Healthy Holiday Tips That Won’t Leave You Feeling Deprived

Finding balance between your commitment to staying fit and well, reality, is tough and it only gets tougher in the holiday season. Close quarters and cold weather challenge our immune systems and unrestricted family time presents its own challenges to our mental health, not to mention the dinner table and the threat it poses to undoing our efforts to eat right and exercise. Here are six tips to stay on track this holiday season and beyond.

Have a good breakfast. While it’s tempting to skip breakfast to offset the damage of the feast to come, doing so sets up a cycle of plummeting blood sugar that leaves you likely to skip your workout, head into the festivities feeling cranky and unlikely to enjoy the party, and ready to put anything into your mouth to hold you over until dinner. Start your morning right with a protein-heavy meal that will hold you for hours to come. Including eggs in your breakfast is a great bet to support weight loss (or maintenance) and a healthy immune system. For just 70 calories per egg, you invest in a high nutrient food that is likely to leave you eating less throughout the day (as much as 400 calories less according to one study)!  You can offset the calories by including a quick workout that will rev up your metabolism and your mood for the rest of the morning.

Squeeze in a morning workout. You’ve already taken a big step towards making your daily workouts convenient and accessible through investing in your home fitness equipment. On days that you’re pressed for time, use your treadmill, elliptical or recumbent bike for a quality workout that packs a big impact in a short period of time. A High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session is approachable for all fitness levels and will rev up your metabolism and improve your blood sugar in as little as ten minutes (though if you can go for 20 that’s even better). Start out with a short warm-up of 2-5 minutes, then alternate between period of maximum effort (45-90 seconds) and recovery (1-2 minutes). The shorter the recovery period and the longer the intervals, the tougher your training session, so base your approach on your fitness level.  Finish your workout with 2-5 minutes of recovery and enjoy the bragging rights that workout gives you at the day’s festivities.

Practice gratitude. From lowering your blood pressure to improving your mental health, the benefits of gratitude go far beyond lip service. As you head into potentially stressful days, take the time to really recognize the abundance that exists in your daily life. If you have the time, you can even complete this gratitude exercise and see the difference that bringing appreciation into your morning creates throughout the day.

Make plans. Even though family events and a full house can bring their share of stress, they might also be good for you in the long run. Research shows that strong social connections lead to happier, longer lives. Steer clear of those you know set you off and take the opportunity to really connect with someone you care about, whether that’s in person or taking the time to call or send a card. Including the right people in your life can also be a great opportunity to boost your commitment to a healthy lifestyle through supporting your diet and exercise plans.

Get outside. While you’re enjoying your social connections, why not grab your favorite cousin or sibling and head outside? Not only does this give you the chance to create some memories, you can also ditch family members who might be less than supportive of your healthy lifestyle. It’s no secret that spending time outdoors is good for you.  You’ll also receive benefits ranging from strengthened immunity, a healthy dose of Vitamin D (harder to come by at this dark time of year) and improved concentration (just the thing for cleaning up at the post-feast card game).

Enjoy your meal. Sure, the holiday table spread is loaded with caloric nightmares that start with butter and end with whipped cream, however, there are some seriously nutrient-dense choices that grace every traditional table as well. Enjoy your turkey, even the dark meat. Loaded with protein and iron, it’s filled with the stuff you need to build muscle and recover from your tough workouts. Whether you take them baked, in a casserole, or in pie form, enjoy your sweet potatoes and squash. They’re packed with beta carotene that can strengthen your resistance to the cold someone inevitably brought to the party, and maybe even help you to fight off cancer in the long run.

Wishing you a healthy holiday season!

Keep Moving through the Holidays

From full schedules to abundant tables, the holidays make it more important than ever to make the time to take care of yourself and your body. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to fit in your workout when the days grow short and the weather turns cold. With your investment in home fitness equipment, you already know that staying fit doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of time away from your family or finding extra hours in an already busy day. If you’re looking to ring in the New Year feeling healthy, try these tips to keep yourself going strong.

Pick an Outdoor Workout. If you enjoy staying active outdoors, don’t let the holiday’s drive you into hibernation. By dressing appropriately (here’s a good guide to get you started), you can continue outdoor running through the winter. You can even use your treadmill, elliptical or indoor cycle to warm up inside before heading out for a run that is shorter than usual but still gives you the benefits of an outdoor workout (and the bragging rights of a hard core winter runner). If winter running just isn’t your thing, consider cross training in another winter sport, such as snow-shoeing or cross country skiing or head out to celebrate the season with a day (or evening) of sledding, skating or time on the slopes. Wondering just how many calories your evening of sledding will burn? Check out this link of calories burned in popular winter activities. Whatever your sport, don’t forget to hydrate before you head out. Winter air tends to be on the dry side and with lower temperatures, dehydration can sneak up on the winter sports enthusiast.

