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12 Small Steps to Put YOU at the Top of Your List this Season

By Leslie Barker

Orangetheory’s 12 Days of Fitness Challenge is excitingly close. The annual event starts December 1, costs $15 and lands you nifty socks and shoelaces. All you have to do is complete six fun-themed workouts in a dozen days.  

 To help you get into the spirit for this exhilarating event, here's another dozen for you -- not days and not doughnuts, but 12 science-based, satisfying and invigorating steps to help kickstart your holiday season and carry you into 2023. They're especially important this time of year, when our fitness and nutrition tends to get out of whack.

“People commit to a lot more social activities, parties and events surrounding the holidays,” says Brittany Masteller, PhD., research scientist for Orangetheory Fitness. “That can lead to prioritizing things other than fitness.”

 Thus, time we might otherwise spend working out now is devoted to shopping, traveling, baking, standing in line at the UPS counter, and entertaining kiddos who are usually in school.

All are good and necessary activities, but they can throw off our fitness. Yet taking time for it can help us better handle seasonal stress, and even toss a little holly jolly into our holiday.

 “Exercise is beneficial for stress management,” Dr. Masteller says. “It can improve your mood and quality of sleep. It’s easier to put it off during the holidays because you’re so busy, but the benefits don’t change simply because it’s a different time of year.”

Which leads us to the tips:

1. Do at least the minimum exercise dose.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity. If you go to three Orangetheory classes every week, that more than takes care of the recommendations.

 

2. Remember that every movement counts.  

Fabio Comana, a member of Orangetheory’s Medical Advisory Board, touts the benefits of simply moving. So take another loop of the mall, an extra stroll through the neighborhood to look at lights. Even housecleaning has high benefits, especially if you scrub extra hard, or vacuum more vigorously than usual. Remember your body thrives on movement.

 

3. If you can’t, you can’t.

Don’t beat yourself up over missing a workout or two (or even three). Just show up tomorrow.  

 

4. Plan ahead.  

 “It’s OK to scale back on the frequency or duration of workouts to prioritize special time with family and friends,” Dr. Masteller says. “Look at your schedule for the coming week. If it’s going to be busy,  decide to fit in x-number of workouts and stick to that.”

 

5. Remember your why.

“When you really understand your ‘why’ in anything you do, you’ll go about things differently,” says Ellen Latham, creator and co-founder of Orangetheory. “You start those discussions and create feelings of hope and joy.”

 

6. Set doable goals specific to YOU.  

Make them positive and simple instead of negative and complicated, experts say. Think SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound – and tailor them to YOUR needs, not your best friend’s or your sister’s.

 Putting a holiday spin on that, maybe set a goal to attend two Orangetheory classes every week in December, rather than telling yourself No more of Grandma’s fudge! (even though it’s your favorite).

 

7. Get your workout done early.

“That way, you can get that movement in, but not miss out on the day’s or evening’s activities,” Dr. Masteller says.

 

8. Put yourself first.

Channel the flight attendants’ spiel, but instead of putting your oxygen mask first, take care of yourself before anyone.  

 "That will give you more energy for other people and you’ll be able to show up for them as the best version of yourself," she says.

 

9. Breathe.

Every breath heightens the connection between mind and body. Focus on steadily inhaling and exhaling to lower your heart rate and thus your stress level. At an Orangetheory class, being aware of your breath slowing down after a hard segment helps recharge your battery for the next one.

 

10. Make the most of your Orangetheory classes.

Ask your coach to check your form, and for suggestions on bettering your workout. Go at a different time every so often. Who knows? You just may meet a new workout buddy.  

 

11. Eat as sensibly as possible.

Treats will abound, but you don’t have to eat everything. Focus on fruits, vegetables, lean protein and grains, but allow yourself a few treats. Also, remember to hydrate. Start each holiday gathering with a glass of water, and keep sipping for the duration.

 

12. Relax and enjoy.  

 “Memories and experiences you'll have with friends and family during the holidays are worth adjusting your typical workout schedule,” Dr. Masteller says. “You don’t want to miss out on things; you want to be part of them. That doesn’t mean you’re losing your goals; you’re just adjusting them for a short period of time.”