The 12 days of an active Christmas

“On the first day of Christmas, it was frigid and cold.” In the past week, Mother Nature has been reminding us what winter is supposed to really feel like in Minnesota. And with the cold weather and Holiday sweets, it’s hard to be motivated to stay active and continue to eat well.

“Based on studies, the majority of people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season that starts on Thanksgiving Day and ends with the New Year celebrations, ” says Craig Wilson in his article, “Ways to Stay in Shape During Winter.”

How does one stay healthy and physically active in late-December to early February, especially if you don’t have access/money for the gym and have no desire to go outside? Below are the “12 Days of An Active Christmas,” some tips for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle in the dead of winter and the midst of the Holidays.

On the first day of an active Christmas: Change your mindset

“I think sometimes people misinterpret working out as wanting to look a certain way physically, or something along those lines,” says Cami Paulson, Head Cross Country Coach and faculty member at SCU. “[But it’s more] important for all of your systems to work correctly, that your heart gets stronger, that your lungs get stronger, that your muscles get stronger. And [exercising] helps us mentally, too. It’s a stress reliever, and really helps you be at your best mentally.”

Instead of thinking of exercising as a burden or just something athletes do, think of it as a time for yourself; time to let your mind wander, to listen to music, to focus on you and your needs.

“Way back in the day, people didn’t need to work out or carve out time [to workout] like they do now because they were physically doing labor in their jobs or working out in the fields. These days, we don’t do that anymore, but our bodies and our needs haven’t changed, so in some way shape or form, we need to find that physical activity. It’s important for everybody,” says Paulson.

On the second day of an active Christmas: Create Goals

Without a goal or sense of direction, you won’t be able to pat yourself on the back for what you’ve accomplished physically. Or, on the opposite end, you won’t have any motivation to achieve anything because you don’t know where you want to go. A goal could be anything from working out three times a week to being able to run a half marathon. Any small step counts.

On the third day of an active Christmas: De-stress

When things get hectic, pause, breath, journal, meditate, do yoga, put your legs up on the wall; whatever it is that gives you peace of mind. Refocus on what’s most important.

On the fourth day: Eat Before Heading Out

Wilson says, “It is best that you eat something before heading out to visits, trips, or family dinners. By doing so, you will no longer be tempted to eat a lot or overindulge yourself since you have already eaten. Skipping meals is not a good idea either because you will only be forced to eat more later.”

On the fifth day of exercising: Walk the extra mile

One doesn’t have to literally walk an extra mile outside to stay in shape. There are always other ways to walk a few more steps. Instead of the elevator, take the stairs; park farther away from your building. Or, if you would like to avoid walking outside at all costs, go to the mall. That way, you can get your holiday shopping done and get the extra steps in!

Walking your pets is a great way to stay active this season.

Lilla Frerichs

Walking your pets is a great way to stay active this season.

On the sixth day of exercising: Ask around

Many say the best trick in trying to be active and staying that way is to find someone to do it with you and hold you accountable.

“When it’s an individual person, it’s definitely tougher to sometimes be motivated to [stay active] because you don’t have the team holding you accountable. If you can find somebody, like a relative or a buddy to work out with, it makes it a lot easier to pull yourself up when you have those doubts in your mind as to whether or not you want to get out of bed and do something…Obviously, not everybody has that, but there are online groups as well. You can put down what you’ve done for the day, and hold accountability that way too” (Paulson).

On the seventh day of exercising: Explore online

There are many days in winter when it’s undesirable (and occasionally unsafe) to drive all the way to the gym or go outside when it’s well below freezing. Instead, why not put in a workout DVD, or find a little workout online?

“When you work out at home, you don’t have to spend time changing your clothes or driving to and from the gym; you can put 100% of that time into actually exercising,” says Matt Duczeminski in an article on winter fitness.

“There are many things available in this day and age as far as what you can pull up to help you with it. So you can [go] online and say, ‘I want a 5 or 10-minute workout that focuses on upper body, lower body, yoga,’ and you’ll find it within a matter of minutes. So there’s really no excuse for not having access to some ideas and things for [exercising]. And a lot of this stuff you could do without any equipment at all,” says Paulson.

On the eighth day of Christmas: Prioritize and schedule your workouts

After you make goals, it important to have a consistent schedule so it becomes an everyday habit and not simply just another task you have to fit in around everything else. If you just did a workout whenever you felt like it, you may be less motivated and less likely to do it. As a former athlete, Paulson agrees.

“Certainly having a schedule helps. If you tell yourself, ‘I’m going to workout Monday, Wednesday, Friday,’ it’s important to set that up in advance because the Holidays can get kind of busy. My suggestion would be not to be too busy, and make sure you do good things for yourself and take care of yourself because that will make you feel better.”

On the ninth day: Start off gradually

There’s nothing worse than setting an unrealistic goal, not accomplishing it, beating yourself up about it and thinking, “Okay, well, I’m never trying that again.” The key, especially in exercising, it to start off slow and gradually build from there.

“Make sure you gradually ease into it. I think a lot of times what happens with New Year’s resolutions is people get really excited to start something and maybe start too fast and put themselves in jeopardy of getting hurt (which you don’t want) or getting burned out like it’s just too much too soon. So start kind of slowly and gradually build up. About 5-10% a week is what we suggest to stay physically healthy and mentally healthy to work into it. It’s like school- it’s overwhelming if you start everything all at once, so build into it and gain confidence and them just try a variety of things if you haven’t found something that you like yet. Make it realistic to what you actually have time to devote yourself to. And make sure that you find time. Usually, people say, ‘I’m too busy to do this.’ But often some things could be adjusted or cut out to make room for it,” says Paulson.

Getting outside for a brisk walk once in a while wouldn't hurt; winter can be such a gorgeous season.

George Hodan

Getting outside for a brisk walk once in a while wouldn’t hurt; winter can be such a gorgeous season.

On the tenth day: Try Indoor Sports

If you can’t find a friend to exercise with you, try to join a team, which may make staying in shape fun and engaging. Duczeminski encourages people to:

“Check out any intramural leagues that may be opening up in your area. Don’t be discouraged—most of these leagues aren’t competitive and are full of people of average ability like you who just need a way to keep moving during the winter. Strap on your new basketball sneakers and hit the court, or get your safety goggles ready for some high-speed racquetball. You might even find a new pastime that will keep you active throughout the rest of the year!”

On the eleventh day: Drink water

Eggnog, champagne, hot chocolate, hot apple cider- the options are endless during the Holidays! It’s fine to indulge yourself in the festive drinks but try to have water be one of your primary beverages this season.

“It can satiate your appetite as well as keep you hydrated at all times. And it will also prevent a possible hangover if you overdo it with alcohol” (Wilson, 2016).

On the twelfth day: ‘Treat yo self.”

In the words of Donna and Tom from Park and Recreation, “treat yo self”, not just by buying and eating delicious food, but also staying active; your future self will thank you. And hopefully, your “12 Days of an Active Christmas” lifestyle will continue after Christmas and last a month, a year, and maybe become a permanent habit. Have a wonderful Christmas Break!

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