The Christmas / New year holiday period has been a time to enjoy sleeping in, visit friends and family and, for many of us, ditch the healthy eating and exercise habits we normally adhere too. If this is the case, a more relaxed approach does not have to send you spiralling down a weight-gain and fitness-loss tunnel of doom.
Here are 10 tips for maintaining your health and fitness levels, and for staying motivated over the stand-down period, as prescribed by the Physical Training staff at the Australian Defence Force Physical Training School at HMAS Cerberus. Whilst these health and wellbeing tips are focused on Defence People, there is something in this for all people who want to maintain that healthy lifestyle over the holiday season.
1. Eat, drink … but not too much of either
Eating and drinking to excess can make you put on weight or fat, making the job harder when you re-establish your regular exercise and training routine when you begin a new year of work. By all means, enjoy some festive food and drink but don’t overdo it.
2. Keep working out but build in rest and recovery
Establish a routine that is achievable and feasible over the leave period. It may be easier to keep up your training at work than it is while fitting in family, friends and fun over the leave period. So have a look at how you might tweak your routine to allow you to both enjoy the Christmas break and maintain your fitness. If you need help, the Department of Health Website (www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-physact-guidelines) provides guidance for
physical activity levels.
Doing any physical activity is better than doing nothing at all. If you are starting from scratch, build up gradually.
3. Set goals
Establish some training goals before the break. Focus on doing the least amount of training for maximum benefit, which should be an aim of any welldesigned fitness program.
If you miss a training session, don’t stress. Try to avoid cramming in makeup sessions and risking overtraining or injury. If you do miss a session, look at adjusting your remaining sessions to meet your goal, or just focus on your priorities. For instance, you might prioritise a body-weight session over a cardio workout because you need to work on push-ups more than running. Your local Physical Trainers can help you with a program to meet your needs.
4. Find a good time to exercise
Choose a time of day that allows you to complete your training with minimal impact on your time with family and friends. A plan may be to train first thing in the morning so it is all done and less likely to be disrupted by unexpected invitations or changes to your day.
5. Try a new activity
This will keep you active and interested and teach you new skills, which could help with other physical activities and your fitness assessment.
6. Add music
There is nothing like using your favourite music or new motivational music to keep you focused and motivated during a run, gym workout or cycle. Music can affect your mood, so put it to good use to improve your performance.
7. Work out with a friend
Exercising alone can be lonely and boring. The stand-down period can be a chance to have a laugh with a friend, partner, team or someone new. You will be less likely to opt out of exercising if you’ve committed to an exercise “date”.
8. Tweak your fuelling routine
With a little more time on your hands, you can assess what fuel you are putting into your body before and after exercise for energy and recovery. Try different natural foods, such as fruit and carbohydrates, to give you an energy boost before and during exercise. Protein can assist with muscle building and recovery. If you haven’t tried approved legal supplements, such as creatine and glutamine, to assist with pre- and post-workout routines, maybe do some research and see what it can do for you.
9. Try new warm-up and cool-down routines
Speak to your Physical Trainer about new ways of stretching before exercise and recovering afterwards. This can help prevent injury over the period. It will also make you more flexible and able to exercise effectively and efficiently.
10. Do at least one physical training test
This can be a fun way to exercise, compete against your mates and monitor your fitness levels during the leave period. It will tell you how effective your program has been over the period and what changes you may need to make. Before going on leave, contact your Physical Training staff for advice on making your exercise over the leave period effective and fun.