Stay Fit While Enjoying the Holiday Season

'Tis the season for peppermint mochas, long to-do lists and all the Christmas cookies. From now until New Year's Day, your schedule will likely be filled with family obligations, traveling and festive outings with all sorts of tempting treats.

Plus, your days will be so packed with shopping, attending events and making sure to participate in all the fun Christmas activities with your kids that the last thing on your list is working out. It’s no surprise that many of us see our waistlines expand during the holiday season. But there are plenty of easy ways to make sure you stay on top of your fitness and health while also enjoying all that the holiday season has to offer.

Indulge within reason

Sweet treats and large feasts are staples of the holiday season, but you don’t have to completely restrict yourself to stay fit around this time of year. Follow these tips to indulge in your sweet tooth without packing on the holiday pounds.

  • Portion control – It may be tempting to stuff five Christmas cookies in your mouth as soon as you set eyes on them, but a little portion control can go a long way. When you’re scoping out the dessert table, try and pick out three things that make you most excited to eat, then put those on your plate and really enjoy them! You don’t need three different types of sugar cookies to satisfy your want for seasonal treats.
  • It’s all about balance – Most of the year, you may try to count your calories and stay within a certain goal. But around the holiday season, this become extra difficult. Instead, just make sure you are balancing high calorie treats with nutritious meals. If you know your office is having their holiday potluck today for lunch, then eat a hearty breakfast of a veggie omelet and a side of fruit. Getting your nutrients in during other meals means that you can indulge a little when presented with sweet treats.
  • Stay hydrated – Are you hungry or just dehydrated? Sugar can make you feel hungrier than you actually are, making you want to eat more than you normally would and leaving you feeling bloated and stuffed. And sometimes your brain can confuse thirst with hunger. Prevent this by sipping on water throughout the day and drinking a large glass of water before you consume calorie-rich meals, so you don’t have to deal with the effects of your eyes being bigger than your stomach.
  • Eat before heading out – Your friend’s holiday party probably isn’t going to have an abundance of healthy, filling food for you to eat. So, if you go hungry, you’re much more likely to overindulge on the sweet and sugary items in order to try to quiet the rumbling in your stomach. Try eating dinner before you head out so you’re mostly full already, then once you get to your destination, you can enjoy the treats without your stomach doing the thinking.

Get Creative with Exercise

The holiday season is the busiest time of the year, so it may seem impossible to try and fit in your normal workouts between all the errands and holiday events. Instead of giving up the gym completely, try getting a little more creative with how you get that heart rate up.

  • Park farther away – Park at the end of the parking lot instead of fighting for a space right up front. This shouldn’t be too difficult since parking lots are always crowded during this time of year and the extra distance will help you get some steps in. Plus, if you end up buying a lot, you’ll have an easy weight-lifting workout too as you carry 20 extra pounds all the way back to your car!
  • Try working out early in the morning – Once the day begins, all your free time can quickly be taken up by spending your lunch break rushing to pick up a gift and running multiple errands between dinner and bedtime. Start your day off on a calmer note with a workout class that gets your heart racing and your brain awake. The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati branches open as early as 5 a.m. and offer group workout classes free with your YMCA membership.
  • Participate in winter activities – Getting exercise doesn’t have to be boring! Try walking around to see Christmas lights instead of driving. Ice-skating, running up the hill to sled and snowball fights will all get your heart rate up and cross things off the holiday bucket list.
  • Make a plan – With all your obligations this time of year, it can be easier to just ignore working out. Combat this by making a schedule to lay out all of your events and activities for the day. This will help you see where there are gaps in your day to fit in a quick workout. Even a 20-minute run during your lunch break is better than nothing!

The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati can help you stay fit and active without missing out on any of the best parts of the holiday season. Meet with one of our personal trainers to stay on track with your fitness goals and participate in our various group exercise classes, plus attend some of our family-friendly holiday events. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so indulge in some sweet treats and have fun with all the holiday activities.

YMCA of Greater Cincinnati