Working out after the holidays is hard. I mean, it's difficult enough to come back to your normal routine of setting an alarm, going to work, doing chores, and so on after spending a week lazing around with friends and family. But I personally have the hardest time getting back into fitness. I adapt quickly and efficiently to eating copious amounts of cookies and lying on the couch for hours on end. But by Jan. 2, my body and my brain are not exactly thrilled about a workout wake-up call.
So I wanted to know: what can I do to make the return to fitness as painless as possible? According to trainers, it has a lot to do with setting realistic expectations and going easy on yourself. As tempting as it might be to dive in as fast as possible, the best thing you can do for your body and your mental health is ease back into your routine slowly. Here's what to do.
How to Start Working Out After the Holidays
- Go in with a patient (and realistic) mindset. "Be realistic about what you can consistently do, week after week, in order to make working out a habit again," said Lauren Saint-Louis, a Tier 3+ personal trainer at Equinox's Bryant Park location in Manhattan. If you can't get up early enough for an hour-long strength workout, plan to do a short yoga session or a beginner HIIT video. Set initial goals that are small and manageable. "That way you stay motivated and feel a sense of accomplishment," Lauren said.
- Ease up on workout intensity and frequency to avoid injury. Expecting to bounce right back after a longer break just isn't fair to your body. "Any break causes a change in the adaptations you have been training for," explained Tory Hale, NASM, a Gold's Gym fitness expert. In other words, if you don't use "it" — your lung capacity for cardio and/or your muscular strength for weightlifting — you do lose a bit of it, at least temporarily. Returning to your fitness routine will help you get those gains back and then some, but Tory said it's normal for there to be an initial drop-off. Be patient with your body. "Starting with less volume is key as you build endurance back up," he said.
- Get friends and family involved. Don't have a workout buddy? The new year might be the time to get one. "Telling others about your intentions not only provides more accountability, but can also create a buddy system to make workouts more enjoyable and motivating," Lauren said.
- Prioritize sleep, hydration, and nutrition. Take care of your body outside the gym by getting enough sleep, hydrating, and fueling up with nutritious foods. (We recommend this two-week eating program to start.) "No matter how hard you work in the gym, none of it matters if you aren't feeding and taking care of your body the other majority of the time," Lauren said.
- Remember that taking breaks is necessary in the long run. There's no need to feel guilty about taking some time off. Look at your holiday break as an opportunity to spend time with friends and family while letting your body rest, Tory said. When you've been working hard, taking a break is good for you, Lauren added. It gives you the chance to come back even stronger. "Recovery has a purpose," she told POPSUGAR.
Looking for a place to start? Here's a post-holiday, back-to-fitness workout plan to help you get back into the swing of things.