For many personal trainers, the month of December might be properly referred to as a “Maintenance Month.” December is typically filled with social obligations, and stress surrounding the holidays in general for clients. Your regular routine and schedule goes out the window and all the holiday parties and gatherings mean you’re tempted to indulge in foods you otherwise would avoid and to also skip workouts. As it is, committing to a regular nutrition and exercise schedule can be tough year round from life’s ups and downs, but the holidays in particular can exacerbate these stresses.
The holidays can bring about added stress from shopping, increased food preparation, house guests, frequent visitors, financial stress, more demands on time, and simply a change in schedule. A change in routine, whether it is good or bad, equates to stress. The biggest complaint personal trainers hear during this time of year is clients not being able to fit in workouts or stick to their nutrition regime, due to all the added obligations.
One of the reasons personal trainers and nutritionists really stress creating exercise and nutritional habits year round, is so when life happens, like the busy holiday season, the repercussions of missing a workout or indulging in holiday goodies will not set you back to square one. In fact, if you are consistent (not perfect) all year round, you might welcome the relaxed holiday season. Consistency year round allows you to have some time to just maintain, which might look a little more relaxed.
Let’s be clear — not being perfect does not make you a failure. All areas of our lives have ebbs and flows, which are necessary elements of life. The easiest way to understand this is using the term burnout. We all know what causes burnout – not enough balance and/or recovery. It’s ok to hammer away at something for a while, and it is just as ok to back off when you need to. And this might mean using the holiday season to do so.
Maintenance might be one of the least sexy words out there, but maintenance is about doing the little things in order to keep us at the same level, or not allow us to go backwards. Just like life doesn’t need to be a continual march forward, neither does your fitness journey. Sometimes we need to march in place when competing priorities are difficult to manage. So you had to skip a few workouts for a social event or other holiday obligations? In the long run and the bigger picture of a year round commitment to a healthy lifestyle, this is inconsequential. Even 3 or 4 parties like this are not likely to affect your overall health if you are maintaining a routine of health and fitness year round. Your batting average is still going to be high. It also might be argued that a little break from your routine will help you appreciate it a little bit more when it comes time to get back into it.
So what does maintenance look like? It’s just simply, marching in place, getting it done. It can also be defined as keeping healthy and injury free, while not moving backwards – keeping status quo. If you exercise 4-5 days a week in your regular routine, maintenance might look like 3 exercise sessions. And should that get away from you, aiming to do any kind of movement for 30 minutes, regardless if it’s in your regime or not. Any physical activity is better than nothing. Walks, skiing, skating, etc. with the family are a great way to stay active. You do what you need to do not go backwards and just maintain. If you are not worried about maintenance during the holiday season, then use exercise as a great form of stress relief and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle.
This season the last thing you need is added stress. Give yourself permission to maintain, do your best, and just enjoy the holiday season for all it has to offer.
Kristen Hansen, BA, CSEP-CPT, PFT-NAIT, NASM-CES, FRCms
Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC