This truly is the most wonderful time of the year, but it doesn’t come without its vices. The over abundance of sweets, indulgent meals, and flowing drinks are the treats we look forward to all year, but we can often go overboard in our enjoyment of them and are then left with feelings of guilt. But this season is all about love, peace, and joy, so until I hear Andy Williams on the radio singing about guilt and body-shaming, my plan is to keep these negative emotions as far away from my holiday spirit as possible.
So this means we have a free pass to live totally unhealthy lives for the next month and not feel bad about it? Not quite. I’m the last person to give or accept excuses for not leading a fit lifestyle. What I am encouraging is a change in mentality around fitness during the holidays. We shouldn’t be running five miles because we had one too many glasses of champagne at the office holiday party or spending two hours in the gym because we know we won’t be able to resist tasting every flavor at the family’s annual Christmas cookie competition. Exercise should never be a punishment. Fitness is an opportunity to bring positivity and improvement into our lives every day, not a physical and mental punishment for the way we choose to spend our other hours.
Fitness should be a major part of our lives all year round, but during the holidays, we can’t allow guilt to be our primary motivator to break a sweat, or we will learn to associate health and exercise with negative feelings. Today, I’m sharing five positive reasons to prioritize working out during the holidays that have nothing to do with how many pieces of pecan pie or helpings of mashed potatoes you had last night at dinner.
1. To feel your best
Our holiday calendars are full of parties and events with family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances; it should be called the most social time of the year. As this is often the only time we see many of our extended family and friends of friends, of course we want to feel our best! Exercise is the best way to achieve this. I am going to look exactly the same tomorrow, regardless if I wake up early to work out or choose to skip. The difference is that I will feel so much better. The endorphins and sense of achievement will light you up more than any sequin-covered dress can, which will make all of that small talk and catching up a much better experience.
2. As your gift to you!
The holidays are a time of giving: well thought-out gifts to friends and family, spare change dropped in Salvation Army buckets and contributions to community food and clothing drives. It’s wonderful that this season encourages us to think about others, but that doesn’t mean we should be neglecting ourselves. Treating our bodies well is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves (and it doesn’t have to cost a dime!). Consider your workouts as your gift to your present and future self.
3. To eliminate stress
The holidays aren’t just candy canes and silver bells, they are also known for being the most stressful time of year. Deadlines at work, endless shopping lists, hours of cooking and baking, and festive distractions around every corner (because yes, spending two hours watching a Hallmark movie is a necessity) are enough to bring out our inner-Scrooge. But instead of stress-eating the box of cookies Grandma express-shipped, take out those stressful emotions at the gym. I especially love cardio kickboxing routines when I have frustration and anger to get out. After punching that negativity in the face, I leave the gym a heck of a lot sweatier and much more relaxed.
4. To get a head start on New Year’s Resolutions
We’ve all heard it before…I’ll start working out again after the holidays. It’s my New Year’s Resolution. But this is silly if you think about it! Why wait until the new year, when the gym is over-crowded with everyone and their mothers’ 2017 fitness resolutions? Why torture yourself and risk injury by over-exercising to make up for lost time when you can ease into a more rigorous and intense fitness routine by starting now? We all love the fresh start and opportunity for self-improvement that the new year brings, but we also don’t want to enter this clean start from a place of self-pity and disappointment. Don’t allow fitness to always be part of an unreachable goal and start now!
5. To establish a healthy holiday mindset
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the holidays bring some of our favorite treats and there is nothing wrong with indulging! However, there is a difference between enjoying a mug of hot chocolate with our families by the fire and mindlessly devouring an entire box of chocolates because “calories don’t count during the holidays.” If we mindfully enjoy the extra sweets and treats that make an appearance during this time of year, we are less likely to feel sick (mentally and physically) about our choices. Incorporating exercise into our daily lives helps to develop a healthy holiday mindset because it serves as a personal reminder that the way we treat our bodies is important. If we know we care enough about our health and bodies to spend time, energy and sweat exercising, we are more likely to be mindful about what we put into our bodies. Having a healthy holiday mindset is not about deprivation; it’s about enjoying indulgencies and having a positive relationship with them (instead of shaming yourself every time you reach for a cookie).
I hope these tips help motivate and encourage you to make fitness a priority during this time of year. Wishing you love, peace, sweets, sweat, and positivity this holiday season.