Even if you usually stick to a pretty consistent workout schedule, this time of year can throw all kinds of wrenches into your training plan.
Between gift shopping, party hopping, and bubble popping, fitting in fitness during the holiday season can be difficult.
The good news?
While it can be difficult to find time to exercise during the holidays, it’s not impossible — and when the holiday stress sets in (and the number of sugar cookies you’ve eaten starts to mount) you’ll be extra Glad you crushed those sweat sessions.
We’ve rounded up the best tips and tricks to help you squeeze fitness into your busy vacation plans.
1. Embrace morning workouts
The holiday season is full of happy hour, festive dinner parties and late-night gift-wrapping sessions.
Notice a trend? There’s not much going on in the AM — so exercising in the morning can prevent your workouts from getting derailed by holiday plans.
“Start your day with a workout,” says Cara Teitelbaum, author and founder of Lazy Girl Pilates. “Whether that means yoga before breakfast or a brisk run around the block—use this time each morning to get your body moving.”
2. Put your workouts on the calendar
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Work your workouts into your schedule — just like your other holiday commitments — so they’re less likely to get pushed to the backburner.
Once you commit to your workouts, do whatever it takes to make them happen, says Kyra Williams, a NASM-certified personal trainer and USA Powerlifting coach.
“Maybe that means using your lunch break to fit in a walk or skipping that last glass of wine at the end of the night to make it easier to get up for your morning workout. If you make exercise a priority, you’ll get it done,” advises Williams.
3. Make fitness a family tradition
We get it — you don’t want to skip your favorite holiday traditions to squeeze in a workout.
But why not find a fun physical activity that can become a new tradition for your friends and family?
“Get all your girlfriends together for a spin class, or sign your family up for a turkey trot,” suggests Erin Wathen, a certified weight loss coach and author. Why can’t I stick to my diet?
You’ll be able to fit in a workout without feeling like you’re spending time with the people you love.
“Few things bind people better than sweat,” says Trevor Thiem, CSCS, Beachbody’s executive director of fitness and nutrition content. “Instead of watching holiday specials on TV, organize a hike or a touch football game.”
Bonus: You’ll all be in a better mood around the dinner table.
4. Find a holiday accountability buddy
Everyone struggles to stay on track during the holiday season, so find a like-minded friend and schedule workouts together so you can hold each other accountable.
Whether you plan to go for a run or do an early morning HIIT session, it’s much harder to skip a workout when you know someone is waiting for you.
“If you can’t meet in person, FaceTime works too,” says Teitelbaum. “It’s a great way to stay connected with family and friends across the state.”
Pop in those headphones, start a video chat with your friend, and log your steps together
5. Set realistic expectations
For most of us, December is not an ideal time to try to lose 10 pounds, train for a half marathon or try to cleanse.
The holidays are busy enough, so it’s okay to keep your goals low-key for now — like hitting your 10,000 step goal or getting in 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
“Remember the average holiday weight gain is only one pound,” says Thiem. “So you probably won’t have that much to ‘work off’ in the new year, even if you let things slide more than you’d like.”
Focus on the big picture, and don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout or have a second leg.
6. Be flexible
Vacation plans can throw your normal workout schedule for a loop, so flexibility is key.
“If you’re used to going to the gym, but you have no idea how it’s going to turn out this holiday season, try something new,” advises Shanda Domango, a NASM-certified personal trainer and health coach at Domango Training.
That might mean switching from an after-work spin class to a lunchtime bootcamp for the next few weeks, or using a streaming fitness subscription so you can work out whenever and wherever you have the time and space.
7. Concentrate your workouts
When it comes to increasing your fitness level, workout intensity is more important than duration.
“There’s no need to spend hours at a gym if you’re not there to socialize,” says Thieme. “Shortening your rest periods, focusing primarily on compound exercises (such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, dips and bench presses) rather than isolation exercises (such as dumbbell curls or tricep extensions). Doing supersets and/or circuits instead of traditional weightlifting sets will save you time and help you get fitter faster.”
8. Avoid the all-or-nothing approach
Can’t find time for an hour-long workout? No worries — focus on fitting in small bouts of exercise here and there throughout the day.
“Set up two or three 10-minute workouts,” recommends Carrie Williams, an Olympic-level boxing coach and owner of The Stables Boxing Studio in Santa Monica, CA. “This can include squats, walking lunges, brisk walking and even getting up and down from your chair a few times. [a.k.a. squatting]”
And don’t overlook opportunities to squeeze in a burst of activity while preparing for the holidays.
Power clean your home before your holiday guests arrive. Walking to the mall is faster than shopping online. Do a set of 30 bodyweight lunges while checking your holiday ham in the oven.
“All movements count!” says Katy Lush, a certified Pilates teacher and founder of Lush Living. “We all need to move more, not just exercise.”
So do your best to maintain your normal workout schedule — or at least fit in as many workouts as possible — but try not to spend too much time sitting on your bum.
“When it comes to shedding pounds, the trick is not just to exercise more, but also to move more throughout the day,” says Thieme. “Scientists and fitness professionals call this non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or simply NEAT) and it can be your secret weapon against weight gain and weight loss.”