The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day has become one long, drawn out excuse to overindulge. Temptation abounds and with all that merriment in the air, it can be easy to throw caution to the wind and ditch our healthy habits. Unhealthy choices are more readily available during these weeks than at any other time of the year. When else do you have cookies and pies and turkeys covering every square inch of your kitchen counter and dining room table? Toss in the added burden of peer pressure at holiday gatherings, plus holiday stress, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for feeling less than jolly once January 2 rolls around. So, what can you do to ring in the New Year feeling like the best version of yourself?
If anybody knows how to stay healthy during the holidays, it’s our ACE Pros. Here are some simple yet powerful tips from nine of our ACE Certified Personal Trainers:
1. Erin Nitschke, Ed.D., NSCA-CPT, ACE Certified Health Coach and Fitness Nutrition Specialist
The holidays are a flurry of organized chaos! To combat added challenges, I practice four principles. First, I work out in the morning before the day begins. Second, I balance my plate by filling it with fruit, veggies and lean proteins and THEN add a nibble or two of the more calorie-laden items. Third, I remake recipes. I turn old favorites into sneaky-healthy dishes. Lastly, I enjoy the meaning of the season. We can’t forget to appreciate the merriment. Deriving joy from our holiday activities is as much a part of health and fitness as diet and exercise.
2. Mollie Martin, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Health Coach, Group Fitness Instructor and Medical Exercise Specialist, ACE Specialist in Behavior Change and Sports Conditioning, NSCA CSCS
As someone who likes to indulge during the holidays, I make sure to stay healthy and energized by ramping up my workouts and vitamin-dense foods throughout the month. I take advantage of cross-training options once I’m back in the Midwest visiting family—running in snow boots, snowshoeing and snowboarding when possible.
3. Jonathan Ross, ACE spokesperson and author
As surprising as it may seem, I don’t find it difficult to stay healthy around the holidays. The secret to this is to treat it like the holiDAYS and not the holiMONTHS. Our bodies are built from our habits. For many people, Halloween begins an endless parade of poor daily choices under the guise of “celebrating” which rolls right into the new year. I’ll relax the rules and enjoy an occasional indulgence on the actual holidays or at a party instead of letting each day bring a new “treat” or justification to indulge. As a fitness professional, a healthy lifestyle is part of who I am rather than something I do because I have to.
4. Justin Robinson, M.A., RD, CSSD, CSCS, FAFS
My motivation method actually stays the same year-round—signing up for a race or event. Luckily, living in Southern California makes it possible to find a triathlon, bike ride or 10K over the winter months. Having said that, I feel the holidays provide a chance to try a new activity or cross train for your upcoming race season. I look for fun events, such as cyclocross or trail running, that emphasize working hard and finishing, but do not emphasize speed or pace per mile. Overall, committing to a race provides the motivation for getting in that extra 20-minute jog after work and for having two cookies instead of three.
5. Amber Long, M.Ed., ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach, AFAA GFI
During the holidays, life gets a little hectic, but my calendar keeps me on track. This means that I schedule time for personal wellness. I create appointments specific to attending a class or working out on my own. This time is protected just like a meeting or family gathering. When time is tight, I turn to quick circuits and purposeful movement like walking or physical labor. I find that when I am consistent in moving my body I have extra motivation to make healthy choices around meals and snacks regardless of the season.
6. Nicole Thompson, M.A. in Sport and Performance Psychology, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach, ACE Specialist in Senior Fitness and Fitness Nutrition
When it comes to staying healthy around the holidays, the strategy that works best for me is planning my workouts or runs ahead of time. Between shopping, holiday parties and visiting friends and family, it can be challenging to squeeze in time to stay fit. If I plan my schedule in advance, I can be better prepared knowing exactly when and how long I can exercise versus trying to get in a workout feeling pressed for time. Additionally, being an avid runner, I will usually sign up for a half marathon that takes place after the new year. That way I am still compelled to do my runs during the holiday madness.
7. Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT 500, yoga educator and master trainer, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Health Coach and Group Fitness Instructor
To me the holidays are all about spending quality time with loved ones, so it’s a perfect opportunity to share the gift of wellness with those closest to me while keeping my own routine on track. As such I make it a point to prepare healthful, plant-based meals with my family, since cooking is something that always seems to bring us together. I also extend invitations to friends and family to take part in physical activity along with me, whether it be an after dinner walk or a morning yoga class, as these outings allow me to keep health and fitness front of mind amidst the time-crunched holiday season, while also enjoying the company of the people I care about most.
8.Beverly Hosford, M.A., ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Health Works Institute Instructor and fitness entrepreneur
I call in mindfulness during the holidays. Before jumping into a meal, activity or social commitment I tune into my truest needs. For me, health stems from body awareness. The body sends signals, or intuition, ahead of time and symptoms afterward to communicate alignment or misalignment with choices. The extra time off from regular obligations makes the holidays an open opportunity to honor my body more completely, experience gratitude and enjoy simple moments.
9. Elizabeth Rae Kovar, M.A., ACE Master Trainer, award-winning trainer, fitness writer and author
During the holidays, I follow my gut. Eating healthy and exercising during the holidays is not difficult for me because it’s my lifestyle. I don’t feel right, especially mentally, if I go days or weeks without moving and eating healthfully. It’s taken me a long time to break learned unhealthy holiday patterns, but now I know to trust my gut. My gut tells me when I’ve overeaten, or that it’s been too long since my last swim or yoga class. It’s not about depriving oneself or skipping holiday parties because of the dessert table. It’s about using the body’s wisdom to enjoy the best of the holidays to provide what I am really craving.
The average person gains one pound of weight during the holiday season, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider the average person never lets go of that one pound; instead we just add onto it year after year. And it’s about so much more than weight gain; it’s about feeling healthy and happy on the inside, too, which we can only accomplish when we make healthy choices a part of our daily lives, every day of the year. It really comes down to finding balance.