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The Holiday Stay Fit Guide

How to Stay Fit Over the Holidays


Updated December 22, 2010

Staying fit over any extended holiday or festive period is always a challenge. The food and drink circuit, the weather perhaps, and the party times all meld into one disaster for your fitness program. Here's an exercise program, including weights, that should keep you humming along in relatively good condition. You will expend about 600-700 calories per session. It requires some commitment, but then that's the price you pay for partying!

Holiday Stay Fit Workout

You exercise for 5 days per week for an hour each day. Thirty minutes of the one-hour session must be at a heart rate at or higher than 75% of your maximum heart rate (MHR) for the cardio and circuit sessions. The weights sessions should be vigorous. You can approximate your MHR by subtracting your age from 220. As an example, if you’re 40, your maximum heart rate estimate will be 180 beats per minute (220 less 40). Seventy-five percent of 180 is 135. That's your target heart rate. You can train at a higher heart rate if you feel comfortable with it, but you must reach that 75%.

Another way to approximate this is to see how well you can talk or hold a conversation while exercising. If you can carry on a conversation, yet you have to puff and pant a little, that’s about right. If you can talk easily or sing then you should speed up a little. If you gasp for breath each time you try to talk, that’s likely to be higher than 75% of your highest heart rate.

Here is an example schedule that you can use. These are general principles and you can modify them to suit your circumstances as long as you stick to the broad principles.

Day 1. Sixty minutes of cardio: Walking, jogging or cycling, with 30 minutes at 75% effort or higher. That means a solid pace for 30 minutes. You should get quite a sweat up. The second 30 minutes can be at a slower pace. You can do either intensity first, depending on how you feel or you can mix high and low intensity in 10- or 15-minute blocks. You can use a treadmill or cycle at gym or home if that suits.

Day 2. Weight training, moderate to hard. Use the Basic Strength and Muscle program or the Dumbbell Program. Put the effort in with these lifts. Do 10 minutes of cardio -- warmup and cooldown -- either side of the weights session to get your 60 minutes completed and to hit that target calorie expenditure count.

Day 3. Rest.

Day 4. Circuit training with weights for 30 minutes moderate to hard, plus 30 minutes cardio at a pace of your choice. The dumbbell circuit can be done at home or at the gym. You can peddle a stationary cycle for the additional 30 minutes as an alternative to treadmill walking or jogging.

Day 5. Same as Day 2.

Day 6. Rest.

Day 7. Same as Day 1.

Summing up the Holiday Stay Fit Exercise Plan

Remember, you need to hit that 75% of maximum heart rate for 30 minutes each cardio session and you need to keep moving for another 30 minutes. In the weights sessions, you need to lift hard and do the full sixty minutes by adding warmup and cooldown cardio.

Energy expended per hour should be in the range 600 to 700 calories for most people. And importantly, this level of intensity should create some afterburn effect, which will continue to rev up your metabolism for quite a few hours after exercise.

You should refuel with a carbohydrate drink or meal, including a little protein, within an hour of exercise completion. It’s important that you eat well, but eat normally in this phase and don’t overeat to reward yourself, otherwise your weight management targets may not be achieved.

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