How to maintain fitness during the Christmas season – or at least make an attempt

“Can’t we just take a bit of time off?” you inquire. “Staying fit during Christmas is not the norm,” you mutter as a second bag of Doritos mysteriously opens itself nearby. Prioritizing sensibility can surely be postponed, right? That’s why January was conceived by the famously festive Romans over two thousand years ago [citation needed].

However, you’re likely familiar with what transpires in January for the majority of New Year’s resolutions: the ambitious commitment to become your fittest self doesn’t commence at the revelatory pace you envisioned, the combination of crash dieting and trendy exercise routines falls flat (as expected), and the entire process slips back into dormancy, eagerly awaiting the same cycle to repeat about eleven months later. I understand because I’ve experienced it firsthand.

“It’s easy to fall into an all-or-nothing mindset when it comes to exercise, which can leave you feeling a bit sluggish and unmotivated,” says Carrie Baxter, coach, and athlete at the fitness app WithU. “Maintaining regular movement over the Christmas period is proven to help boost your mental and physical health. This doesn’t mean you have to get to the gym if you don’t want to: it can be anything from going on a long walk, getting a light cardio session in, or doing an on-demand workout at home. You’ll feel energized for getting moving, and returning to well-deserved festivities (or the sofa) afterward will feel even more satisfying.”

Why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present and keep up with your fitness routine as the December nights draw in? We’ve consulted our favorite fitness experts for their top tips and tricks to ensure that, come the evening of the 24th, you’ll be navigating the shops for last-minute gifts with ease.

Use the weather to your advantage

Some may view the cold weather as an excuse to stay indoors and prepare for hibernation. However, the positive effects of colder temperatures on fitness are well-documented, and during winter, there’s no need to splurge on a high-end Bond-style cryo lab. The Stoltman brothers, renowned as the strongest brothers in history, are strong proponents of cold water therapy. Luke Stoltman, a five-time winner of Scotland’s Strongest Man, shared with GQ: “In terms of cold water, if you’re not training, you can still go for a swim in the sea or a river, or have a cold shower. You don’t have to be a World’s Strongest Man competitor to go into a loch in Scotland! The improvements from a mental health point of view are so dramatic. You go into that cold water, you come out, and you’re smiling – you’re just insanely, stupidly happy.”

If you’re aiming for more active exercise, keep in mind that your usual warm-up routine might not be sufficient. David Wiener, Training Specialist at Freeletics, emphasizes, “Warming up is always important, but over the winter months, it’s crucial. The colder weather can affect your body and fitness performance, meaning your joints may be stiffer and less flexible. [Warming up] helps reduce the risk of injury as well as improve the blood flow to your muscles, making them less likely to rip, tear, or twist during your workout.”

For those not inclined towards intense exercise, research has demonstrated that even a short walk outside can have significant benefits for your well-being. Just be sure to bundle up warmly.

Or focus on indoor fitness

Okay, so trekking out into a blizzard for a quick 5k might be a bit much. However, that doesn’t mean you should opt for slippers and give up on staying active. Home workouts can be just as effective as going to the gym, and you get the bonus of a Hallmark Christmas films marathon right in front of you.

“You can get a really good workout at home just using your own body weight,” says Penny Weston, founder of MADE wellness center and online wellness platform. “Add some water bottles to use as weights. You can also use towels as resistance bands and chairs, as long as you have secured them properly, for exercises like tricep dips. Stairs are also great for running up and down (carefully) and strengthening your calf muscles with toe lifts.”

For more detailed tips on maximizing your at-home fitness, check out our comprehensive guide to the best home workouts.

Make your food all festive

Unfortunately, we don’t mean indulging in Pringles. Fortunately, the foods you should be eating are conveniently color-coded for Christmas. “I would suggest always making sure you have leafy greens, such as spinach or kale, and red or orange vegetables, such as carrots or peppers,” says Weston, “as they are full of vitamins and minerals and can be eaten in a variety of ways, from raw to cooked, juiced, or turned into soups.”

Onions are also on Weston’s nice list as a great source of Vitamin C and potassium, as are mushrooms for vitamin D (which tends to be lacking in the sky at this time of year) and legumes like green peas, offering plenty of protein, fiber, iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium.

It’s crucial to look after your gut, especially during the festive season when it can easily be strained by that third turkey sandwich. “It is important to eat a diet which promotes good gut bacteria,” continues Weston. “Diets high in fiber are especially good for this. Your gut aids in the digestion of the foods you eat and absorbs nutrients to fuel your body. It’s also where your body gets rid of waste and toxins – if your gut isn’t happy, your body will struggle to get rid of these toxins.” Maybe consider swapping out that last Quality Street for a Yakult, then.

A secret weapon to add to your daily routine could be apple cider vinegar. “A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before your main meals could also be helpful over the festive period,” says Dr Mohammed Enayat, founder of the longevity clinic HUM2N. “Consuming it before a meal, especially one high in carbohydrates, may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes in some individuals.

“There is also evidence to suggest that apple cider vinegar can aid digestion by increasing stomach acid production. This may be particularly relevant before a large meal, as adequate stomach acid is important for breaking down food and facilitating nutrient absorption.”

Most importantly: have realistic expectations

Ultimately, Christmas is a time to enjoy yourself. We’re only human, and finding time to stick to a fitness plan during work parties, meet-ups with friends, and family gatherings can be a daunting task. Don’t expect a Christmas miracle when it comes to keeping fit – and don’t be too hard on yourself if your usual routine takes a backseat.

Baxter emphasizes that everyone deserves a break, and it’s important to be realistic: “Yes, you might not get to the gym four days this week, but if you can make it once or twice, take the win,” says Baxter. “Take the opportunities to train that you have, and go easy on yourself if your output isn’t the same. The festive season is short and sweet – enjoy yourself!”

Just remember: when Elton tells you to Step Into Christmas, make sure you do it in running shoes at least some of the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *