I am very lucky. The company I work for is dedicated to the health and wellness of its employees, so we have a fitness center at our corporate headquarters. I was speaking with one of the trainers there this past week, and she said something that caught my attention. She observed that at this time of the year, as the holiday season approaches, the number of people who regularly train at the fitness center falls off sharply.
Ever since I made regular exercise a part of my life, I have been aware of what an effective stress reliever it is. The holidays are certainly a time of stress, and I believe it is a mistake to sacrifice our regular exercise habits in order to get to other things on our “To Do” list.
I am a first-thing-in-the-morning exerciser, so perhaps it is easier for me to stick with my routine during the holidays than those who exercise at their lunch hour, or after work, or later in the evening. Once the day gets started, things just seem to get in the way of making it to the gym. This is especially true during the holiday season.
The reason I exercise first thing in the morning is precisely because I found that if I didn’t, “other things” came along and exercising never happened. Or when I finally got to the end of the day and had time, I had no energy. When I make the commitment to exercise first thing in the morning, it is one thing I can check off my “To Do” list – and getting it done supports my efforts to get all those other things on my list done. I have more energy, more strength, I avoid the colds and flu of the season, and mentally, I don’t have that lingering “how am I ever going to get to the gym” voice in my head the rest of the day.
So my suggestion is, if there is any way you can get your exercise in first thing in the morning, please do it. It’s been a challenge for me since the weather got cold. So I know this is not an easy thing I am asking. I fight with myself every day – do I stay in my nice warm bed, or do I get up and get dressed and get out the door? So far, the gym is winning!
And if you are not a “morning person” and have never worked out in the morning for this reason, I can personally attest to the fact that is entirely possible to spend 30-60 minutes on an elliptical trainer or the treadmill and not be awake! I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve gotten off a machine and gone to get the disinfectant and a towel to wipe it down only to be reminded by someone else at the gym that I am cleaning the wrong machine! So please don’t let the “morning person” thing be an obstacle. You don’t have to be fully awake to exercise!
However, if you just can’t make the first-thing-in-the-morning commitment, then I have several other suggestions. Either work out at lunch or take a walk after dinner. To help you stick with it, pair up with a friend who is facing the same challenge. Or make your evening walk a nightly ritual with your canine companion, if you have one.
Some activity every day is better than none. So if you are reading this and you have never exercised regularly, don’t wait until January to start exercising. You know you’re going to put that “get fit” item on your New Year’s Resolutions List. You do it every year. Then a few weeks in, if not sooner, it starts to fall apart. Why wait? Maybe the key is to just start now, and start small. Start by taking an after dinner walk each evening. Perhaps you can walk with your spouse, or a friend, or your dog. But just try taking a walk.
And maybe, if you can commit to taking a daily walk, you just might keep your New Year’s Resolution this year, because you will have had several weeks to establish a routine. You know what they say – it takes 21 days to form a new habit. If you start now, you will have a healthy new habit even before January 1 rolls around.
One more thing – if you are not working on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day (and I sincerely hope you are not), don’t skip exercise on those days. If you can’t exercise first thing, then take a walk sometime after breakfast and before lunch – or before noon if you plan to skip lunch so you can enjoy your holiday dinner!) Get that walk in before the rest of the household is up!
To summarize, don’t let your regular exercise routine lapse during the holidays. And if you have not yet embraced the benefits of exercise, start now by taking a daily walk.
An investment in healthy habits now pays huge dividends later.