I'm going to skip over the green bean/sweet potato/pumpkin pie extravaganza that is less than 48 hours away and jump right into the merry old month of December. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it's a tough month to stick to a sweat schedule: the days are short, the motivation levels are even shorter, and everywhere you turn, there are mounds of Hershey Kisses in red and green foil.
What I don't want you to do: not to enjoy the season. Drink some eggnog; have a dinner of just mini quiches and sugar cookies and wine; go out with friends and celebrate.
What I do want you do to: keep taking care of yourself. Don't sacrifice sleep; don't overindulge to the point of nausea or regret; remember that the cuckoo stays in the clock, for most of us, when we slice out a piece of time to sweat.
But how do you find the time between concerts and cards and stringing popcorn and not stringing your kids up to dry? Oh, glad you asked. You plan, and you give yourself a little tough love.
--Make a calendar for your workouts before December starts, so you don't get all wishy-washy and pretend that the 30 minutes of exercise you did three days ago will sustain your sanity for this week. I promise you: it won't. Here's a basic one I put together for my December:
--What you'll note: no workout is over 60 minutes long and nothing has intervals or tempo attached to it. I may pick things up a bit, especially on the bike, so I don't die of boredom, but in my mind, December is not about training. (It's a different story, I realize, if you have a marathon in January or February.) Really, it's just about letting my pores pour so that the most important things I need to maintain during this month--my patience, my love for my family, my sense of humor--are still intact when I see Ryan Seacrest drop the ball into 2012.
--I'm keeping on the iron. Kind of. I admit: I was loathe to schedule strength training. But I don't want to start from ground zero muscle strength on January 1. I have a hard enough time doing a push-up after months of practice. If I totally jump ship, I'll be back to quaking pecs after 1 measly puuuuussshhh/grunt attempt.
--I'm trying to have variety. That said, it's pretty one-dimensional right now: swim, bike, run. I'd like some more variety, but I need to see how my hamstring plays out before I get all Zumba on you. I am going to the mountains with my family after Christmas, so am planning some cross-country skiing and snowshoe excursions. That said, I encourage you to think outside your running shoes: 11 months is plenty of time to train. A few maintenance runs a week is plenty, leaving you some time to Spin or Crossfit or pole dance or whatever intrigues you.
--Still, I have to motivate. And so do you. Lawd, it's so dark on December mornings, but here's how to get out of bed:
- It's always easier for me to rise and shine when I've been sleeping for at least eight hours. I won't go turn geeky on you, but more and more studies are proving that sleep is vital for health and energy and weight control and everything else, save that cute sweater from Anthropologie, that we crave. Try not to sacrifice it for Facebook time or anything else that isn't as important as your well-being.
- Heed your alarm. These days, when I push snooze, I end up drooling for 45 minutes--not the 5 I'd planned--and sacrifice the workout. So I set my alarm a little later, and when it goes off, I pretend it's a barfy kid that needs my help and rocket out of bed.
- When I'm not up-and-at-em at the alarm and am debating do I really need to get up today, I promise myself if I do it today, I'll let myself sleep in tomorrow. Then I play the same trick on myself again the next day. Stupid human tricks, but they work.
- And the same old rules apply: lay out everything, from your pre-workout banana to your music to your mittens, the night before. As much as you're dragging and don't want to do it in the p.m., I swear, it's 8,000 times harder in the a.m.
Now you tell us: what strategies and tips do you have for getting through December?