Staying Lean and Mean Over the Holidays

The holidays a rough time of year.  They’re busy, chaotic, and all the way frustrating at times.  You’re trying to find that perfect gift.  Get everyone a little something special, work on spending time with friends and family and still make time for your workouts.

We all want to be at 100% over the holidays.  But the emotional turmoil keeping your cool behind the little ol’ lady strolling along in Costco at a snails pace in the middle aisle, or struggling to stay away from the endless supply of holiday treats strewn throughout the landscape seems a bit daunting.  So let’s work on some strategies to keep the holidays warm and bright and full of cheer!


Holiday Fitness Strategies

Now, I’ve done a couple of these on the Facebook already, but let’s gloss over some of those shall we in case you missed some.  SMASH's Strength Lab Facebook page!

Strategy One…prep your meals!  This should be obvious and applicable to everyday life, but during the holiday season you’re all over the place.  Probably more so than usual, so it makes sense if you want to keep those holiday pounds from piling on that you have a steady supply of healthy protein, veggies, fats and some slow burning carbs (if that’s your thing) to fuel those days full of running around to this store and that place and dropping off the kids at this hockey rink.

Just focus on making a couple extra quality meals on the weekend when you have a bit more spare time and stock that stuff away in Tupperware for the week.  Then if you’re in a pinch you can grab and go or slap on a plate and reheat.  You’re good to go and it prevents another trip to the store, your favorite restaurant or worse the junk food stashed away in the cupboards.  If you have good food already prepped and stored you’re going to be less likely to stray away to more tasty treats.  Plus if you pre-load them into individual containers you can have them on the go!

Strategy Two…Lift for GAINZ!  Over the holidays is a great time to work on strength and building some muscle.  With all the extra calories you can have coming in and focusing on eating a little over maintenance you can have the perfect opportunity to actual just kick back and grow!

Re-vamping your workouts to a little more of a strength and hypertrophy focus is great because you can still get in and slam some heavy weights and then go for a bit of hypertrophy work with some moderate weights and higher reps.  It’s the best of both worlds.

Here's how you do it. Now providing you have a descent base level of training this should work rather well.  Plan on increasing your volume of workouts to about 4-5 days per week in order to increase both the amount of muscle mass that you stimulate per week and hit either split body parts or whole body each and every time you go into the gym.  Doesn't matter if it's only for 30 minutes or an hour, just get in there and go to work.

Now we're not talking about going to the gym and hitting bicep curls and abs!

Focus on full compound movements that are hitting a lot of muscle mass and lifting big weights. Start with something like squats, deadlifts, bench press, pullups, bent over rows, overhead presses...BIG LIFTS! Those will add some mass. Hit at least two of these type of exercises each workout.

Keep your reps heavy and low. Sets of 5 sets of 5 reps work great for these big movements. Then hit a couple of accessory movements with about 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps and don't neglect your core and you're outta there.

Strategy Three…Fasting through some meals!

Fasting is a great technique that can be used over the holidays to help keep those extra fat pounds from piling up.

AND it's super easy! You just don't eat anything with any caloric value over the course of the day or for several hours on certain days.

Now of course, it takes a while to get yourself used to doing this, so I would be mindful that it may take a couple tries to get into this method of diet manipulation but give it a try. Even shaving off a couple hundred calories over the holiday season doing a fast for a short length of time can bring big dividends at the end of the year.

Here's how you do it. Start off by not consuming anything with calories for the morning period before breakfast. It's helpful to have a whole food meal ready to go for when you get seriously hungry.

When you first get going only go for one or two hours beyond what you would normally consider your breakfast hour. Then the next time try to push it an hour or two longer. Eventually your body will adapt to not having food at a certain time period and you can literally fast for a whole 24 hour period. Again, you don't want to do this all the time, but 1 or 2 days with a 24 hour fast in there throughout the week is a great method to help burn fat.

Just be sure to consume good wholesome foods once you’re done with your fast and you're off to the races.

Now to apply this to a holiday scenario, one might want to fast either on a day with light to moderate activity at first.  Choose a day when you’ll be super busy running around, it tends to work better when you have something else to occupy your mind, which should be easy this time of year.

Then if you have a holiday feast planned work on fasting for a good length of time prior to your holiday meal and simply fast as long as possible, even right up to the holiday meal.  Once you start eating just make sure to hit some protein and veggies to help out with your metabolism, then eat whatever you desire.  It’s not a fool proof way to ward of the pounds if you’re eating a dozen cookies at a time, but it can save you a bunch of calories in the long run.

Strategy Four…get outside!

The last strategy is for two reasons.  One getting outside has great benefits for your body, especially when it’s cold.  Cold weather will fire up you thermostat to help keep you warm, which heat requires calories.  So in essence being colder will help you burn more calories.

Secondly, being outdoors is part of being human.  Have you ever noticed that just simply going outside has a great impact on your overall mood and well-being?  Try this when you’re having a bad day and simply go outside for a walk.  Breathe in that fresh air and absorb the environment you’re in.  You’re a part of the majestic universe we live in.

So get out there in the snow and do something.  You can go outside and play with the kids in the snow, take a walk, shovel the sidewalk, build a snowman, snowshoe the country side, whatever.  Just get out there and move a bit.  You’ll burn tons of calories.  Far more than sitting at home watching Netflicks.  Although Stranger Things will still be there when you get back.


Wrap It Up

The holidays can be rough folks, but it doesn’t have to be such a frantic mess!  Take some time for yourself and help keep yourself healthy, happy, and feeling awesome into the New Year.  Lift some big weights, prep your meals, fast a bit and get outside, pretty simple stuff that can change your whole holiday season.



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Jess Howland

Jesse "Captain Smash" Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold's Gym. He's a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.