December is creeping ever closer, which means party season is nearly upon us. Cue late nights, boozy shenanigans and that seasonal ‘fitness amnesia’ that seems to strike without fail year on year.
But not this time; this time, I’m here to help you fight the cause of festive fatigue, rather than treating the symptoms after a month of overindulgence. Simply follow this six-step plan to stay feeling festively fresh, no matter what Christmas throws at you.
Set realistic goals
Let’s be honest; you’re probably going to be rushed off your feet this holiday season, and setting yourself unrealistic goals that are doomed to fail won’t help you feel any less stressed. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, be realistic about what you can achieve. Instead of focusing on losing weight, set goals based on your health, and focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to fitness. In this way, you leave time and flexibility to properly enjoy the holiday season without feeling guilty. Consider how many times a week you will be able to fit in exercise sessions, and add them to your diary now.
Focus on fitness
According to Total Fitness, gym attendance drops by around 30 percent in the lead up to Christmas – so if you’re guilty of taking your eye off the ball, you’re not alone.
Offset these fewer trips to the gym by focusing on higher-intensity workouts when you do go. Not only will you reduce the time you spend in the gym during this busy period, but you’ll also cut down on body fat before you start eating more food and kick-start your metabolism.
As anyone who has experienced the torment of a Christmas party morning-after hangover will tell you, drinking alcohol leads to dehydration, which in turn causes tiredness, headaches and nausea. Not the best motivator to start your day!
Staying hydrated is as simple as making sure you spend the day occasionally sipping on some H2O, or upping your game by adding some electrolytes to the mix.
For this, I’m loving nuun – light and refreshing sugar-free hydration tabs which you simply drop into a bottle of water to get a great taste AND stock up on the essential electrolytes you lose during everyday activity. One nuun tube has enough tabs to make twelve 16oz (500ml) hydration drinks. It’s sturdy, waterproof and easily fits into a gym bag, bike jersey, handbag, or pocket, and you can buy it online! Sorted.
In the run-up to the Christmas period, pre-toxing your diet can be vital to continued health and fitness. It can be tempting to skip meals, making room for all the extra calories you might be taking on when eating party food and drinking alcohol. Bad idea – skipping meals interrupts your blood sugar levels, meaning you’ll feel lethargic and sluggish, and then end up eating more later to compensate for your hunger.
The easiest and most effective way to eat mindfully and healthily during this period is to eat regularly, choosing balanced meals and grazing on regular, healthy snacks. Include plenty of vegetables, raw salads, wholegrains and immune-boosting goodies such as nuts and berries. Add in some probiotics to help boost your gut function.
If you’ve got the time to cook some soup, it’s a great option for a speedy lunch or as a quick meal to fill you up before going to a buffet.
Remember, be realistic; commit to looking after your health, not obsessing your about your jeans size.
Cut down on caffeine and alcohol
Don’t panic; I’m not suggesting you avoid alcohol and caffeine altogether (where’s the fun in that?!). What I am suggesting is that you limit your daily intake.
Ingesting too much caffeine or alcohol can be counter-productive to a pre-tox, because it increases anxiety and disrupts sleep patterns, leading to a vicious cycle of restless sleep, where you then end up relying on caffeine to help with daytime fatigue, and then going out and drinking more alcohol at the plethora of office parties and Christmas socials happening in the coming month.
Set yourself the rule of no caffeine after 3pm every day. Caffeine may help keep you alert, but studies show that it puts a strain on your liver – an organ which is going to be working overtime anyway this holiday season…
Get enough sleep
Long days at work, long evenings spent present shopping and long nights festively socialising are pretty much unavoidable around Christmas.
But making sure you get enough shut-eye is crucial to your fitness and wellbeing – sleep loss is associated with weight gain, bad emotional regulation, weakened immunity and, of course, the inability to party endlessly in style. So do yourself a favour and make sure you’re getting at least 7 good hours of sleep a night.
Not sure if you’re getting the full amount of sleep you need? There are some really nifty sleep-monitoring apps out there – for example, Sleep Cycle (£0.69) is an app (Android and iOS) that also watches your sleep habits from your nightstand in order to help wake you up at the best possible time of the morning within a set period, so you won’t be late for work!