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Six Workout Shortcuts to Keep You on Track During the Holidays

Jenny Hadfield, Runner's World

Remember: Doing something, fitness-wise, is better than doing nothing.

Every year I get to the holidays and fail miserably on maintaining my running and strength workouts. Between family, parties, and all the other chaos, I lose my way. Do you have any tips for staying on track this holiday season? —Joann

The good news is you’re not alone. Many of us struggle to maintain our training and activity through the busy holiday season. The better news is there are several shortcuts that will bridge the gap in your running workouts and maintain your momentum through the New Year.

The key is to focus on consistency rather than perfection. You may not get in exactly what is planned or wanted, but it’s more important to get in something, rather than nothing. When you line up a row of dominos, you can effectively knock them all down by tapping the first domino in line if they are spaced close enough to each other. If there is too much space between two dominos the momentum is lost.

Fitness and running is all about maintaining your momentum. If there is too much time that goes by without a workout (three to four days), you begin to lose fitness and your habit of activity.

Use these shortcuts when the holidays get in the way of your regular routine.

Run one mile.
One mile is better than none, right? (Especially if you’re taking part in the Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak.) If time is not on your side, suit up and run a micro version of your run. You’ll clear your mind, burn a few calories, and most importantly, keep the dominos falling. If you can’t run a mile, strap on your shoes and walk at lunch, at the airport, or shopping at the mall. A mile is a mile is a mile. It still counts.

Try a 25-minute tempo.
Just because you can’t get in your full tempo run doesn’t mean you can’t get that runner’s high. Use this shortened 25-minute tempo workout to ward off your inner Grinch: Warm up with three minutes of walking. Run easy for five minutes. Run 15 minutes at an effort that’s just outside your comfort zone (you can hear your breathing and can’t speak easily). Walk two minutes to cool down.

Increase calorie burn with a 25-minute interval workout.
Boost your metabolism for hours postrun with this workout. This one is so much fun, you may keep running it all year long! Be mindful: A little high intensity interval training (HIIT) goes a long way. It’s best to run this no more than once per week if you’re new to HIIT workouts, or twice, with a few days in between, if you regularly run these. Warm up with a two-minute walk—start with an easy effort and build to a brisk pace just slower than a jog. Then, run at an easy effort for five minutes to continue your warmup. Run at a sprint effort (hard) for 30 seconds and recover with 90 seconds of very easy jogging or brisk walking—that’s one rep. Do eight total reps before walking two minutes to cool down.

Shorten your strength workout.
Instead of trying to squeeze in a lot of strength exercises, choose four or five exercises and perform time-saving, muscle-fatiguing supersets instead. By definition, a superset is a technique where you perform two exercises in a row with next to no rest in between. In essence, you gain a lot in a shorter period of time. Here is an example of a superset strength routine—perform eight to 12 reps of each exercise, however many will cause your muscles to fatigue. You can adjust the number of sets based on the amount of time you have.

Push and Pull = Chest Press or Pushup followed by Row or Lat Pull
Squat and Curl = Squat and Leg Curl on a Ball
Press and Hold = Arm Curl and Shoulder Press + Planks

Drop the cooldown.
Even though the cooldown process is important—it helps the body return to its resting state—you can do it on the way to the shower. Walk for a couple minutes to lower your heart rate and finish with stretching in the shower.

If all else fails, take the stairs.
If all else fails and you don’t get in a workout, seek out activity in your everyday life. Recently I was hosting an all-day meeting at an airport. I found 20 minutes and used it to go up and down a single flight of stairs. I got my heart rate up, moved enough for it to count, and felt better for doing so.

Surviving the busy holiday season can be done with ease if you get in your regularly scheduled workouts when you have the time and plug in shortcut workouts when you don’t. Happy holidays.

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