5 tips for maintaining your fitness over the Christmas break

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Christmas is a great time of year. For many of us its a time to break from the usual routine and connect with family. But it can also be a stressful time full of last minute present-buying, jamming in work before end of year and an overloaded social calendar.

With all this going on it’s easy to let slip all the hard work you’ve put in over the year on your health and fitness. It can be challenging to maintain focus on your fitness amongst all the extra commitments (and eggnog!).

Here are some simple tips to keep you moving forwards with your fitness goals this silly season.

1. Set realistic expectations

This might mean recognising that a full schedule and extra commitments is probably not the best time to be extending your current exercise routines. It can actually be a useful time to cut back on how much you’re doing and think more about the quality of the sessions.

Less is sometimes more. For example trading a long walk for a shorter faster interval session can ensure you’re still progressing without taking up as much time. You can play around with intensity, frequency and type of exercise whilst reducing duration of any particular session and still make great progress.

But for some of us this actually might be the opposite. No work = more time? Maybe it is right for you to push harder and commit more time to what you’re trying to achieve.

2. Plan ahead and look for new fitness cues

If you rely on the weekly routine to cue your run/walk/swim/gym session then planning ahead and finding new cues to use can help you continue to show up when routine is out the window. Things like “before the kids Christmas concert I’ll get a quick run in” can be a good replacement to relying on the normal work routine.

But this does require some looking ahead in the schedule and time-blocking, otherwise it’s easy for exercise to slip off the schedule entirely. Failure to plan is planning to fail! So time-block your calendar, book those classes in advance, tune up the bike or load the kayak on the roof racks – whatever that looks like for you.

3. Get social

Get active with your family and friends this Christmas. A great way to keep your fitness up is to turn family time into exercise. Maybe this is soccer at the park during the family picnic, trading a sit down coffee for a walk and talk or (for a higher intensity option) more time wrestling the kids (or grandkids!). Exercising with others is great way to keep it interesting and can make the whole thing more enjoyable.

4. Change it up

Movement and exercise can look like a lot of things. If you’re someone that has a great exercise routine it can be useful to stop (for a set period) and do something completely different. Maybe that means trading your gym session in for a bush walk or get out in the backyard and build that garden bed that’s been on the to do list for a while.

A change in environment can also be a great option. Like trying an open water swim at the beach instead of the pool or a trail run instead of the pavement, you could even bench press a nephew instead of a barbell? There’s plenty of options so you can be creative. You’ll often find you return to your usual routine with more enthusiasm.

5. Think about your goals for the new year

New years resolutions can (and often are) left on the scrap heap by the end of January. But it can be a good time to consider what you’d like to be doing by the end of the next year.

A useful way to help make this new goal stick can be writing your goal in detail as if you’ve already achieved it. (Here’s a link to another blog about making a new habit stick)

An example of this for a walker looking to become a runner might be: “I’ve just done my first park run – 5km in under 30 minutes. I’m running 3 x week two short faster runs of 3km and a longer run of 7km – I’ve signed up for a half marathon for 9 months time…”

You can then break down the steps to achieve this goal and time-block it in your diary. Doing this can be a good way to avoid the new years resolution flop and see you achieve your goals.

But for now, Merry Christmas and Happy New year!

Tim Cathers

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