It’s officially that time of year, folks! Between Thanksgiving and New Years, there are at least five weeks of holidays. For most of us, this means indulging in lots of food, and not always the healthiest foods. Not to mention, winter is coming (Game of Thrones fans, are you out there?) and for many of us, that means staying indoors. I live in Buffalo, and let me tell you – when the snow flies, there is nothing more I want to do than stay on my couch with a fuzzy blanket and a cup of tea! (Sometimes that’s literally all I can do, as we can get snowed in and unable to leave the house!)
Between the extra food and potentially being stuck inside, we may see some weight gain. How many of you (or someone you know) has made a New Year’s resolution to be healthier: start a diet, start an exercise plan, or both? It’s just not worth the effort of struggling through the holidays and also moving around, right? Plus, new year, new you! It’s a motivational fresh start!
But we all know how it goes. Gym enrollment is sky high in January, all the machines are taken. Your fridge is filled with nothing but fruits and vegetables, and you’re pleased with yourself for saying no to the donuts at work every morning. Then you do so well that you allow yourself a treat, and that turns into a “cheat day”, and before you know it…February is here and you’ve already “failed” at your goals. The motivation is gone. The weather is still crappy. Everything sucks.
So, I’m going doing a multiple part series on how to stay healthy through the holidays. I’ll talk about eating right while still indulging, exercising when you just don’t want to, and even managing your stress as holiday shopping and visits with in-laws looms over you and adds to the tasks of everyday life. Health is more than just healthy eating, after all, and while it’s my main focus at Salt and Skillet, there’s so much more to it!
For this part, I’ll be talking about staying healthy through exercise.
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Staying Healthy Through the Holidays: Exercise!
For many of us, the holidays also mean the weather is getting colder. (Sorry, Australians! While we’re bundled up, you’re trying to stay cool!) Here in Buffalo, we expect s***storms…that’s right, I said the s word. SNOW! That white stuff keeps most of us from exercising how we like to – sports, hiking, even running or biking is basically nonexistant for several months out of the year. We’re stuck inside. We can only go to the gym, and that in itself is problematic. Some gym memberships are expensive, and once you get there, all the machines are taken, the weights aren’t where they belong, there’s a guy doing bicep curls in the squat rack…ugh!
So, we use it as an excuse. “I can’t exercise, there’s no room in my house!” “I can’t exercise, there’s no sidewalk under all the snow!” “I can’t exercise, it’s cold out!”
Oh, yes, I am familiar with the excuses. I’ve been making them for years. Well, guess what? It’s time to do away with excuses and get some solutions that might even be easier than your normal workout routine!
We’ve got all these New Year’s Resolutions to get into shape, lose a few pounds, run a 5k in the spring…why wait until January 1 to start? There’s no reason! The best time to start changing yourself for the better is now. Right now. Today. After you read this article, you could take 15 minutes and exercise. It doesn’t need to be a whole, difficult routine!
So, without further ado, let’s talk about staying healthy through the holiday season by moving around when it’s cold out or you have limited space to do your routine.
Do Activities You Enjoy
“Exercise”. The word can make us cringe. We may imagine grueling hours on a treadmill or getting uncomfortably sweaty and watching the clock until you’ve put in your time. Here’s a fun fact: Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore! There are tons of activities you can do that get a good workout in without torturing yourself.
If you like skiing or snowboarding or snowshoeing – first of all, more power to you, because I HATE the cold and the snow. Second, you’re in luck! It’s winter! That stuff might be available nearby! Even sledding down a big hill gives you a good workout…when you have to climb back up the hill.
For the rest of us, there are lots of activities you can still do indoors, even if you generally think of them as summer activities! Some may require a membership to a club or gym, but if it’s something you enjoy and will get you moving, it’s worth it! I’m thinking dance, tennis, hockey (floor or ice!), rollerblading, gymnastics, rock climbing, kickboxing, tae kwon do, yoga…even swimming in an indoor pool! Lots of things don’t just disappear because the weather’s getting bad – you just have to know where to find them!
No Equipment? No Problem!
You can get a full-body workout in with just a little bit of empty floor space and your body. Bodyweight routines are the most affordable way to get into shape, and yes – they’ll work up a sweat! Get into some comfy clothes and do some squats, leg lifts, push ups, lunges, jog in place, use an imaginary jump rope, dance, run up and down your stairs! Amp it up just a little bit by adding weight with items you have around the house – a jug of milk, maybe. Remember, even if you’re not pumping iron, something is better than nothing, and a bodyweight routine can be a killer workout!
Recommendation: Steve at NerdFitness.com is all about bodyweight exercises. I learned just about everything I know about exercise from his website. He has lots of free articles and videos, a free forum, and some paid content that will really personalize your workouts! For starters, though, check out his article on his Beginner Body Weight Workout. If you’re nerdy, like me, you’ll totally relate to and love Steve’s website. If you’re not nerdy, all the information is still 100% relevant – there’s just some references and jokes thrown in there that maybe you won’t care so much about.
Recommendation: Taylor at TheUSofTay.com has a great article on how to start your home fitness program, plus examples of exercises you can do RIGHT NOW! She even has a free printable to keep track of your workouts that you can snag. And check out her other posts, too! She travels and gets lots of exercise hiking and skiing, and has some gorgeous photos of her travels! Click here to Kick Start our Home Fitness Program!
On the other hand…
Invest in Some Equipment!
