It’s December. It’s cold, wet and windy outside. In your comfy sitting room the fire is lit, the family’s round and there’s Christmas films on TV. You’ve just finished yet another huge dinner, when that thought enters your head - “I guess I’d better go to the gym.”
It lingers there for a while, as you do your best to push it to the back of your mind, trying to forget that it ever entered there in the first place.
Then you suddenly remember – “Ah, excellent, it’s 6pm, and the guys on the front desk said they’re closing at 6:30 over Christmas, guess I won’t have time.” And so the cycle continues, day after day over the holidays, until you finally drag your sorry butt back to the gym, 15 pounds heavier and a hell of a lot lazier, to try in vain to get your pre-holiday fitness levels back.
Let’s be straight here, there’s no reason you can’t train over the holidays. Sure, maybe you can’t maintain a rigorous six days per week schedule of weight training, cardio, mobility work and classes, as the family deserve some of your time, and after all, it is Christmas.
First up, why train over Christmas?
Be honest with yourself here – are you really going to stay 100% on track with your diet over the holidays? In fact, are you going to bother with it at all? Perhaps in the lead up to Thanksgiving you might try to reign things in a little, but even the most dedicated of souls gives themselves some leeway over the holiday.
If you’re eating more, the least you can do is try to work some of those calories off. If weight loss is your goal, a high-calorie burn workout is needed to stop the extra stuffing and apple pie from turning into excess blubber, while if you’re building muscle, you may as well put the extra calories to good use and pack on some mass.
Secondly, as enjoyable as the holidays might be, there’s no doubt you hit the new year and feel a little guilty with yourself for being lazy. At least if you’ve carried on with some sort of training regime you’ve got a bit more get up and go come January. Plus, you don’t have to experience that dreaded feeling of the first session back in the gym, where it all feels like you’re a complete beginner again, and you finish your treadmill warmup looking like you’ve just climbed Everest.
So how do you go about finding alternatives to the gym?
Stand in front of the mirror and gaze into it. There you go.
No, you’re not going to train with the mirror – you’re looking at yourself, and that’s exactly what you’re going to train with – your bodyweight. You’ll use a few pieces of equipment too (just a pullup bar and a resistance band or two) but apart from that, the best alternative you have to the gym for your holiday workouts is your own body.
Holiday Workouts – From Beginner to Beast
There are two body-weight workouts here, both of which can be adapted to any ability level. They take up minimal room, and the best part is you don’t need a lot of space either. In fact, provided your living room, kitchen or study isn’t overflowing with gifts and festive decorations, you’ve got ample room.
Workout 1: Body-weight Basic
- Squats – 10 reps
- Lunges – 8 reps each leg
- Pushups (Knees on floor) – 10 reps
- Band rows (Secure your resistance band around the pullup bar, hold it with straight arms and pull the band in toward your torso) – 10 reps
- Abdominal curl ups – 15 reps
- Plank – As long as possible
There’s a nice, simple, yet highly effective body-weight workout. Anyone can do this, and it’s a great introduction to body-weight training. To make this more difficult, all you need to do is up the reps. If you did 10 squats last session, go for 12 next time. Take the lunges from 8 to 10, and the plank from 30 to 40 seconds.
To begin with, do the circuit all the way through, rest one to two minutes, then do it twice more. As you get to grips with it a little more, try doing more rounds, reducing your rest time, or making it more difficult by using a thicker resistance band, wearing a weighted backpack, or adding in extra exercises.
Workout 2: The Advanced Attack
Now it’s time to kick things up a gear. You don’t need any more equipment or any more space, but you do need a little more drive and be a touch fitter.
- Paused squats (Hold the bottom position of each squat for 3 seconds) – 15 reps
- Reverse lunges – 12 reps each leg
- Squat thrusts – 15 reps
- Pushups – 15 reps
- Chin-ups – 5 reps
- Burpees – 15 reps
- Side Planks – Maximum timed hold on each side
So you thought body weight training was easy? Try the above and see if you still think that! If this still doesn’t tax you enough, instead of doing each exercise for a set number of reps, try a maximum number of reps in 20, 30, 40 or even 60 seconds.
Only Got 4 Minutes?
Then try a Tabata. This involves 20 seconds of all out maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated eight times. Pick any exercise (squats, jump lunges, pushups, squat thrusts, mountain climbers, alternate lunges, and jumping jacks all work well) and work your butt off for four minutes of hell. You could even do this while your sprouts are cooking.
Have Some Fun
Want to burn a few calories without hitting the gym or even feeling like you’re working out? Then take a walk with the family. This might not be as grueling or calorie-intensive as a full-on workout, but the holidays are the perfect opportunity to spend some time together.
Instead of sitting in silence watching films, or stuffing your faces over the dinner table, go on an outing and get fitter in the fresh, Winter air.