As we enter December, it becomes easier and easier to be knocked ‘off track’; whether that be by missing out on exercise and training sessions, or over-indulging on weekends and evenings on the nutrition side of things. December is an incredibly social time of year - the festive period is all about spending time with your loved ones, with friends and family, and unfortunately this tends to translate into a lot of eating and drinking, and not necessarily much exercise, activity or healthy nutrition.
So, how can we stay on track with all these added social events, extra temptations, and a reduced motivation to get our daily activity and exercise in? Well, it all starts with having a good plan in place to start with, and here are a few tips on how to build that plan for December:
1) Adjust your expectations!
December is a busier time of the year socially, Christmas is a holiday which is now centered around food and drink for many families, and exercise is not necessarily the number one priority around Christmas and New Year. That’s all fine - but we need to understand that, if all of these things are true for us, then we cannot realistically expect to progress at the same rate we do at other times of the year. So, adjust your goals and expectations for the month, and perhaps just focus on maintaining what you have already achieved this year, rather than trying to achieve more by January 1st…
2) Schedule in Exercise at the start of the Week.
Motivation to exercise can decrease at this time of year, and it can be very easy to skip sessions or not hit all of your training sessions in any given week. So make sure you have all of your exercise for the following week scheduled in by Sunday evening - put it in the diary, and stick to it. It’s a commitment to yourself - so don’t let yourself to cancel it last minute, either!
3) Simplify your Nutrition Goals.
Set yourself a few, straightforward goals and objectives for yourself to achieve each day. Focus on drinking enough water, getting enough fruit and veg in (at least 5 portions per day), and prioritising lean protein sources. Those are a great starting point - beyond that will be based on what you, individually, believe you can stick through throughout the month.
For example, you might set yourself the goal of staying on track Monday thru Friday, but allowing yourself more leeway at the weekend; or you might give yourself the goal of having at least two nutritious meals per day (allowing yourself more indulgence once per day). Whatever it is, just keep it simple, straightforward and achievable for you. Don’t let your entire diet fall apart, but do give yourself some more leeway if necessary (we’re only human, after all).
4) Stay Active.
Even if you are struggling to get as many training sessions in each week, find ways to keep your overall daily activity as high as possible (this will be more important when it comes to weight maintenance). This could be walking more instead of driving, scheduling in shorter burst of exercise (20 minute intense circuits if you’re pushed for time), or up your daily step goal to compensate for less exercise sessions per week.
Staying active and keeping up your exercise routine is a great way to mitigate any regression over the Christmas period. By all means take extra days rest from the gym, enjoy any time off you may have and celebrate with family and friends - but keeping yourself moving is going to pay dividends come January 1st.
6) Be Accountable.
Accountability is often what helps us stay on track throughout the rest of the year, so why should December be any different? If you want to stay on track under more trying circumstances, make sure you have some kind of external accountability. Sign up to a class, get a personal trainer, or just arrange to train with a friend - having someone else counting on you to turn up and exercise is going to ensure you don’t skip out on a session at the last minute - because you know someone is counting on you to be there!
The same applies to your nutrition - tell someone else your nutrition goals, pin them on the fridge so you see them daily, or ask your significant other / friend to keep you on track with them. Having someone else staying on top of your nutrition goals will help keep you in line - and you’ll thank them in the long run!
Overall, we want you to enjoy your Christmas and New Year - it’s the Most Wonderful Time of Year, and we appreciate this as much as anyone. Make the most of the time with family, allow yourself your favourite indulgences every now and then, and don’t sacrifice your happiness for the fear of gaining a pound or two - weight can be lost in the New Year, but you wont have a chance to make these memories again for another year!