Get Tech Savvy. From scheduling your workouts in your online planner to using the latest GPS app on your smart phone to track your running route, today’s fitness tools can help you with everything from calorie counting to interval planning. You can check out this link for a review of fitness apps that can help keep the life in your winter workouts.

Break Down your Goals. Looking to improve your 5K time or simply stay healthy in 2014? Use your big goals to think about achievements for the month of December that will be manageable well into the new year. Perhaps you see yourself establishing (or continuing) your healthy habit of daily exercise. Or maybe you’d like to take the first steps towards a couch to 5K training program. Whatever your goal, starting now in a manageable way will put you ahead of the January crowd, leaving you with established habits and results by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around.

Treat Yourself to the Right Gear. Whether you’re taking your workouts indoors or you plan on braving the weather, treating yourself to the right clothing and equipment will make all the difference in sticking to your schedule. For cross-training indoor workouts, you already know that your Vision Fitness Equipment will see you through. You can also round out your workouts by investing in a yoga DVD or online class or some simple strength training equipment that can be used to add circuits to your treadmill, elliptical, and indoor cycle workouts. If you’re trying a new outdoor sport, such as downhill or cross-country skiing, check out some of the early season swap sales and second hand sporting good venues. When enthusiasts trade up, you can score a sweet deal on nearly new equipment. If you’re sticking to outdoor winter running, be sure to add reflective clothing and some high traction shoes to your go-to items. You may find that trail running shoes will suit you better at this time of year. These offer increased insulation and tread compared to some of the lighter weight running shoes.

Tips for a Safe and Fun 4th of July

fireworksIndependence Day is easily one of the best holidays of the year. The 4th of July means honoring the founding of our country (awesome), no presents to buy (sweet), summer weather (finally) and food and drinks galore (YUM!). However, just as with the winter holidays, it can be too easy to over indulge and find yourself crying, “Uncle!” Too much sun, drink or food can lead to disaster. Not to sound like a bummer, but it pays to think ahead. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your July 4th holiday without regret.

Sunscreen

The summer sun feels incredible on your skin. However, it’s a buzz kill to wake up on July 5th only to discover you’re now burnt to a crisp. Prepare for a day in the sun by applying a moderate to high SPF sun screen every few hours, especially if you’re swimming or participating in other water sports. Just in case you get a little more red than tan, have a tube of Aloe Vera ready in the fridge. Aloe Vera has soothing properties, and the cold feels great on a sun burn.

Water

Summer beverages are some of the best, right? Crack open a beer, mix up a batch of sangria, maybe switch to margaritas. Suddenly you’re sweating salt. Plan for the “fun” beverages by drinking water in between. Aim for half your body weight in ounces of water, plus more if you’re out in the heat. Nothing ruins a summer bash like heat stroke.

Food

Grill outs and picnics rule the dining roost for the 4th of July holiday. Plan a menu filled with lean meats, vibrant veggies and healthy fats to give you energy so you can enjoy the festivities all day and all night. Steak and chicken kabobs are a great choice. If you prefer burgers, try making some chicken or turkey burgers. Or if you really want to celebrate your independence, go ahead and eat what you want, but keep it to a reasonable amount. Meat should be about the palm of your hand. Salads with a mayo-based dressing should be kept to a minimum. Enjoy fun, low-calorie desserts that also keep you cool, like watermelon or popsicles.

Fire Safety

There are two main events people gather around on the night of July 4th – Fireworks and campfires. At-home fireworks are illegal in many places, but if you do choose to shoot any off, be responsible. Keep children away from anything flammable and use “kid-friendly” pyrotechnics, like sparklers, with caution. When having a campfire at home, create a safe perimeter for people to move around and be careful of being near dry grass or highly flammable trees. It’s also a great idea to practice the age-old “Stop, Drop and Roll” technique – just in case. As always, have a water source close by in case of any minor flare ups.

Hopefully these tips will help you plan for fun festivities without the fear of any accidents or indigestion. Have an amazing 4th of July holiday and stay safe out there!

5 Tips to Maintain Your Fitness During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is notorious for decadent treats, calorie-laden drinks and a jam-packed schedule. So it’s no wonder that the Thanksgiving feast, watching football and festive beverages are in your top 10 list of things to be thankful for kicking off this holiday season. However, breaking out the elastic waistbands and stocking up on cookies and candies can wreak havoc on your health and fitness goals. With some careful preparation and using some tips from football, you can scoreboard the holiday season with confidence.

