We all know how busy the holidays can be. A thousand things to do and so little time to get them all done. Will it really matter if I miss a few workouts? Just start up again in January?
Don’t do it!
It’s a big mistake to risk losing the lean muscle mass and strength that you have worked so hard to build and maintain. What’s the big deal? Losses in lean muscle mass will lower your resting metabolic rate, which accounts for the vast majority (about 60-75%) of your total daily calorie burning. This means that everyday you will be burning less and less calories which will put you at a much greater risk of putting on ugly, unwanted body fat during the holidays.
Here’s another thing to consider – remember when you first started training again? The soreness? Shortness of breath? Lack of strength? Do you really want all that to start over again?
Look, if you are on a good plan -stay on it! The time you take for yourself to train is an important part of being healthy and feeling great. Is another trip to the mall really worth it?
For those of you who have let your training, shall we say…slip… there are many ways to maintain or increase the number of calories you burn per day, both from exercise and from your normal daily activities, to stay fat-free this holiday season. Use these strategies to maintain and/or increase your current amount of lean muscle mass and maximize your daily calorie burn. Leave the “Santa Belly” to the professionals!
1.) Perform at least one intense strength training session per week
Studies show that only a single strength training workout per week during times when you cannot train as frequently as you normally do is an effective way to maintain your current levels of strength and lean muscle mass. Anyone can get in at least one good strength training session a week to stay buff during the holidays and to prevent unwanted regressions in fitness. If you are serious about preventing weight gain, three total body strength workouts per week should do the trick . To maximize fat burning, perform three total body strength workouts per week and also perform three cardio interval workouts per week on non strength-training days.
2.) Add it all up.
Can’t spare the 60 minutes? (I’ll bet you could if you tried). When you honestly cannot find a five to 20-minute time slot to complete an effective total body workout, look for hidden chunks of time during the day to get in a certain number of daily repetitions for a certain number of exercises that work your entire body. Got a free moment from now until you need to take the turkey out of the oven? Then, bang out 10 push-ups, 10 rows, and 20 squats. Using this method throughout the day will lead to big numbers by the end of the day that will help maintain your strength and overall fitness.
It is important to note that this “Hit Your Totals” routine is merely a back-up option to the ideal 20-minute interval training workouts which are scientifically proven to burn nine times more fat than ordinary exercise (see my article How You Can Build the Ultimate Circuit Training Workout For Rapid Fat Loss for more info). Short rest periods between exercises create the optimal hormonal environment for rapid fat loss and lean muscle gain, which the long rest periods of “normal” training just don’t.
Make sure to pick multi-joint, compound movements (the BIG exercises) that hit as much of your body’s major muscle groups in the shortest amount of time possible (e.g. squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, rows, etc.). Use the plan below as guide to build your own “Hit Your Totals” workout. Adjust the repetition ranges accordingly based on your current strength levels. The only thing you need is your body weight and adjustable dumbbells and/or resistance bands. Train using this plan up to three times per week, resting a day between workouts. Make sure to alternate between Plan A and Plan B in order to work more of your body. You can either hit your total by doing straight sets (e.g. perform push-ups rest-pausing as needed until you get 100 total), or by simply employ circuit style training (e.g. 20 squats, 10 push-ups, 10 rows, repeat 10x throughout the day to hit your totals).
The Hit Your Total Workout For The Holidays
Body weight Squats: 100-200 total
Push-ups: 50-100 total
DB/Band Rows: 50-100 total
2-Leg Hip Extensions: 50-100/total
Off Chair/Couch Dips: 50-100 total
DB/Band Curls: 50-100 total (feel free to swap pull-ups or pull-downs here if you have access to the equipment)
3.) Rage Against The Machines
Machines have made us an incredibly out of shape and overweight society. This holiday season make it a point to not use them! Now I don’t mean to say that you cannot drive to the mall during the holidays. However, when you get to the mall, don’t drive around for 10 minutes looking for the closest space. A little walk will do you some good! Don’t wait in line for the elevator, the stairs will more than likely have plenty of room, and all those steps truly do add up. Stay on your feet as much as possible and resist the temptation to let a robot or machine do the work for you.
4.) Engage in more outdoor holiday activities
I have been in some pretty incredible snowball fights in my day. Though I was always having a blast while pelting my friends behind cleverly built igloos, I was never aware of how exhausting a good snowball fight can truly be until I came indoors afterwards. We never used to notice how cold it was outside because we were moving around and having a blast! Talk about an awesome way to burn calories without even thinking about it! Get outdoors this holidays season and throw around the pigskin or have your very own “Ice Bowl.” Once again, all these calories here and there truly do add up and could make a difference between you fitting in your pants or ripping your pants by the time the clock strikes midnight this New Year!
Now get out there and do it!