If you have the space and the money, investing in some equipment is always a good idea. Especially if you live up north where you literally can’t be outside for months. Consider the savings of a gym membership – if you go to the gym and usually only use one or two machines, you’re essentially paying for the rental of a machine each month, and only for yourself! Use the money you would spend on a gym membership to buy your own equipment. You get unlimited access, can bring a friend for free any time, no blackout dates, the gym never closes, you get to keep the equipment, you never have to fight for it or worry about if the last person who used it wiped it down or had the flu or ANYTHING! It’s YOURS!
Many of us might be weary about buying a machine worth a couple hundred dollars, but if there is anything you are spending your hard-earned money on, it should be to invest in your health. Plus, you don’t even need to spend hundreds of dollars!
Dumbbells – No, I’m not talking about the 2.5 – 5 lb, neon pink mini dumbbells. Go for something real, but start small. A set of dumbbells that you can change the weight out is best – use different weights for different exercises, and build your strength up to the heavier stuff. Lifting weights is hella good for you! (Plus, you can start these adjustable dumbbells at 5 lbs if that’s where you’re at – no shame! Then you don’t need to buy a new set once you’re past the 5 lb mark!)
Recommendation: I have this set at home. It’s wonderful because I can start with 2.5 on each end for a 5 lb dumbbell, or bump it up to 15, up to 20! Plus, the bar that you hold is plastic, so you won’t have metal-scented hands the whole day. The calipers make changing out the weights quick and super easy, plus – bonus equipment! Just squeeze the heck out of them for a great forearm workout! 😉
My husband could use more weight than this, but for me, it’s perfect. When I’ve worked up to it, I’d love to purchase this high-end Bowflex dumbbell set. Even easier to adjust the weights and great for those who can lift much more than I can!
Bikes, Treadmills, Ellipticals, and Rowers – If you’ve got the space for it, and you enjoy (or at least don’t hate!) these machines, why not buy your own? Use your machine at any time with no time wasted traveling to and from the gym, and avoid any germs that might be on the public equipment!
Recommendation: We have a 700 square foot apartment, but I make sure there’s room in our living room for our exercise bike. We chose one that’s pretty compact and can easily be pulled into the center of the room for use. I love it because it’s comfortable, adjusts to different heights (my husband and I are always changing it!), and it’s silent! It uses magnets to build resistance, so there’s no windy or scrapey sound when we use it – it’s SO QUIET! Plus, it’s got tons of presets to keep us going and accurately measure our heart rate and calories burned. WOO!
Other equipment – If you’ve got a whole lot of space, like a garage or a basement or a spare bedroom, turn it into a home gym! Get the cardio equipment above, maybe a kickboxing bag, don’t forget about weights! You can get benches, squat racks, pull-up racks, those racks that make your abs scream when you tuck your legs up into your chest…you name it!
Get a gym membership
Not everyone has the capabilities to invest in their own equipment. Maybe you’re just starting out and aren’t sure which exercises you like to do, or maybe you want a really comprehensive routine and you just need all those special machines. No worries! Gym are everywhere, and are always eager to sign you up for a membership. Some clubs can be pretty pricey, but there are great gyms out there that can offer $10/month memberships! Just pay attention to the terms of the membership (aka how to back out, if you even can). Plus, remember – once the first of the month comes, people will be swarming trying to get a head start on their New Years Resolutions! But you’re smarter than that. You’re ahead of the game. You’re working out during the holidays!
Some great benefits of a gym membership is that you have access to all the equipment, maybe a sauna, maybe a pool. Many gyms also offer group classes like Zumba or spinning, and it’s all with a community of like-minded people. You can even utilize personal trainers. These people might have a degree in exercise science – they know their stuff! Let them help you get started or introduce you to things you’ve never done before!
My biggest issue with gym memberships is that most people start off strong but find excuses not to go. I mean, if you have to dig your car out of the snow just to get to the gym, and you’re already comfy in your warm house…Well, I wouldn’t go. So, having other options like doing a bodyweight routine or having your own equipment at home can be a great supplement to a gym membership!
Go outside anyway!
Sure, it’s cold. Yeah, maybe it’s snowing. But once you get your body moving, you’ll warm up in no time. The key is to find activities that you enjoy that are suited for the winter weather. Skiing is an obvious choice, but an expensive one. Snowboarding, too, shreds a hole in your wallet. But what about simpler things? A winter hike, building a snowman, a snowball fight, ice skating! There are indoor and outdoor skating rinks, and most offer skate rentals. Go find a hill and buy one of those $5 saucers, fling yourself down it, and get a work out by walking back up the hill. Bundle up and go for a walk in the woods and admire how it looks with undisturbed snow.
You’re with your family and friends during the holidays, and it’s a great time to make some memories. Toss a football outside (yes, even in the snow), have a snowball fight, build a snowman with the kiddos….whatever it is, do it together!
I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but just remember to dress appropriately! Waterproof boots, wool socks, hats, scarves, winter jacket….Come on, don’t make me say it.
Staying Healthy Through the Holidays – Exercise Recap
Exercising during the holidays and get a head start on your New Years Resolution. Don’t let that weight creep up on you! Here’s a recap on what to do to stay active when the holidays are around and the weather is getting colder:
- Do activities you enjoy so that exercising doesn’t seem like a chore!
- No Equipment? No Problem! A bodyweight workout or dance-off can build up quite a sweat!
- Invest in some equipment if you have the funds and the space.
- Get a gym membership before the New Years Resolution rush!
- Go outside anyway! Nobody said a snowball fight isn’t exercise, and it’s a great thing to do with family!