Healthy active living is not only important for physical fitness, but it is even more important now to help strengthen our immune system as well as assist us with our mental health. Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year for many. Add on to that the financial stresses of business closures, job uncertainties and homeschooling your kids, and this can wreak havoc on your overall health.
I have worked in the fitness industry for 14 years and here are my 12 tips how to stay fit during a COVID Christmas:
With more and more people being forced to work from home, the opportunity to be sedentary increases. Beware of the temptation to binge-watch your favourite shows – this is not the type of marathon you want to complete. Sitting for long periods of time can increase your risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and mental health issues. Get up every thirty minutes and stretch, go for a walk, or go up and down the stairs in your home a few times. Set a goal to accumulate 30 minutes of activity every day.
Sometimes the brain confuses thirst for hunger. Water not only quenches your thirst, but also promotes cardiovascular health, helps control your body temperature, lubricates your joints and muscles and cleanses your body. Water can help make you feel satiated, which can prevent you from overeating.
Use 'to-do' lists
Start scheduling your workouts like it is a business appointment or meeting. Plan out your week. Work out in the morning to get it off your list right away and you will not have to think about it for the rest of the day. You are less likely to skip your workout in the morning compared to doing it after work or before dinner. Realistic schedules and "to-do" lists help you feel more organized. Organization can aid your mental health, provide you with a sense of accomplishment and relieve the holiday stress.
Prepare for the worst
You need to get rid of the “all-or-nothing" mentality. Things are not always going to go as planned. A flat tire, kids’ homework being incomplete, heavy traffic, a bad day at work, your dryer breaks down – life just happens! Shift your mind to accept it, move on, and get back at it. Always have some fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy nuts available to help you refocus and to prevent you from going into the dark side.
With gyms and fitness centres closed, you need to think of creative ways to stay active. Family activities to stay healthy and active during the holiday season are always a great and fun option. Join a live Zoom group workout, download a fitness app, watch a workout video or invite a friend to do a Zoom workout with you. Start a collection of healthy recipes – make it fun.
Indulge for a night – not the whole season
T'is the season to be jolly, have fun and enjoy the holidays. Eat and celebrate without guilt. One cheat meal or two is not going to break you. It is the consistency of overindulging that can have negative consequences. Remember to have a glass of water before your cheat meal to help you feel more full and prevent you from eating too much. Try to consume any high sugars or high carbs earlier in the day, rather than just before bed, to give your body the opportunity to burn off those empty calories. Get rid of any cheat-meal leftovers to reduce the temptation to keep eating the poor caloric meals during the week.
Technology allows us to order all of our Christmas gifts and groceries online. Take advantage of apps like Uber Eats, Doordash and Skip the Dishes to free up some more time and help reduce some of the stress that this pandemic-clouded holiday season might bring. You can dedicate the additional time to exercise. Remember, you only need thirty minutes a day.
Our current situation does not allow us to have Christmas parties, or social gatherings. However, as a family, you can go for an outdoor hike, walk, or go to your local ice-skating rink. Start a health and wellness challenge with friends and neighbors that can include healthy recipes, webcam workouts and daily exercise goals.
Work out at home
Dedicate a workout space at home, so that when you walk by it everyday, it reminds you to get active. Download and set up your favourite workout playlist to help keep you motivated and push you through. Download a few different fitness apps to help you keep track of your results, add a little variety to your workouts and challenge you to work harder. Get some minimal home gym equipment such as resistance bands, a skipping rope, pedometer, and yoga mat to help you get started.
Embrace the cold
It gets cold in Alberta, but that can be an advantage to your exercise and training. Cold weather forces your body to work harder when you exercise. This is especially true for your cardiovascular system, since the cold weather forces your heart to work harder to regulate your bloodflow. Studies have indicated exercising in cold weather can burn more energy and fat stores, due to more energy being required to heat up your body’s core temperature. Your body’s immune system is also tested against the cold weather and therefore has to improve itself, which is very important during this COVID-19 Christmas season.
High-Intensity Interval Training can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. It can help reduce your blood sugar, improve your oxygen consumption, help build muscle, burn fat and your metabolic rate is increased for hours after an HIIT workout. Even a 30-minute HIIT session can yield amazing results.
Set smart goals
Setting goals keeps you focused. With 2021 just around the corner, many of us might be thinking of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, set up your SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time based) goals. Now that you have developed your SMART goals, get started right away to build that momentum into the New Year. Before Jan. 1, get rid of all the junk food in your cupboards and pantry, watch your daily caloric consumption and get your macros (protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats) in line with your goals. Mix up your exercise with both cardio and strength training.
Follow these 12 tips and you will not only enjoy the holiday season, but you will also finish 2020 as a healthier, fitter, and stronger you. Plus, you will have a head start on 2021. Because, let us be honest, 2020 has been a tough year.
Jay Raymundo is an Airdrie-based personal trainer. He is the owner of NRG Fitness, the head trainer at F45 Training Airdrie and the strength and conditioning coach of the Airdrie Martial Arts Centre