6 – Go big, THEN go home
Now is the time to train heavy to counter the effect of holiday indulgence. Strength training should focus on the big muscles (quads, back, chest, glutes) and high intensity. Train your legs and chest, do some squats and heavier weight training. Good exercises to get you started include goblet squats, deadlifts, flat pressing and assisted pull-ups
Day 7 – Enjoy your cardio
Cardio can actually be a form of active recovery. It’s a great way to increase your heart rate and move your muscles to encourage blood flow and minimize soreness. Whether it’s a jog through your neighbourhood, some time on the elliptical machine or a swim at the local pool, cardio can also be a good stress release and escape from your busy schedule.
Day 8 – Don’t forget to play
The holidays are all about enjoying time with friends and family. Put on your jackets and head outside for a hike, go tobogganing, or chase the kids around the yard or even the living room. Maybe walk downtown to get some last-minute shopping done. Staying active will help you manage stress and get in some cardio.
Day 9 – Show off your moves
Try out some new fitness moves that burn fat and keep your mind engaged. Plus you’ll look like a pro at the gym! Here are two great ones to try.
- Kettlebell swings: A kettlebell swing isn’t just a workout for your arms. The torque from your hips propels it forward, making this exercise a comprehensive full-body burn. Keep your chest up and repeat the swinging movement without stopping. It’s best to use low to moderate weight for this exercise to begin with.
- Shadow boxing with dumbbells: Shadowboxing is draining, but the cardio and strength component increases with a pair of weights. Using very light weights, perform punching movements by hitting the air as fast as you can for 50 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and repeat five to seven times.
Day 10 – Do the heavy lifting…AGAIN
Fit in another day of heavy lifting at the gym before you coast into the busiest part of the holidays. The more work you do in advance, the easier it will be to get back to your routine when you run out of eggnog.
Day 11 – Acknowledge your inner yogi
This would be a good time to try out a yoga or Pilates class to stretch and elongate and strengthen your muscles and give joints a break. It’s also a good way to take a mental break from the holiday hustle and bustle.
Day 12 – Reward yourself, then start again.
If you’ve been following some of these guidelines and sticking to a bit of a routine, don’t forget to reward yourself with a day off, some free time with a book, or maybe some new workout gear. Celebrate your successes, then look at the weeks to come to see how you can continue them into the new year.