Whether your holiday wish list is long or short, “gaining five pounds in December” isn’t likely to be on it. At a time when there seems to be more parties than workouts, it’s even more important to find time to exercise and eat right. And since finding time to exercise amidst cocktail parties and last-minute holiday shopping can be a significant challenge, here are a few tips on how you can continue to improve your body and health over the party season, while getting a head start on your New Year’s fitness resolutions.
Strength training is an efficient workout that provides significant benefit with a relatively small amount of exercise. For beginner-level lifters, research studies have repeatedly shown that one set per exercise is as effective as three sets. So, if your current strength training workout calls for three sets of eight repetitions, simply give it all you’ve got for one set of eight and you’ll make just as much progress.
Interval training is another economical form of exercise. Rather than following up your strength training with 45 minutes on the treadmill, you can get the same (or better) fat burning results from a much shorter period of interval training. After a thorough five minute warm-up at a moderate pace, perform five high-intensity intervals at a slightly harder-than-normal work pace.
For example, if you regularly run for 30 minutes at 6.0 mph, try performing one minute intervals at 7.5 mph. Walk at 4.0 mph for one minute between work intervals. Finish with a five minute cool-down for a total interval workout time of 20 minutes. Research shows that strength training and interval training do the best job of helping your body to burn calories long after the workout is done, even while you get piggy with it at the holiday buffet.
Cut the Junk
Training Advisor Alwyn Cosgrove suggests asking yourself, “Will this help me or not? Is this a positive step or not?” So unless you can justify doing three exercises for triceps, then cut the junk from your workout and focus on efficient exercises only. How do you know what’s garbage? If an exercise focuses on one small muscle group or if you can talk on your cell phone while you do it, then it’s garbage. For example, triceps extensions should be eliminated from an efficient workout, while a dumbbell chest press makes the cut.
Warm-up as a Workout
You don’t need to spend 10 minutes on the treadmill before you strength train. Instead, you need to prepare specifically for what you are about to do. If your walk to the gym is more than a couple of minutes, you can go right into specific warm-up sets for your strength training exercises.
Whole Body vs. Split Routines
Don’t be a slave to doing chest and arms on Mondays. This eliminates any excuse to skip workouts when you deviate from your “weekly” schedule. Forget about body part training and plan your workouts to train either your entire body in one session or alternate between upper and lower body workouts. Save the chest workouts for the New Year.
Train your Abdominals with Every Exercise
The 15 minutes of sit-ups you do each day is a waste of time and potentially damaging to your lower back. Instead of wasting away on the floor, approach each exercise as an abdominal exercise. Brace your abs (like someone is about to punch you in the stomach) and never let your low back “round”. This body posture is especially important for exercises such as the ab bridge, squats, push-ups, and all standing exercises. Your abs will still be there in January when you re-commit to your full-length fat loss workouts.
Plan your Workouts
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Now that you’ve read these tips, it’s important to put your holiday workout plan into action. Don’t go to the gym without a clue and end up on the cardio machine for an hour because you don’t know where to start. Here’s a quick and easy workout template you can follow to get in an efficient and effective 45-minute total body workout (can be repeated three times per week).
2 warm-up sets for weight training exercises – 10 minutes
Weights - 10 minutes
1 set of Dumbbell Squats
1 set of Dumbbell Chest Presses
1 set of Reverse Lunges
1 set of Wide-grip Seated Rows
1 set of core endurance exercise such as an ab bridge
Intervals – 20 minutes
Stretch tight muscles only – 5 minutes
Total workout time: 45 minutes
By Craig Ballantyne
This article first appeared in Get Out There Magazine. www.getouttheremag.com