How to Work Out During the Holidays Without Even Trying

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When you're too caught up in the holiday spirit—heading to holiday parties, prepping for any hosting duties, wrapping gifts, enjoying time with loved ones and family, lounging in cozy wear, etc.—it can be especially hard to get yourself to the gym or fitness studio. Even the most disciplined athletes among us might have trouble getting motivated this time of year. So what do you do when your regularly scheduled fitness programming is put on the back burner during this busy and cheerful time of year?

Well, you can start by cutting yourself some slack. "First off, give yourself some forgiveness," says Journey Kan, an instructor at The Studio (MDR). "I know I struggle with a lot of workout guilt when I can't seem to get a workout in, so I'm really trying to realize that it's okay to take time out of the gym or a workout class."

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By going easier on yourself and shaking off the guilt, you might feel more motivated to get moving, and you'll be able to fully enjoy the festivities of the season without that nagging feeling that you should be doing something else. 

And if you do want to get active during the holidays, there are a couple of low-lift, minimal-effort things you can do that will still make a big difference. Take a look at a few trainer-approved suggestions below.

1. Block Some Time on Your Calendar

This doesn't have to be set in stone, but it might help you prioritize if you really want to get a workout in with your busy schedule. "If I find that I'm super busy, I like to start each week or day by going through my Google Calendar and block out time to do each task and then move the blocks around as necessary by prioritizing what really needs to get done," Kan says. "That way, I have a better understanding of what exactly I can fit in my schedule, and I don't overbook and make it impossible to accomplish tasks on my to-do list."

2. Try Low-Intensity Workouts

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If you're too tired or too stressed to work out, Amanda Murdock, ACE, CPT, Daily Burn's director of fitness, recommends opting for low-intensity workouts like yoga, Pilates, rowing, or meditation. "Lower-intensity workouts will help lower your cortisol levels and help you feel more relaxed," she explains.

3. Reframe Your Mindset

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"I think it's more about changing your mindset," Kan says. "You shouldn't feel guilty if you don't have the time, and you should honor what your body is even able to do with the limited time we have for the holiday season. We often hear that you shouldn't think of your workout as punishment for what you ate, but it's also important to make sure that you're not focusing on needing to 'make up' for not working out, either. Movement, in any form, should be a reason to celebrate."

This also goes for the type of exercise you do and the duration of a workout. Don't feel pressured to do something intense when you're not up for it. And you shouldn't feel like you have to put in hours at the gym when you really can't—any amount of time is okay, Kan says.

4. Take a Walk

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It's so easy and can also be a stress-reliever, too. Getting a burst of fresh air can be so refreshing. "I like to listen to a fun podcast—my favorite at the moment is This Might Get Weird featuring Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart—and take a 10-to-15-minute walk," Kan says.

5. Strategize With What Time You Do Have

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You might not have enough time to do your regular routine, and you might not have the equipment nearby either, especially if you can't make it to the gym or studio. Try something that only takes a few minutes, or do an at-home exercise.

"In a survey of 2452 active Daily Burn members, 51% of respondents selected HIIIT as their favorite form of workout during the holidays—particularly because it can be a short workout and you can target cardio and strength training at the same time," Murdock says. "Rebounding/trampolining is also a great quick exercise if you have the equipment handy, and 28% of members are excited to see this as an upcoming trend for 2020. Bodyweight workouts are also particularly suited to short bursts of activity—often you don’t need any equipment, and they can be low-impact. Squats, glute bridges, and bicycle crunches are all top options for a quick but effective workout."

Kan adds that she likes to do routines from 12 Minute Athlete or use a towel or sliders to mimic moves (like plank to pike or bear) done at The Studio (MDR) while watching her favorite holiday movies.

The one important thing to keep in mind, whatever workout you do, is you should warm up beforehand. "Warming up makes the workout more effective and can help prevent injuries," Murdock explains.

6. Work Out With Family or Friends

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It can be more fun if you include others. "Workouts are always better with friends, and catching up with friends during the holiday season always seems to be impossible," Kan says. "This year, I'm all about asking my friends to catch up with me over a walk, just to keep moving (not just my legs but my mouth too!)."

Murdock agrees, adding that it's also a good way to prioritize an activity. She says that 61% of Daily Burn members report that they keep moving during the holidays by taking a walk with family after meals.

7. Clean

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You have to clean anyway, so consider it a win-win. You get a tidy home, and you get to move your body a bit, whether you're vacuuming or scrubbing or dusting. According to Murdock, 52% of Daily Burn members say they get moving by cleaning when they can't get a workout in.

8. Take the Stairs

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You can make some conscious decisions to "force" yourself to get moving as you go about your day. "Choosing to take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator is just a small but great decision that totally does make a difference," Kan says. Murdock adds that 54% of Daily Burn members choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and 50% say they park farther away to get in more steps.

9. Get Back Into Your Routine When You're Ready

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"You don't need to make up for missed workouts; simply get back into your routine," Murdock says. "No need to do double duty or beat yourself up. You are in a marathon, not a sprint, but more importantly, the holidays can be a great time to reconnect with family and friends, not to worry so much about gains."

Next up: The Founder of Meghan Markle's Favorite Workout Studio Shares Her A.M. Routine