While the holidays will certainly look a little different this year, the struggles people have will remain the same (and may even be exacerbated by not being able to be with family.) How can you stay on track with your health and fitness goals while enjoying the time spent with family and friends, in person or via Zoom?
Luckily, this is not an “all or nothing” situation and we encourage individuals to not hold that mindset. Instead, use an “always something” mindset. In this blog post, we’ll outline how to enjoy the holiday season without feeling like you’ve sacrificed all the work you’ve done in the gym leading up to this time. We’ll cover how to manage work, working out, food, social obligations, sleep, caffeine, and alcohol.
Before we begin, know that it becomes easier to make these choices when you have clearly outlined your values and priorities. Values provide us with a filter for decision-making and make it easier to say no to things that don’t align with our goals. You can download our free goal-setting workbook here to help clarify what’s most important to you and where you want to go in the coming year.
COVID has upended many things in life over the last year, including work. Whereas there used to be a natural separation between work and home, for many people working from home, it’s easy to never truly turn it “off.” This is where it becomes important to set your own boundaries for work, especially during the holidays. Do you keep your phone in another room while you’re with your family? Do you put up an “out of office” message so you people know not to expect a response? Figure out what works best for you and your family and stick to it. Remember, it’s okay to take time off! Even if you’re not traveling this year, you should still take some time away if you’re able to. If you’re not your best self, how can you be as helpful to others?
When it comes to working out over the holidays, we always ask clients to rate their confidence with compliance on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being, “I will absolutely get my workout in no matter what” and 1 being “there is not a chance I will do anything.” It’s important to remember that you don’t need to work out every single day when you’re with family for the holidays. The best training program is the one that you’ll stick to - if you know that you’re going to be walking the family dogs with your parents/cousins/siblings a couple of times each day, that’s perfect! If your family likes to bike together or go on a hike or do a group workout, that’s awesome too. Be realistic about your expectations with yourself and your coach so you can feel successful throughout the holiday season.
Nutrition is probably the place where individuals struggle most over the holidays. There is all this delicious food in front of you - how can you not eat it? Similar to the point above about workout programs, the best “diet” for any individual is the one that they will stick to. Saying that you won’t eat any desserts on Thanksgiving or Christmas is probably unrealistic for most people, and that’s okay! Homemade pie from your grandma is good! But do you need to eat 4 pieces of it? Probably not. Our nutrition advice when it comes to the holidays is “everything in moderation.” Meals are a huge part of our culture and how we connect with our loved ones and we never want clients to miss out on those opportunities. You just need to be aware of the decisions you’re making and ensure that you feel good about them. You can also try the “one plate” method: when it’s time to eat, fill up your plate with everything you want and eat it all… for ONE plate. Regardless of how you go about choosing your food, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that you eat your protein and vegetables first; this will fill you up so you won’t be as tempted to eat all of your aunt’s homemade cookies.
Social health is often ignored or very underestimated when we talk about health, but it’s extremely important. Spending time with people who make you feel good and “fill up your cup” should be a priority all the time, but the holidays often bring people together that you don’t get to spend time with as often. That may look different this year, but staying connected to people who bring out the best version of you - the one you want to be, that eats the way you want and works out the way you want - is essential. Make time to connect with these folks and prioritize it when you plan out your day. This leads to the next section… But first, keep in mind the boundaries we discussed earlier with regards to work. Just because everyone is available to FaceTime or meet up with, it doesn’t mean you have to spend your days around people. Don’t be afraid to say no and make sure you give yourself enough time and space to recharge throughout the holidays.
Caffeine / Alcohol
How many people suggest “coffee” or “drinks” when they want to catch up? Add those social events to the never-empty coffee pot on Christmas Day or the never-empty wine glass the day after and you may not be feeling so great when January 2nd rolls around. Luckily, you don’t have to abstain completely! Remember the holiday motto: “everything in moderation.” Central Athlete has written extensively about how caffeine and alcohol impact performance, recovery, and general wellbeing, so there are only two important suggestions to include here: make sure you’re being intentional about the decisions you’re making and make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Both caffeine and alcohol will dehydrate you and the benefits of drinking an adequate amount of water each day are huge.
The holidays may be busy for some, but they’re also a great time to catch up on sleep and even begin implementing some new habits for 2021! Keep in mind that managing blood sugar, moving throughout the day, and keeping alcohol and caffeine intake to moderate amounts earlier in the day will all aid in getting good quality sleep. Aim to turn the screens off at least 30 minutes before bed; this is a great opportunity to spend quality time unwinding with your family or pets or reading a book. Keep your room dark and cool and if you have trouble falling asleep, try a meditation or sleep story from an app like Calm. You can read more about the importance of sleep here.
All of these suggestions may seem simple, and they are. The challenge people have is actually putting them into action. If you’re looking for guidance on how to stay on track during the holidays while still enjoying them or you want support on kickstarting your goals for next year, schedule a free strategy session with one of our professional coaches below.