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Fitness Tips for the Holidays

“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…”

Nowadays, you might actually find yourself singing along to the tune of this song; or you can actually pull off wearing gloves or that turtleneck while walking in the city. And the best part of it? People will not give you the strange and awkward stare.

Why? Because we can’t deny the cool breeze blowing through our hair, busy shoppers flocking the fairs, and holiday tunes playing in the air.

The holiday atmosphere is finally here!
Children run around the streets with their empty cans and flattened bottle caps, to sing their lungs out in the local tradition of “caroling”; the dim Gilmore Avenue is now sparkling with those shimmering lanterns; and godparents paying the seasonal visit to the bank for new paper bills. There certainly is no better place in the world to spend yuletide than here.

For most of us, it’s the time of year when we can enjoy the company of good old friends, relatives, and a special mention to great food! It is also the time of the year, experts say, known to be the most challenging period to keep our bodies in tip-top shape. With all the distractions, who could disagree?

We have parties left and right, family gatherings here and there, and free food literally flowing everywhere. Besides, you probably tell yourself: “Hey, it’s the holidays, even my fitness regimen could take a break.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be the biggest mistake that you would not want to make as you end the year. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, our body—and its overall fitness or balance—do not take holidays off. It will similarly function, stress out, and recuperate the same manner as it did the rest of the year.

So if you are planning to binge on the sweets, cocktails, and steaks in the coming weeks, I suggest you hold down your horses and don’t get too excited. I’m sure you are as eager as everybody else when the holidays are on its way. And I’m not suggesting that you wage war on the holiday-weight-gain scare. Surviving the fit-challenged time of year is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be a workload.

Without beating around the bush, here is a list of the best tips you could abide by as a buffer to your fitness through the holidays.

Be honest
This advice is on the top of our list. Honesty is the best policy! The atmosphere will surely be rowdy, ecstatic, and crazy in the next few weeks. There will be booze and chow like it’s last supper every night. Do not deny that this will not happen. That’s why all you need to do is to be flexible.

Adjust your timetable of exercises to accommodate the social happenings of the season. Whether you already have an established fitness scheme or just a newbie, this will work to your advantage.

Be flexible
Attend gatherings and attend to your body’s physical needs.

Spread the bread
You will almost certainly hold your own party at home. As you spread the cheers with the utmost hospitality of a good wine and dine experience, sack and pack unfinished platters of dishes, then give them to your guests. Or better yet, give it to your neighbors or for a more noble cause, to shelters of recent victims of calamities.
Besides, it’s the season of giving! I’m sure they will be more than willing to accept the “take-home” food from your event. The essence of this tip is to prevent you from reheating and eating. Especially on foods that probably have high contents of saturated fat. So by doing this, you’ll save yourself from the extra dose of excess fat in your body, while observing the spirit of giving.

On exercise
It is safe to assume that at this point of the season, you have munched on steaks, fish, chicken, and the staple lean-meat foods, so follow this workout routine.

Increase cardio intensity in short durations
And when I say increase, I mean high intensity! Intensity varies from person to person. The key is to reach at least 60-80 percent of your maximum heart rate. The formula is: 220 – your age – maximum heart rate.

This will give your cardiovascular system that boost of entering the fat-burning zone. Do 10-second sprints or explosive runs (either outdoors or on the treadmill) with 15-second rest period. Do this three times and as much as five times at the beginning of your workouts.

Reverse pyramid
For those who have had an active fitness regimen, you are probably familiar with the jargon. For beginners, this means you have to start with the maximum weights you can lift.

Chest exercise
If you can bench 100 pounds only once, that will be your maximum repetition or 1MR. Ergo, 100 pounds of bench press with only 1 repetition, or 1 lift, should be your first set. Still with me? Try to focus just a little more. On the second set, you should be able to lift seven times or seven repetitions. You should decrease the weight accordingly in order to complete the repetitions.

On your last set, you should have 12 or more repetitions until failure (*failure is a state wherein your muscles lock up and can no longer do a full repetition). Ask a fitness trainer or someone to give you a spot. In a nutshell, the reverse pyramid technique is lifting heavy first with minimum repetition, then gradually decreasing the weight to achieve more repetitions.

Your muscles are the catalyst for fat burn and proper protein usage. This season, try to focus on maintaining your lean muscle mass.

Do not cheat too much
In any typical dining occasion, there’s an abundance of food for everyone. There’s fillet mignon, barbeque and ribs, salmon, luscious green salads, etc. But there’s one food group that I would not recommend splurging on: desserts.

