How to take better care of yourself this Christmas…
it's that time of year to take a break from your usual fitness routine and embark on a journey into sloth and gluttony to ensure you hate yourself by Jan...or, er, maybe there's another way this year.
Christmas is about relaxation, it is about fun, it is about cutting loose and having a laugh. But too often we end up getting waaaay too carried away or feel pressured into a diet of Celebrations and your uncle’s cheap lager. Here, to bring some sanity to the season, Keith McNiven, founder of London based personal training company Right Path Fitness gives us some advice on staying fit and healthy over Christmas and the New Year.
1) Most people take the xmas opportunity to over-indulge and then feel terrible going into the new year. What can we do differently?
The best thing you can do is to carry on with your regular eating and exercise programme as much as possible. There was a great study out this week which showed that intervention was effective at preventing Christmas weight gain. And it was all pretty simple stuff- just people being more mindful of what they ate and its effect on their body. Preventing that terrible feeling of overindulgence as you hit the New Year is all about your mind-set. If you finish work for Christmas and think ‘oh it’s Christmas therefore I’m just going to throw all of my usual healthy routines out of the window’ then you’re setting yourself up for major over-indulgence. You know what you need to do for your body to stay healthy, so don’t kid yourself that at Christmas the rules don’t apply!
2) What are some exercises people can do at home over xmas to maintain fitness?
Just because you’re at home, there’s no excuse not to fit in some exercise. The very fact that you’re not at work means you’ve got more time to exercise than ever. Exercise is also a good way to account for some of those extra treats. It’s easy to fit in a walk every day that you’re off over Christmas and for every 30 minute walk you can burn off around 160 calories which will be enough for a small slice of Christmas cake. If you’re a runner, you can expend around 250 calories for a 30 minute run which is about the same as one mince pie. Or, try a home HIIT session with 60 seconds of intense activity followed by 20 seconds of rest. You can do anything you like such as press ups, burpees, squats, star jumps and mountain climbers, and make a really effective 20 minute session whilst you get in some essential viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (again!).
3) What should people try to eat, and try to avoid?
It’s still possible to enjoy yourself at Christmas without compromising on your health. For example, the Christmas dinner comes up for a lot of stick, but the main elements of a Christmas dinner are very healthy like the lean meat, the vegetables and the potatoes. It’s often about how you cook them. Swap the calorific goose fat potatoes (around 350 calories per serving) for roast potatoes cooked in a little olive oil, don’t use meat fat in your gravy, go light on the pigs in blankets and other extras, and pile on the vegetables. Alcohol can pack in a lot of calories, so be mindful of how much you are drinking and remember that festive drinks like mulled wine (around 210 calories and a huge 26g of sugar) and eggnog (around 224 calories and 20g of sugar) are particularly indulgent. Swap for lower calorie and sugar alternatives like champagne (around 90 calories per glass). As for puddings, pretty much every festive pudding is indulgent, so limit yourself to one small serving per day.
4) Is there any great solution to dealing with the effects of alcohol?
Sadly not! As you probably know by now, if you drink too much, you’ll feel rotten in the morning and Christmas is no different. If you’re going to have a drink, make sure you’ve eaten, and drink enough water so you don’t become dehydrated. The next day, keep up with water, eat a healthy breakfast and get out for a walk or jog. High intensity exercise when you’re impaired after drinking probably isn’t a great idea, but something low intensity like walking or jogging can help clear your head. Save the high intensity exercise for the following day.
5) What are some good ways to come out of the xmas period flying in the new year?
When I have new clients come to me in December, I tell them this is their chance to get a head start on the January people who pack into gyms desperate to lose the pounds they’ve gained. For me, there’s nothing worse than starting January feeling rubbish because of lack of exercise and too much indulgent food. January is a bleak month as it is without that kind of extra pressure! Instead, use the Christmas period to invest extra time in your fitness. Plan to do some exercise every day, even if just a walk, and eat good, healthy food to get your body in its best condition. You’d be surprised by just how good you could be feeling come January.
6) How important is physical exercise to overcome xmas stresses and post-xmas blues? What are some no-fail techniques to deal with these?
Physical exercise is just as important for mental wellbeing as it is for physical wellbeing. When you exercise you release endorphins and serotonin which helps you to feel better. When the Christmas stress kicks in or the post-Christmas blues make an appearance, exercise is just the thing to give you a boost. My best no-fail technique for avoiding stress at Christmas and in fact at any time of year is routine. No matter how busy I am or how many clients I’m working with that week, I always find time to train. Whether that’s getting up earlier or training when I have a gap in the day, it’s an investment in my future physical and mental health. Keeping to your usual exercise routine over Christmas means you won’t get that typical post-Christmas slump. Another no-fail technique is to plan in a fitness challenge, something like doing your first park run, a charity bike-ride or a Tough Mudder event- then get training for it as soon as you can. None of this leaving it until January business!
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