Realistic Fitness for the Holidays
We are heading into the final turn on 2013, which means Thanksgiving in a few days followed by Christmas and New Year’s, all of which involve lots of eating rich foods and drinking many glasses of wine and egg nog. The cumulative result is that about ten pounds of excess me will arrive in time to be wrapped in multiple layers of sweaters and fleece for the winter.
The truth is, I’ve discovered that I am a two-season exerciser and a two-season glutton. It’s a cyclical thing. In the winter, we cover up our bodies to protect ourselves from the cold, but all of those layers hide the evidence of our indulgence. Therefore, I continue to eat and stay warm in my house instead of bracing myself against the cold to hit the gym.
Come spring, however, the warmth and fresh air calls to me and I can’t wait to get my running sneakers out from under my piles of sweatshirts to hit the street. I’m a fair-weather runner, but during the spring, I can’t get enough of it. And when I’m out running, working so hard to extend my distance or decrease my time, I recognize that healthy eating habits go hand-in-hand with fitness. So every spring, I tend to lose the added winter weight from a combination of exercise and better diet.
But just as the spring beckons to me to go outside and run, the humidity of summer saps my energy and I find myself skipping more and more runs. Summer also means a more relaxed lifestyle, with more frequent glasses of wine with friends, too. Sitting on the beach all day with a book, followed by wine and fresh seafood at night means those pounds creep back on again. By the end of August, that bathing suit body I was so proud to show off in June is ready to hide under a cover-up.
Thankfully, the crisp air of fall pushing out the smothering heat of summer gets me moving again. Going for a run, watching the leaves on the trees turn their rainbow of colors and filling my lungs with autumn air brings the second wave of healthy habits for the year. Back to school, back to routine, and back to my skinny jeans means cutting back on the adult beverages and enjoying soup for lunch instead of guacamole and chips with a margarita.
So here I am again, where the end of fall meets the beginning of winter and I look at my cycle and try to find a way to keep from adding those winter pounds back on. My first step was to recognize my habits. But now my second step is doing something about it. If you find that you are like me and don’t want to bring back the winter weight that comes with the holiday season, join me in a few challenges.
I hate treadmill running. There is absolutely no pull to do it, and no release that comes from running on the dreadmill like there is with running outdoors. That said, I’m going to suck it up and do this Holiday Running Streak that I found on RunnersWorld. No matter how much you hate it, anyone can run one stinkin’ mile per day. I bring my book down to the basement with me and read for the 10-15 mins it takes to muscle through one mile. Really, that’s all it takes. There is NO excuse valid enough that you can’t do 15 mins.
I read once that anything becomes habit if you keep at it for 30 days straight. It’s why I like 30-day fitness challenges. This one is 30 days of planks to take you from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I did a similar push-up challenge one year leading up to Valentine’s Day and it really worked. Just like running one mile per day, this requires you to adopt a no-excuses attitude. If you stick to it, you’ll really feel stronger with less neck and back pain. Those are my goals anyway.
I have always been a sucker for a great kickboxing class. Whether it’s cardio kickboxing to music, or sparring with an instructor with impact, I love the movement, the aggression, and high that comes from focused kicks and punches. After talking about it for ages, we finally found a deal and hung a heavy bag in our basement. It doesn’t take long to work up a sweat and release stress and anger. Plus, I’m feeling my core getting stronger every day. My own routine is pretty simple. I do reps of 10-20 on each side for arms and legs.
For arms, my favorites include straight jabs, jab-cross combinations, and what I call kidney shots because I don’t know the proper name for them. If my heavy bag is a person, I’m using an around and up motion where the kidneys would be. I finish off with some elbows and rear kicks toward the back (imagine you’re fighting more than one person, using your elbows to jab the guy behind you, and your feet to finish him off). I may be watching too many spy shows and action movies.
For legs, nothing is a better workout than a slew of roundhouse kicks. Aim them high for greater flexibility or center them to really see how far you can move the bag. Front kicks, rear kicks and side kicks should all be rotated as well. For me, it’s not about precision. If I had an instructor with me in my basement, I’d probably get annoyed from them telling me what I’m doing wrong. Whatever feels good, do it. Just be aware of your wrists and ankles and don’t overdo it. Some slides with pictures of each move are listed here if you don’t know where to start.
Finally, to balance out my poor eating habits during these months of gluttony, I am turning to lemon water once again. When I first encountered this stuff during a cleanse, I hated it. But I’ve since learned that drinking it super hot, and with only 2 slices of fresh lemon per cup of hot water, I actually enjoy it. I drink a cup every morning before my coffee. Then I have more throughout the day. If I’m hungry, I drink a cup of lemon water first. If I’m thirsty, another cup. If I’m cold, another cup. If I’m hot, I have it cold over ice. I don’t know if it’s mind over matter or what, but my appetite and snack cravings are curbed. And I keep telling myself that the extra fluids plus the vitamin C from the lemons must be helping to keep me healthy while the rest of my family suffers from coughs and colds.
What Works for You?
So those are my newest habits that I’m adopting for the next month or so. I’ll let you know how I fared, come January. Tell me, what works for you during this crazy season? Share in the comments, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!!