It is the time of year which sorts the fitness tourists from the fitness converts. The want-to-try-ers from the where-do-I-sign-ers.
As soon as that John Lewis ad hits our Facebook feed, I notice class numbers dwindling and fitness intentions being re-scheduled until the new year.
Do not give in and give up. It’s not just your bank balance or credit cards that are at risk over Christmas, weeks of inactive, cocktail swilling, mince pie eating, back to back parties and visitations can leave you in debt of a different kind. Your health.
There are so many reasons to stay active this Christmas season but here are 14 of my best:
- Use it or lose it. We all need a break from training but after just three weeks of inactivity your VO2 max can drop by up to 20% (VO2 max is the measure of your aerobic fitness). You’ll also be less able to cope with lactic acid build up in your muscles and may have reduced blood volume. You know that feeling that you can’t get enough air in? That’s your body having to work harder to get blood to your heart, lungs and muscles.
- If you only do cardio or aerobic training, when you stop you’ll get fat. So if you stop exercising and eat more, you will get even fatter. Those who strength train won’t put on weight as quickly as cardio bunnies will on a training break (you can get away with a week out of training every now and again) but you’ll still be expending fewer calories which can only tip the scales one way.
- If you plan it right, you’ll have more time to train. This might not be true in the run up to Christmas, or if your partner has a job which is hectic in December but if you and/or your family have a little extra time off work this season, use it. Get out more. Take an hour to get to the gym. This time last year I’d got really run down and out of shape. I used the Christmas break to eat more, train more and to get a bit of ‘me’ back.
- Christmas fayre has the potential to boost your nutritional intake. It doesn’t all have to be sweets and rich puddings. There’s plenty of protein around at Christmas (gobble gobble) not to mention a variety of foods, fruits, vegetables and nuts. So make the most of the season’s food to fuel your training.
- Get ahead of the crowd. Yes of course it’s easier to address your fitness goals and Christmas weight gain in the new year because everyone else will be doing it but who wants to be a sheep? You’re way to ahead of the curve for that.
- Get rid of your fitness phobia now. Instead of dreading the inevitable first visit to the gym, or first run of the year, get some preparation in now to clear the path. 10 minutes a day of body weight exercises will help prepare your body for stronger work in January or if it’s running you’re after, get walking or jogging slowly for 15 minutes per day – now. Come January those fitness sheep will be panting in your slip stream.
- It takes time to turn your body into a fat burning, fitness machine. The fitter your body is, the better equipped you are to burn fat as fuel (this is to do with the way your body processes glucose). Another great reason to start now (which is why we’re running our pre Christmas Shape Up).
- Look your best for the party season. It’s December. It’s dark. We all look a bit pasty (as hubby likes to remind me it’s my palest time of year)! One of the easiest ways to boost your hair, skin and nails is to get some regular exercise in. Outside is best since you’ll get blood to your skin and therefore some rosy cheeks too. And few things beat the feeling of a hot shower on cold skin when you’ve been training outside. It’s exhilarating.
- Boost your immune system. We all know that as days get colder and damper (and kids are inside more) germ warfare is intense. How many times have you wound up sick for your Christmas holidays? Exercise boosts your immune system …
- Make the most of quiet time in gyms and classes. December is one of the quietest times of the year in gyms and classes. Make the most of it. Sign up to a new class whilst you’re going to get lots of attention from the instructor and fewer participants to be fearful of.
- December is also the cheapest time of the year to join a gym so don’t wait until January. From my experience in gym management I know sales targets for December are low but hard to attain. My top tip for a bargain gym fee would be to keep the sales team waiting until nearly the end of the month. Don’t accept their first offer.
- Get a Vitamin D boost. Sunlight is at a premium at this time of year. If you can get outside to train, even if just for a walk, before midday you’ll get a mini dose of Vitamin D.
- Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD. Studies have shown that one of the best ways to beat SAD is to exercise outside before midday to maximise your exposure to daylight.
- Burn off excess calories. Put simply, if you’re going to be consuming more over Christmas, the best way to ensure you minimise the damage is to keep training.