Have a game plan

Like many others, you may be spending the next couple months celebrating holidays with families, often traveling to get there, plus going to parties and managing your normal day-to-day on top of it all. It’s easy to let fitness fall by the wayside. But just professional football teams, going in with a game plan can make an enormous difference in setting yourself up for success. If you don’t subscribe to using calendars and lists throughout the rest of the year, try to make an exception for the holiday season.

Whether you prefer print or digital, there are a myriad of ways to create a to-do list and schedule. A weekly calendar and task list can give you an idea of everything you have coming up so you don’t feel blindsided by that child’s holiday party or Christmas dinner at Aunt Debbie’s you might have forgotten about. A daily to-do list with tasks and times can keep you focused on getting projects done without losing track of the day or forgetting what you were doing. Click here for a free weekly and daily organizer you can use to stay organized.

Start by adding any concrete meetings, appointments or parties in your schedule. Then start adding tasks you need to accomplish each day in order to be ready when your next event rolls around. Last, but not least important, schedule your workout. If you’re incredibly busy, aim for two or three workouts per week. It will keep you in the goal-achieving mindset without undoing all the hard work you’ve done throughout the year or making you feel guilty for not getting other things accomplished.

Optimize the plays

The play clock only has so many seconds on it, just as you only have so many hours in the day. Make the most of the time you’ve scheduled for a workout by performing the Sprint 8® workout. This amazing 20-minute aerobic workout has been medically proven to boost energy, reduce body fat, promote lean muscle mass, improve your cholesterol and increase bone density through the natural release of human growth hormone.

Each Sprint 8 workout consists of:

  • A four-minute warm up and cool down
  • Eight, 30-second sprints
  • Eight, 90-second active recovery periods.

That’s only four minutes of intense cardio per session. When performed three times per week, that equals 12 total minutes of high-intensity exercise per week and only an hour total of exercise.

Plan for substitutions

Exercise and diet go hand in hand. Although it’s extremely helpful to keep up with a semi-consistent fitness routine throughout the holidays, incorporating some healthy eating throughout can keep weight gain at bay. Of course, everyone indulges a little during the holidays, but some simple, tasty substitutions can allow you to enjoy without feeling guilty or miserable afterwards.

Love potatoes? Try mashed cauliflower. It offers the same creamy, fluffy texture without all of the starch and calories. You can still add some of your favorite mix-ins and toppings for a more traditional mashed potato flavor. Click here for a recipe idea. You can also forgo the sweet potato casserole by making baked sweet potatoes topped with a little butter, maple syrup and cinnamon. Or, try oven-baked sweet potato fries.

Can’t pass up dessert? Apple, blueberry, pumpkin and pecan – pies are the quintessential dessert of the holidays. It can be tough to say “no,” to one or more helpings with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Try eliminating some calories by taking out the crust and making “crumbles” instead of pies. You still get a little buttery, flaky crunch. Another tip is to make your fillings using fresh fruit instead of canned fruit. It’s extra effort, but the taste is equally, if not more, incredible and it’s more health conscious on many levels.

Take TV timeouts

Yes, there are parades and football games and Christmas specials to watch. However, scheduling some timeouts from TV-watching may be just the ticket to keep you from feeling lethargic and falling asleep during your third college football game of the day. Take advantage of nice weather and get outside for an hour.

Plan a sledding event with friends or family for a fun way to spend time with those you care about and get some exercise in. Schedule a game of two-hand touch or half-court basketball between dinner and dessert to stay awake and earn some of those sweets you’ll consume. Other ideas include building a snowman or snow fort, ice skating, skiing or snowboarding.

Celebrate your success

When football players score a touchdown, they don’t wait to get home to do their end zone celebration. You shouldn’t have to either. Only ate one piece of pie? Skipped the potatoes? Ate white meat instead of dark? Good for you! Celebrate your small successes with family and friends in person, on the phone or online. You may even want to join a like-minded group on an online community like SparkPeople ahead of time to stay inspired and to have a place to brag where your achievements will be supported. You can even post your success here in the comments section.

The holidays are a flurry of activity, but it doesn’t have to be a time of dread or diet deceit leading up to the New Year. Following these simple tips will help you stay on the ball and keep you focused on your health and fitness goals throughout even the busiest weeks.

Have a plan in place or maybe some tips that have helped you in the past? Share them in the comments.