We all know that it’s hard enough to exercise and be active during the year, but there’s something about the festive season that makes it that much harder to remain consistent or even to exercise at all. Even though we’ve got a lot more free time during this merry season, for some reason exercise becomes less of a priority.
But the festive season is a time of overindulgence, and staying active is the best way to try and mitigate the extra calories consumed — think braais, family lunches, eating out and binge drinking.
According to one study published in the Journal of Physiology, just 45 minutes of daily physical activity can counteract the effects of what the study refers to as ‘short-term overeating’ and ‘under-activity’ (read: festive season).
“Exercise seemed to completely cancel out any of the changes induced by overfeeding and reduced activity,” senior author of the study Prof. Dylan Thompson said in a statement.
Personal trainer and sports massage therapist Mandla Nhleko (@365functionaltraining) says that holiday exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore, especially if you’re realistic in the expectations you have for yourself.
“You don’t have to be a gym freak on your downtime,” he says. “All you have to do is find what will work for you, depending on where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing, and stick to that.”
Here are some tips and strategies to help you keep moving:
Always have your training gear
Packing for the holidays can be tricky. You want to bring everything with you, but you know you can’t because of luggage restrictions, or simply not having enough space in your suitcase. When it’s time to make a decision, your gym gear (especially your training shoes) tend to get thrown in the “I’m leaving you behind” pile.
“Prioritise your exercise gear when packing — even if it’s just making sure you have your trainers with you,” Nhleko advises. “If you don’t have your trainers, the chances of you even attempting any form of exercise is unlikely and you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you don’t even have the option.”
Don’t overcomplicate things
Just because it’s the holiday season and you know you won’t be as disciplined as you usually are, doesn’t mean you must be extremely strict with yourself.
“If you usually have a vigorous exercise schedule during the year, you don’t have to maintain the same standard when on holiday,” he says. “Find a balance that works for you. Trying too hard to be ‘good’ could become a demotivating factor. What matters is staying active, and how you decide to do this is enough.”
The gym is not the be-all and end-all
You might be travelling somewhere where you won’t have access to the gym, but this shouldn’t be a deterring factor.
“You can do bodyweight exercises anywhere – so not having access to an exercise facility should never be used as an excuse,” Nhleko says. “If you’re unfamiliar with what exercises you can do at home, there are tons of videos online, apps and websites that can help get you started.”
He adds that if you don’t want to spend too much time working out, then keep your focus on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts that you can knock out in 20 to 30 minutes and keep it moving.
You can also find a variety of home-workouts you can do on our website here.
Join community activities
Before leaving for your holiday, or even if you’re staying home, go online and look for any ‘active-type’ activities that are happening in the area you’ll be in.
“This is not only a great way of connecting with new people, but it’s also a fun way of getting some exercise in without feeling like you’re exercising,” Nhleko says.
“Look for fun runs, hiking, rock climbing or any community sports matches you can join.”
This is a great way to get your family active as well.
Keep to some sort of set schedule
Instead of planning to exercise haphazardly or when you feel like it, try to schedule your workouts for the same time every day.
“There’s a lot of spontaneity in the festive season and you never really know what the next day has in store for you,” he says. “This is why you should always aim to exercise as early as you can in the morning so you can continue freely with your day, and when anything comes up – you’ve already got your workout in.”
Exercising at the same time every day will also help you get into the rhythm of things.
Everything in moderation (but don’t starve yourself)
Nhleko says that at the end of the day you’ve been working hard throughout the year, so there’s nothing wrong with letting go a little, having fun and enjoying some hearty meals during this time.
“The key is really in approaching everything with a moderation mindset,” he says. “You don’t have to skip out on every good meal because of ‘discipline’ – it is the holiday season after all – so it’s good to treat yourself now and again. But just make sure to do it all in moderation. Please indulge, but don’t overindulge.”
Travel with a skipping rope
If you feel like you know yourself and exercise will not be on your radar at all, then Nhleko suggests that you just take your skipping rope along.
“Ten minutes of skipping a day can do wonders for you,” he says. “if you won’t be doing anything else, just keep your skipping rope close by when you go to bed and let it be the first thing you grab in the morning. Put on some good music, and just skip for 10 minutes.”