How 7 PTs Handle The Holidays
Gustavo Vaz Tostes
PT at Fiit
It’s about balance. I’m heading back to Brazil this year to spend time with friends and family, and while I know I’ll be busy with social plans, I don’t press pause on my training. Instead, I set myself realistic goals – including some form of daily movement, ideally done first thing in the morning. For me, it’s about finding balance and not putting too much pressure on yourself. You may be surprised by what you can get done.
Try exercise snacking. Rather than seeing a workout as a monumental task, consider breaking up your workout into manageable groups. A ten-minute upper body session in the morning and ten minutes of lower body work in the evening can be just as effective as a longer session. If you’re struggling to get motivated, put your favourite playlist on and you’ll feel ten times better once the workout is done.
Hit every muscle group. On a weekly basis, we need to stimulate and work each part of the body – i.e. the upper and lower body through pushing and pulling movements. On the days you get the chance to work out for a little longer, make sure you work through the muscle groups you haven’t hit that week.
A little bit of what you fancy does you good. If you’re on track with your diet and training year-round, a few days of indulging won’t throw you off track. When you can, eat plenty of protein to keep muscles fuelled, keep you satiated and aid recovery.
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founder & trainer at Fit As
Daily runs keep me on track. Nothing beats a morning run in the crisp winter air – it’s meditative and kickstarts energy levels. Practically speaking, it makes sense to exercise in the morning before the day gets away with you, and cardio gives you the most bang for your buck if time is of the essence.
Cycling will kick a hangover to the curb. I give up alcohol for December until Christmas Eve – it’s easier said than done, but means I can really relax and enjoy the festivities. I avoid a strenuous workout when hungover but love heading out for a cycle – it’s low impact and a great way to clear the head. Before I head out, I’ll make my go-to hangover smoothie – frozen banana, coconut water, a couple of dates, peanut butter, maca, cacao, chia seeds, oats and sea salt.
Head of Fitness at Lime Wood
Train efficiently and effectively. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a day or two out of your usual week, but when you do train, make sure you up the intensity and effort level so you’re maximising your session. Even if you only have 15 minutes, you can still make it count. Something is better than nothing – a speedy 15-minute session isn’t wasted time or a low-value session, but rather additional gains.
Put sessions in the diary. Think of your training as meeting up with a friend – you wouldn’t cancel on them at the last minute, so the same should go for fitness. If you want to keep things ticking over the Christmas period, it pays to sit down with your diary and work out when you can fit in your sessions. If you fail to plan your workouts, it becomes all too easy to sack them off entirely, so get the diary out and put them in.
Eat mindfully. To keep your diet on track over Christmas, stick to your usual breakfast, and if you’re eating out, be mindful of portion sizes. Opting for smaller or side dishes is a great way to avoid overindulging. It’s worth eating slowly too, aiming to chew each mouthful 20 times – it takes 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness. And remember that just because it’s the festive season doesn’t mean you have to overindulge at every meal.
Stick to full-body workouts. Whatever stage of your fitness journey you’re at, to get the most out of a session, swap isolated movements for compound exercises. These involve multiple joints, and thus use a larger number of muscle groups. Isolation exercises only use one joint, and subsequently tend to focus on one muscle group, which uses less muscle mass. Compound exercises burn more calories, improve muscular strength and raise your heart rate – do more deadlifts, squats, lunges, bench presses, chest dips and bent-over rows.
Indulge a little. The festive period is about switching off and spending time with loved ones – enjoy these days, relax and don’t be too hard on yourself. My top tip? Stay mindful of two meals every day, so you can let your hair down a little when it matters. Keep in mind that one bad meal won’t ruin weeks, months or even a year of good eating habits.
founder of Bod by Rod
Focus on larger muscle groups. Working muscles like your thighs and glutes to fatigue will kick your metabolism into gear for the day ahead. Throw in some HIIT intervals and it’s totally possible to have an effective, results-driven workout in 20 minutes. If interval training isn’t your bag, do your favourite form of weight training first – for me, it’s barre – then take yourself for a quick run in the fresh air.
Don’t discount smaller pieces of kit. Resistance bands, a small Pilates ball and even your bodyweight can be just as effective as heavier weights, and they’re great for travelling. Barre is an incredible way to sculpt and strengthen the entire body – it’s deceptively tough. It’s the only workout I’ve found to work 360º of your body, targeting all major muscle groups through a variation of big and small movements, and challenging choreography.
Refuel with supplements. Don’t be too hard on yourself over Christmas but eat well when you can. My breakfasts don’t change over the festive period – my go-to is a plate of avocado and smoked salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids to kickstart my day. I also swear by Indi’s Body powder – with prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, it has you covered.
co-founder of Palm Rock
Take a mind and body approach. I like to try and exercise every single day of the year – for the mental benefits just as much as the physical. Over Christmas, I aim low to keep things realistic, aiming for ten minutes of movement followed by five minutes of breathwork and two minutes of cold-water exposure, usually in the form of a cold shower. All three have been proven to dramatically boost dopamine levels, improve mood, reduce stress and raise metabolism.
Prioritise strength training. It’s the single most effective exercise modality for improving wellbeing as well as staying lean. If you only have time for one or two workouts a week, lift weights. Combine with a healthy step count for optimal damage control during these indulgent weeks.
Avoid working out when hungover. Alcohol is, sadly, a poison, which our body has to work hard to metabolise. Since exercise is also a stressor, it’s best to avoid the gym after a heavy night. If you feel like moving your body when hungover, opt for a long walk instead, making sure you’re hydrating adequately before, during and after.
Try intermittent fasting. Up until Christmas Eve, I’ll skip breakfast and have my first meal around midday, then finish eating at 8pm. This is a 16:8 fast and can prevent you from overindulging. We are all different, but this works for me as a form of damage control. Over the years, I’ve also found it keeps my energy optimal and means I can bounce back more quickly come January.
fitness manager & PT at Third Space
Get organised. At the end of November, I plan a couple of repeatable 30-minute, full-body workouts and do these on rotation throughout December. Putting in the extra effort means you’ll be better able to adapt your workouts, and fit them in around the festivities. I ensure the workouts are suitable to do at home, incorporating bodyweight exercises and minimal kit – usually a couple of dumbbells and a band. This means you won’t be reliant on a gym, so no excuses for getting the work done. I exercise fasted in the morning before the day gets going.
Start the day with a green smoothie. This is a great way to tick several nutritional boxes. I use whey protein powder, banana, nut butter, kale and spinach along with a multivitamin and omega fish oil.
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