One of the things Sheldon and I have been talking about a lot as we roll into December is how we’re planning on hitting our training targets this month. I can’t imagine we’re alone in thinking that it’s tough to stay on top of everything in the middle of winter, between Christmas, family commitments, and travel. Life seems to get in the way of training at the best of times, but during the ‘holiday’ season training is that much more difficult.

Here’s a few strategies that I employ (and plan on employing) this season:

Look for alternate activities

Though not too far away, almost all of my family is out of town and carting my bike and trainer from location to location isn’t exactly optimal, or practical. Whenever I head out of town I start looking for alternatives to keep my fitness up. The easiest jump for me is running. Packing a pair of running shoes when you’re headed to a different part of the country is a piece of cake, and you’ll find that getting out for a run will not only clear your head and make you feel a lot better, but just like cycling, it will give you a new perspective on the place you’re visiting. And it doesn’t matter what’s happening outside, you can always get out there for a run.

Running is obviously just one of many options, and I choose it mainly because it compliments cycling so well. There are more involved (but potentially more fun) alternatives like cross-country skiing or show-shoeing, but really just getting out and going for a walk after eating a wee-bit too much would do the trick. Staying active usually starts at right your doormat!

Leave the gym at home

You’re not going to go to the gym. You’re not. And if you do, then you’re not in the holiday spirit – you should be spending more time with your family!

But really, if you need an excuse to get out of the house, then I suppose the gym is a nice healthy way to go – but many times they hours are a bit wonky over the holidays or they’re closed. If heading to the gym isn’t in the cards you can always do some body weight exercises instead. I know it’s not quite the same, but without being tied to the gym you can workout anytime, anywhere with just a change of clothes.

Some of the things that tend to get my heart pumping:

  • Pushups
  • Jump squats
  • Crunches / Sit-ups
  • Burpees
  • Chinups (if you can find a bar)
  • Lunges

There’s a ton more, and lots of room for improvisation, but just like lifting the heavy stuff, you’ll want to really pay attention to proper form when you’re doing these exercises.

Eat smart

For me this doesn’t mean starving myself or not enjoying all the good stuff this time of year bring, moreso just being a little smarter about how I approach it.

Realistically I try to limit my intake of food and sweets on most days – If there’s a bunch of holiday baking on the coffee table and some Christmas oranges, I will do my best to will myself to grab the orange. I also try my best to slow down the pace of my eating – this will be a challenge – as anyone who knows me will attest, I’m usually on thirds before everybody else is done their first helping. Slowing down your eating will ensure that your brain has ample time to catch up with your stomach. This way you realize when you’re full and can stop eating, rather than not realizing it until you’ve already overeaten.

To reward myself for my inhuman restraint I usually go hog wild on Christmas – Second helpings, enough wine to pickle a bull-moose, and dessert ’til I feel sick. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Usually after that I have no problem reigning things in, just a taste of this and that is enough to keep me going until it’s time to head home.

So in essence – take it slow, be smart about your food choices, but don’t completely deprive yourself during Christmas, taking in the feast is part of the celebration. If you’re really feeling guilty why don’t you sign up for a “New Years Resolution” run to burn off those extra calories?

Unfortunately not all of us can eat whatever we want and stay slim and trim like my riding partner Sheldon…

Get family involved

Depending on your family this could be easy, or a bit more challenging, but there’s always a number of events you and your family can get involved in around the holidays. From tobogganing, to festivals, to going for a walk and looking at Christmas lights. If you need more of a workout, just piggyback your Uncle Bob around the block!

What do you do to mitigate the effects of the holiday season?