How to stay motivated and work out during the holidays

Stay on track without resisting all sweet temptations

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The holidays are the perfect excuse of everyone’s dream activities – relax, watch Netflix and eat whatever we want. No wonder gyms are packed on January 1! Even the regular fitness enthusiasts slack off from their usual workout program.

Even though you are not going to gain 10 pounds in a few days, contrary to popular belief, staying on track is important. Even if that’s the reason why you’re allowing yourself to eat and drink more than usual. “That’s a valid reason,” Nancy Rowe, 20-year ultra-marathoner and VP at Milestone Sports, says. “But don’t stop.” The only way the workouts are going to have an effect on you is if you become a consistent athlete, she adds.

Here is how you can do just that:

Think fun and variety

Make a game out of the whole thing! Gamification is key, Rowe says. This, in fact, has been a big deal for some time now among athletes and it has been a growing trend in races. “Anyway you can make it into a game is motivating,” she adds. “All of us like to have a gold star.” Personally, Rowe says she has three jars on her counter that she fills with marble stones once she is done with a workout or an exercise she had to do. “When it fills up, I reward myself.” Sometimes with binge watching Netflix.

Reach out to others

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If you want to hire a life coach, that’s up to you. But we are talking about a personal trainer. Rowe, who doesn’t usually have trouble staying motivated because training for ultra-marathons is a long process, recently hired an online trainer. “It’s interesting because I don’t know him personally … but the moment I officially hired a coach I was super motivated to make him happy and proud.” But you can really reach out to anybody you want to make happy.

Go at the gym during rush hour

Most people usually advice against going when everybody else is there – usually after work hours. But the energy in the gym when you see so many people working out can be very effective. You have a lot of fit people to look at and copy if you are not sure what to do. Imagine everyone exercising and you being the only person looking at Facebook on your phone. Wouldn’t you want to fit in?

Do shorter workouts

 “I am a big proponent of that,” Rowe says. Do just 15 minutes of running or the minimum of what you usually do. “The hardest step is the first step.” Chances are, she adds, that once you pass the threshold you set for yourself, you are most likely going to do “just a little more” again and again until you’ve probably completed your workout.

Set the bar low

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The key into staying motivated is to get into the habit of working out, according to Rowe. Start by just walking faster than usual. “This is still an exercise, you are still moving.” And most importantly, she says, watch your progress. “It’s really motivating to see how far you’ve come.”

Commit to 30 days

Having a long-term goal can be really motivating. You know that at the end of this “hell” a prize (you being in better shape) is waiting. Keep that in mind and take it one day at a time.

Make your workouts a ritual

It is common knowledge that it takes a month to make something a habit. You could be a little different and may need just two or three weeks. “So walk for two or three weeks and before you know it you’ll be a runner,” Rowe says. Set aside a workout time on your calendar that is non-negotiable. (You may even like feeling like you’re in charge and no one can bother you during that one hour you are at the gym.)

Reward getting yourself to the gym

A big motivation for Rowe is buying something new for herself that has something to do with her sport. Maybe you’d like new running shoes or a new outfit. By all means go get it, but only after, for example, you’ve worked out for three weeks according to the schedule you’ve set. Or try something else. “I’m a Netflix fan,” Rowe says. “I give myself [time to watch] 3-4 straight episodes of a show” as a rewards. An excuse to watch TV for hours? Who wouldn’t want that!

Get a workout buddy

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Find somebody to walk or run with but make that someone who is equally excited to get fit. “If you promised someone you’ll workout, you’re more likely to get out the door,” Rowe says. Accountability is one of the most important factors in staying on track. Another way of making sure you’re responsible for your goals is by posting them on social media. “Now you’re accountable to everyone.”

Don’t be too critical on yourself

Don’t get caught up on the “all or nothing” mindset. “It’s very easy to be critical,” Rowe says. “I go through that too.” It’s the wrong action. Instead, go back and look at what you’ve done already and acknowledge your accomplishments. “Don’t focus on this one bad day. It’s hard enough in the winter to just go out. This will happen,” Rowe adds.

More readings: 

11 Reasons You Shouldn’t Wait Until the New Year to Get In Shape

At-Home High Intensity Interval Workout

10 Kettlebell Exercises for a Total-Body Burn