Make it easier to stay active during the party season with these top tips from Claire Chamberlain
1. Establish firm habits early on
When it comes to sticking to your fitness intentions over the festive season, it pays to start early. ‘It can take up to 66 days to create healthy habits,’ explains health & exercise coach, Bernadette Dancy (bernadettedancy.co.uk). ‘This is because habits arise from routines that are consistently carried out at the same time, or in the same sequence of events. So, to have the best chance of sticking to an exercise plan during the festive season, make sure you have well-established routines long before then, so you’re more likely to act habitually even when life gets busy.’
2. Plan the week ahead
Want to make it to that fitness class after work? Don’t leave it to chance, as your willpower is likely to have decreased after a busy, hectic day – especially if the offer of a few after-work drinks gets thrown into the mix!
‘I have the best weeks when I’ve actively booked myself into classes a few days beforehand,’ says yoga teacher Hannah Presence (hannahpresenceyoga.com). ‘If I have no plans and simply leave it down to self-motivation, not an awful lot would get done! So, on a Sunday evening, start to plan your week.
3. Choose exercise you enjoy
‘Even the most motivated among us might struggle to get out and exercise when there’s so much good TV to watch and boxes of chocolates to tempt us!’ says Bernadette. ‘So, to increase your chances of sticking with it, do exercise that you enjoy and look forward to.’ Think outside the box when it comes to exercise. Don’t fancy running or the gym? Why not try Boxercise or dance class, or book a session at a climbing wall?
4. Variety is key
Adding a little variety into your exercise routine will help keep you interested and your motivation high. ‘Don’t be scared to try something new!’ encourages Hannah. ‘Maybe a Monday circuits class, Tuesday yoga class, Wednesday swim, Thursday PT session, Friday rest, Saturday borrow a dog and go on a nice walk with family, and on Sunday stretch it out with yoga!’
5. Book a personal trainer
Making sure you’re accountable is one of the best ways of sticking to your exercise routine when temptations to give it a miss come calling.
‘A lot of the time, we have more accountability for others than ourselves,’ says Hannah. ‘If we know we’ll be letting someone else down if we don’t train, it makes us think twice about cancelling. Having a PT, private yoga teacher or 1-2-1 boxing session is great for keeping you motivated, and helps you become accountable to yourself and your goals. Can’t afford it? Start planning sessions with friends. Before I became a yoga teacher, I went to yoga classes twice a week with a friend. We took it in turns to drive and pick each other up – and we never let each other down.’
6. Get outside!
The Christmas period can bring with it a whole heap of stress and pressure, which can arise due to everything from organisational responsibilities to financial concerns. Making time to get outside in the fresh air will help relieve any stress you may be feeling, with the added bonus of burning a few calories. ‘Arrange Christmassy walks outside in nature, with family and friends,’ suggests Bernadette. ‘This will help you get into the festive spirit, while also providing accountability.’
7. Book a race!
Even if running isn’t usually your thing, there are often loads of festive 5K runs on offer now of year, with the emphasis firmly on fun and taking part, rather than on being super speedy. You’ll probably even get the chance to don a Santa suit, to spread a little festive cheer! ‘Search for your local parkrun, or find a Santa Fun Run near you,’ suggests Bernadette.
8. Keep it brief
Remember, you don’t need to find the time to commit to an hour-long class or session if you’re struggling to juggle work, fitness, family life and socialising. ‘You’ll be less inclined to cancel or pull out of doing exercise if you shorten the amount of time you’re going to do it for,’ says Bernadette. ‘High intensity interval training (HIIT) is one way of achieving this, where you exercise for maximal or near maximal efforts for short periods of time followed by a rest period, then repeat for a particular number of sets. By doing this, you can burn a significant number of calories by working for just 15 to 20 minutes. However, HIIT isn’t for everyone. Even if you don’t work at a high intensity, simply walking or working out at a lower intensity will help you maintain your exercise routine and increase your energy expenditure more so than if you sat in front of the TV.’