I love to exercise and I generally gravitate toward nutritious food, but making healthy choices during the holidays can be a challenge. Holiday treats are everywhere. Plus, I find it harder to find time to exercise between doing errands and holiday functions.
The trick to staying relatively healthy this December is to learn time-management techniques that make having discipline almost easy (or at least easier).
Here are five helpful tricks.
1. Keep a time journal
Before you can use your time more efficiently, you have to be aware of your daily patterns. Record time spent doing productive work, checking social media, sleeping, running errands, watching TV, playing video games, cooking and shopping for food.
2. Identify trends – learn how you can use your time more efficiently
Analyze your journal. If you don't want to keep a journal, analyze your perceived daily habits.
Once you have an understanding of how you are using your time, figure out how to fit in exercise.
If you spend an enormous amount of time running errands, try going online to do grocery shopping, paying bills or buying gifts. Use the "found time" to go to the gym.
If you have a long commute, see if you can work from home one day. Use that "found time" to go for a walk or run. If you watch TV nightly, tell yourself you can only watch TV if you are working out at the same time.
If you watch your children play a lot of sports, do squats and lunges as they play. If you prioritize time with your family over exercise, play sports with your kids.
3. Make a 'found time' list
Compose a list of activities you can do when you find yourself with an extra five-, 15- or 30-minute block.
When you find an extra five minutes, do a set of squats or lunges, skip rope – or even dance around your living room.
When you find an extra 10 minutes, use your stairs to get a workout. Walk up the stairs twice to warm up. Then alternate jogging up the stairs and walking up the stairs for 10 minutes. Or do aerobics. Try high knees, jumping jacks or bum kicks.
When you find an extra 30 minutes, practise a sport with your family, go for a walk with your partner or download and do a fitness podcast. You could even do active errands: vacuum, rake leaves or shovel snow.
4. Remember to schedule
Of course you are too busy to work out if you haven't carved out the time to train. Schedule training into your weekly calendar. Frame your workout as a "non-negotiable appointment."
Have a realistic plan of attack that includes when and how you will work out, what exercise you will do and who you will do it with.
Be honest with yourself regarding how much time and energy you actually have (not how much you want to have), your finances, your social and work obligations and your equipment.
5. Make your workouts convenient
What is convenient from January through November is probably not convenient during the holidays. During December, the more convenient the workout, the better. Instead of aiming to get to – and having to bail on – long gym workouts, consider getting DVDs you can do at home, training at lunch, commuting to work on bike or foot, walking your kids to school and then running home or setting up a home gym.
Basically, start thinking of everything as an opportunity to be active.
Final thought: Prepare a mantra. Say it out loud when you are tempted to make an unhealthy choice. I say, "Kathleen, your future self will be happier if you make the healthier choice. Being healthy is something you are doing for you. It is not a punishment." If that one doesn't resonate, create one that works for you. And, if you decide to make a less-than-ideal choice (like skipping a workout to go to a party), own the choice. Enjoy the party, but learn from your choices so that you can make informed health decisions going forward.
Kathleen Trotter has been a fitness writer, personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for more than 12 years. Follow her on Facebook, or Twitter at @KTrotterFitness.