We all know how busy the holidays can be, but don’t let yourself get caught in the trap of not working out to make more time for holiday errands or events. It is a big mistake to risk losing the lean muscle mass and strength that you have worked so hard to build and maintain.

Why, you ask? Losses in lean muscle mass will lower your resting metabolic rate, which accounts for the vast majority (about 60-75%) of your total daily calorie burning. This means that every day, you will be burning less and less calories, which will put you at a much greater risk of putting on unwanted body fat during the holidays. Plus, losing strength will mean that the next time you start working out, your performance will be subpar and you’ll get smacked in the face with that ugly word that no one ever wants to encounter when training: regression!

There are many clever ways to maintain or increase the number of calories you burn per day, both from exercise and your normal daily activities, to stay fit this holiday season. Use these strategies to maintain and increase your current amount of lean muscle mass, and maximize your daily calorie burn to protect yourself from backsliding this season!

1. Perform at Least One Intense Strength Training Session Per Week

Studies show that only a single strength training workout per week is an effective way to maintain your current levels of strength and lean muscle mass. Shoot for at least one good strength training workout per week to stay fit during the holidays and to prevent unwanted regressions in fitness. Want to do more? To maximize fat burning, perform three total body strength workouts per week and three cardio interval workouts per week on non strength-training days.

2. Hit Your Totals

Wan to know a secret? Your body cannot differentiate between 100 pushups performed in a row versus 100 pushups performed in a day.

When you cannot find a five to 20-minute time slot to complete an effective total body workout, look for hidden chunks of time during the day to get in daily repetitions of exercises that work your entire body. Got a free moment from now until you need to take the turkey out of the oven? Bang out 10 pushups, 10 rows, and 20 squats. Using this method throughout the day will lead to big numbers by the end of the day, burning the same amount of calories and creating the same muscle effects as if you did all of the exercises at once.

It is important to note that this “Hit Your Totals” routine is merely a back-up option to the ideal 20-minute interval training workouts, which are scientifically proven to burn nine times more fat than an ordinary exercise. Short rest periods between exercises create the optimal hormonal environment for rapid fat loss and lean muscle gain, where as the long rest periods (full recovery) between exercises do not. However, the “Hit Your Totals” option will be effective when you don’t have time for 50-10 Total Body Circuit Interval Training Workouts.

Make sure to pick multi-joint, compound movements that hit as much of your body’s major muscle groups in the shortest amount of time possible (e.g. squats, deadlifts, lunges, pushups, rows, etc.). Use the plan below as guide to build your own “Hit Your Totals” workout. Adjust the repetition ranges accordingly based on your current strength levels. The only thing you need is your body weight and adjustable dumbbells and/or resistance bands. Perform this plan up to three times per week, resting one day between workouts.

Alternate between Plan A and Plan B for more variety. You can either hit your total by doing 100 reps of one exercise at a time, or by circuit-style training (e.g. 20 squats, 10 pushups, 10 rows, repeat 10x throughout the day to hit your totals).

The Hit Your Total Workout For The Holidays

Plan A:

Body weight squats or hip extensions: 100-200 total
Pushups: 50-100 total
DB/band rows: 50-100 total

Plan B:

Body weight lunges or single-leg hip extensions: 50-100 total per leg
Off chair/couch dips: 50-100 total
DB/band curls: 50-100 total (feel free to swap pull-ups or pull-downs here if you have access to the equipment)

3. Rage Against the Machines

Machines have made us an out-of-shape society. This holiday season, make it a point to not use them! Now, I don’t mean to say that you cannot drive to the mall during the holidays. However, when you get to the mall, try to park farther away so you’ll walk more. Avoid using elevators and escalators and opt for stairs; all those steps truly do add up. Instead of having your naughty kids carry the bags, burn more calories by carrying the bags yourself. Stay on your feet as much as possible and resist the temptation to let a robot or machine do the work for you.

4. Engage in More Outdoor Holiday Activities

The weather is still good for outdoor fun. Hiking Pinnacle, walking/biking/jogging the Arkansas River Trail — talk about an awesome way to burn calories! Get outdoors this holiday season and throw around the pigskin or have your very own “Super Bowl” competition. Once again, all these calories add up, and could make a difference between you fitting into your pants or ripping your pants by the time the clock strikes midnight this New Year’s Eve!

Arkansas River Trail Image Source


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