Raise your hand if you’ve ever second guessed that second slice of pumpkin pie at Grandma’s house after spending all day curled up on the couch looking like the actual potatoes she was peeling for the casserole. Now raise your other hand if you ate the pie anyways.

It’s the holiday season, and every year, between the traveling, the general merriment, the sleeping in your childhood twin bed even though you’re a grown adult, and the feasting, maintaining any sort of fitness regime falls to the wayside. And come January, when somehow even your stretchy yoga pants are too tight, the resolutions begin.

But how can we keep up some semblance of a workout routine during the holidays, even if we’re away from home? Just get up and do something, says Ida Clay, head coach of Orangetheory Fitness—West University

“My most important thing is to just move,” she says. “Even if it’s a walk.” 

And if you’re used to the equipment of your local gym, there are plenty of household items lying around Grandpa’s garage that you can sub in, says Clay. Need weights? Try laundry detergent, a backpack filled with books, your carryon luggage, or cat litter. Are you the one doing the cooking? Do some arms curls with the cranberry cans before you make the sauce. Heck, just lifting the turkey is a workout.  

But no matter what, Clay, who’s been a coach with Orangetheory since 2017, says the main thing she encourages her clients to do is prioritize their wellness, no matter the time of year. “I know a lot of times, people are like, January 1, January 1,” she says, “and I’m going to say there’s no day like the present.”

We chatted with Clay about staying motivated during the holidays and how to work out anywhere, even Grandma’s house. 


What is the biggest obstacle to working out during the holidays?

Consistency. Staying committed. And I always talk about commitment to oneself. What’s your why? Why you showed up for yourself in the first place and letting that be your motivator to keep coming back. 

The holidays are always a busy time. How does that impact people’s outlook towards wellness?

One of the things I always tend to focus on is making sure that you make your health a priority. So yes, I have these parties; yes, I have the holidays, and we all sit down around the table and enjoy each other’s company and enjoy the food; but what are you do for yourself before that? How is self care something that’s primary in your life? Because we cannot pour from an empty cup, and a lot of times, for mental and physical wellbeing, we have to fill up our cup first before we can pour into other people’s cups.

What’s the first step to maintaining a fitness routine over the holidays?

First and foremost, set up a plan. If I am going to somewhere else for the holidays, what is going to be my health and wellness routine that’s going to keep me motivated and keep me feeling my best self? Is it waking up an hour early and doing some meditation and then going for a walk?

My old twin bed sure is comfy. How can I stay motivated?

Find a buddy. Get someone who’s with you where you’re at. Say, “Hey, come do this with me.” Get the whole family—be like, “Hey, before we start cooking today, let’s all throw on some workout clothes, pull out the mats. Go to Orange Theory At-Home Workouts on YouTube, and let’s get it done.” Twenty to 30 minutes, done. Sweat, heart rate gets up, you’re feeling good—okay, let’s shower and start cooking. And then you have something to talk about, right? You’re not talking about other stuff, you’re talking about how you’re feeling. You’re feeling good. 

You say a workout should be at least 30 minutes and have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Can you give me an example of a warmup exercise?

There’s a good hamstring stretch: You would extend your right leg out—these are a good dynamic stretch—flex your foot; reach down towards the ground with both arms, like scooping something off the ground; and then reach all the way up. I would do 30 seconds on each leg. 

What about for the main workout?

For the meat of the exercise, do some reverse lunges with torso rotations. These are just bodyweight exercises. Reverse lunge: Keep your legs shoulder-width apart. And then when you rotate, you want to take your chest away from your back leg, so rotate your chest over your front leg. And when you’re in lunges, you always want to make sure your knee is stacked over your ankle and that you’re going straight down, rather than leaning forward. Because anytime you go forward, you put pressure on your front feet, and that can eventually result in an injury.

How should I finish it all off?

Always stretch at the end. Cool down stretches: Lay down onto your mat or on your back, and do some supine twists. Bring both knees to your chest; circle one way, circle the other. Hamstring stretch: Bring one knee in, extend the other leg. Straighten your leg as far as you can. And then do some cross-body stretches with your arms.

I always like to end with the forward fold, and then rolling up, your head’s the last thing to come up—your chin, both arms up to the sky. Big stretch, filling your with oxygen. Breath is so important, and so many people forget that during their workouts. And then you would exhale as you press the air down. And then big shoulder roll up, down, and back, and you’re good to go. 

Why is it important to maintain wellness during these Covid-times?

So really realizing that when we commit this time to our health and wellness, we’re actually keeping ourselves healthy and preventing our immune systems from becoming weak. They’re actually getting stronger. So as a result, our entire lives are going to be stronger. I would say health is wellness.

And what are your thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions?

Don’t make it a resolution, make it a commitment to yourself. And that’s why I say there’s no day like today. And don’t wait until January 1.

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