When it comes to the holidays, there are no shortage of tips for staying healthy and keeping up with your workouts. Here are some of my favorites:
- Sign up for a holiday-themed race!
- Make it a group activity and have your family join you at the gym!
- Go outside and rake leaves or shovel snow!
These tips go on and on and though well-intentioned, they’ve never worked for me.
Yes, it sounds great to run a 5K on Thanksgiving, but…wait, no it doesn’t. It sounds as much fun as, well, running 5 kilometers on what will likely be a cold, wet, miserable November day (unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere warm).
Make it a group activity? Really? Spending even more time with the family you can’t get away from? And you have to go to a gym? Why???
Rake leaves? Shovel snow? Again….why?? Is this a holiday or a punishment?
2 Reasons Exercise Will Save Your Life Over the Holidays
All that advice is all well and good but, for most of us, our time will be jammed with travel, cooking, socializing, dodging a variety of bullets (for example, your grandmother who will likely bring up how fat you’ve gotten or the fact that you haven’t gotten married yet), eating, drinking and just generally trying to get through it without totally losing your mind.
BUT–I know how to help you. Yes, I’m going to talk about exercise, but think of exercise as your Fairy Godmother (FGM). Your FGM is there to help you keep your sanity. Here are 2 things exercise can give you that nothing else can.
What causes the most stress over the holidays? Family. You love them, well most of them, and you’re thankful for them, but there is no one on earth who knows you as well as they do. And that means they know all the buttons to push.
Some of these types of comments may sound familiar if you’re around the button-pushers:
“Well, it’s not like that time you forgot to pick me up at school and I sat there for 3 hours.”
“Really? You’re going to bring up the time I held you down in front of your friends and tickled you until you peed in your pants? Get some therapy.”
“So, I thought you joined a gym. I guess you haven’t been in awhile?”
In point of fact, I have actually heard these things uttered.
The point is, nothing is better than escaping those button-pushers, even for just a little while. It doesn’t matter what you do…your FGM doesn’t care.
Go to the gym, go for a walk, go do pushups in the yard. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it. It’s the only time you’re going to get to yourself and if you play your cards right, your family will approve. Some ideas to ditch them:
- Just leave – This is the simplest choice because it requires nothing of you. You simply leave – out the front, out the back, whatever works. I’m pretty sure my dad did this every year while we all looked on in envy. Try it: Go for a quick walk or jog and if they ask where you’ve been when you get back, say, “Did someone move my wine glass?”
- Do it there – Find an empty room and do some bodyweight exercises while blasting music through your headphones. Here’s a Quick Fix Holiday Body Weight Workout you can do anywhere.
- Lie – Say you’re running to the store to pick something up and head to the park for a walk or go to the gym. Or just go to a bar…but before you go in, walk at least 5 laps around the building.
So, exercise can give you a way to escape and it can also save you from sitting in a corner sobbing quietly while drinking straight from a bottle of Jack Daniels (not that I’ve ever done that…).
Think about what happens around your family, all the button-pushing and the rush to get food on the table? What happens to your body?
It enters the Panic Zone. Your blood pressure goes up and your body releases that lovely stress hormone, cortisol.
Do you know what cortisol does in regular doses? It causes your body to hoard fat. Guess where that fat goes? Your belly.
Not only is your body on red alert, but you’re no longer in control of how you respond to the button-pushers.
Responding to your mother-in-law’s comment that, “well, I wouldn’t cook it that way but I’m sure you know what you’re doing,” with a backhanded slap, for example, could very well happen if you’re out of control.
Your Fairy Godmother can help. If you just get out there and get a little exercise, you’ll calm down.
Your body will work off that extra tension, your anxiety levels will decrease and you’ll be able to think of better responses to your mother-in-law. Like:
“Thanks so much, Mommie Dearest! You know, I do know what I’m doing and I’m so pleased to have that confirmed.” You can add a silent ‘bitch’ in your mind if you like.
It may seem impossible to exercise during the holidays, but think of it less like something you have to do to burn calories or keep your weight in check, but more as a necessity to keep you from 1st-degree murder.
Now that’s motivation.