We commonly know these kinds as the cheat food. And as a force of bad habit—or misguided dining etiquette—desserts come in after a hefty meal. Brownies, pastries, cakes, ice cream, name it, they are just so tempting! And you tell yourself: “I deserve treats as much as I deserve cheats this season!” People, sweets are available all year round. Don’t make an excuse to cheat excessively. They are loaded with sugars and fats that would bloat your hips and mid-section like a balloon. Besides, they are already a part of your monthly, weekly, and even daily cheat meals. Again, I didn’t say don’t eat, but take it easy on the cheat.

Double up
I’m almost certain that somebody will have the same level of enthusiasm of keeping in shape during the holiday season. Why not convince a friend or a relative to enroll in a kickboxing program for a couple of weeks? Try persuading a relative to buy a buy-one-take¬one gym membership.

No matter who is interested in being your fitness partner, in this case, two would be better than one. It’s always fun and much more convenient to get fit with an exercise buddy.

Family up
Okay. I know we don’t have ski trails or snow or the great outback here in the country. But for as long as you are with your family,doing activities with them triples the fun! Aside from the fusion of movement to a worthwhile activity, what matters most is that you are able to spend quality time with the family.

Yes, shop! And what does shopping have to do with staying in top form this time of the year? One, it gives us a sense of fulfillment and reward as we buy ourselves those long-wanted clothes and shoes. We will have more reasons to exercise so the newly purchased clothes could fit in nicer bodies. It is the season for shopping anyway.

Two, shopping forces you to do one thing: walking. Just as I’ve said in the past, walking is one of the most primitive forms of calorie-burning and fat-eliminating human activity.

With your keen sense for taste, quality, and value for money, I doubt if you would settle for the first store in the corner, or the first mall. You would search for the best buys in the city! I’m sure some of you have by now beaten the holiday rush and shopped downtown. As one of my friends told me, shopping could never be this rewarding!

Avoid the joints
Beer and fast food joints, that is. The social factor is in play for this tip. Experts believe that most of us have a penchant for drinking too much in social settings. Although we are all probably aware of the government “advice” of drinking moderately, this season, some of us would not care. But what exactly is moderate drinking?

Studies reveal that men in a week should only drink a maximum of fourteen 330-mL alcoholic drinks with 7 percent alcohol by volume; on the contrary, women should only consume half of this. Anything in excess of these amounts could lead to severe liver damage, dehydration of the brain, and the most common side effect of alcohol, impaired judgment. Agree? Just so you know 90 percent of alcohol is oxidized in your liver. That should say enough.

Regarding fast food joints, I would be surprised that despite the home-based parties and gatherings that will arise this season, who would still go for fast food? Some people would still be an exception definitely.

Research has shown that a steady diet-away-from-home will increase the likelihood of health risks, such as diabetes, obesity, and other cardiovascular diseases. Guys, as much as possible, appreciate home-cookin’ these holidays.

This piece of advice is popular among the people I’ve spoken to while I was writing this article. A friend of mine who is an IT manager—not to mention incredibly witty, smart, and fit—provided me with her definition of offsetting.

“It’s simple, when you ate too much on a particular meal, you have to eat less on the next one, or vice versa. Although I would normally eat way less at dinner…” It’s a very common practice that a lot of individuals adhere to. And to a degree, it is right and advisable.

Let me just give more specific inputs on this concept related to your munching habit this season. Spreading out or portioning could be another name for this custom. The key is to choose the kind and amount of food for each meal. For starters, always load on the green ones. Fresh vegetables are rich with phytochemicals that provide your body with antioxidants it needs to wash away free radicals.

Then, the next biggest portion of your food should come from potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat products, and beans. These are composed of carbohydrates.

The third should come from quality meat. Fish should be on top of your list; next would be white meat that includes skinless chicken, and the rest of the two- or four-legged edible animals. These would supply you with quality protein. The last and least portion of your food should consist of the cheats: dairy and baked products.

On a footnote, try to eat light, consume no caffeine or alcohol, 3-4 hours before hitting the sack. And don’t forget your sufficient intake of water!

Take it easy
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the top advice I will give you is honesty. After all is said and done, we can honestly say that the season is simply about spending time with friends and loved ones, and a little for yourself, too. These moments are priceless—take it easy, just enjoy. After 300 or so days of joys and tears, you made it yet again another year.

With a little guidance on the above-mentioned suggestions, it’s time to conclude and commence another chapter of your life with a healthy mind and a healthy body. And my friends, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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