A journey of Health and Fitness leading into The Holidays
Every year, many people with good intentions lose sight of their health and fitness goals, due to this frame of time we call “The Holidays”. During the fall, the pace of life picks up…many professions are busier as the end of the year approaches, parents are busier with kids activities, and everyone is busy planning time off and celebrations with friends and family. If we are not careful, the busy times can end up being a convenient excuse to let our health and fitness routines slip. Additionally, there are gatherings with friends and family, office parties and potlucks, seasonal treats, and many other temptations related to food and drink. Often times, we can get stuck in “The Holiday Cycle”. Below is an excerpt from my blog post last year about the cycle:
“The Holiday Cycle
I am writing this post in October (2021), in preparation for the Holiday season. Starting with Halloween, and ending with New Years, there are many holidays observed and celebrated between October and January. For a lot of us, the holidays are a time to celebrate with friends and family, and also to eat, drink, and be merry.
If we are not careful, the holidays can also be a time of overindulgence, which leads to a viscous cycle:
- Over eating/drinking from October-January.
- Realizing in January that the holidays have had a negative impact on our waistline.
- Making a New Years resolution, losing (most of) the excess weight and inches gained during the holidays.
- When we reach October, start again at step 1…
Have you ever found yourself in this cycle? I know I have. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to enjoy, but also moderate the holidays, so we did not have to dig out of a hole every January 1? Think about cleaning out your house or garage…is it easier to clean a cluttered room from top to bottom, or to keep it clean and organized? I pick option 2 personally.”
Put simply, make a plan! Make yourself a realistic plan, with guidelines, to enjoy the holidays but also continue your progress and prioritize your health and fitness. I found success last year making myself a plan for November and December. Was I perfect? No way! Much more successful than years previous? You bet! I am going to make another plan this year, and use weekly blog posts to hold myself accountable, and share any helpful tips. I am a fan of Football, hence the title “Push for The Post Season”. It is the end of the year, so let’s get ready to play our best!
I am going to share the rough framework of my plan to be healthy and happy this Holiday Season. For some tips on making your own plan and customizing to your needs, please take a look at the blog post I linked above, and right here. My plan is going to include the following guidelines:
- Tracking physical measurements: Weight, Waist Circumference, Photos (monthly)
- During Weekdays, Elimination of Grain, Added Sugar, Refined Oils, Alcohol.
- At all times (aside from Holidays) Elimination of Pizza, Fried Food, Refined Oils.
- Practice Intermittent Fasting, use as a tool pre and post Holiday Celebrations
- Attempt a Multi-Day Fast
- Exercise 5 Days per week
- Focus on Mobility
The elimination of food groups above is to simplify my meal planning. Put simply, Grain, Added Sugar, Refined Oils are found in most (if not all) processed foods, and these foods are very easy to overeat. So, rather than writing out every snack food and sugary drink you want to avoid, a tip to simplify can be to pick ingredients to avoid. The elimination of grain (even whole grain) during the week makes it easier for me to eat relatively low carb, which also makes intermittent fasting easier due to the regulation of blood sugar and hunger cravings. I will allow myself some flexibility and treats on weekends, however I plan to eliminate Pizza and Fried Foods because they are easy for me to overeat. Holidays will not have restrictions.
My exercise routine will include at least 2 days per week of strength training, likely 3 days of some type of organized cardio activity. This fall, I want to be mindful of my mobility and stretching routine. Admittedly, I let this slip a little bit during the past year, and suffered a few minor muscle strains and spasms (likely) as a result.
Nutrition and Exercise
Last year, my goals mostly revolved around discipline with my nutrition, and exercise routine leading up to (and during) the holidays. This worked very well for me, and is something I plan to replicate this year. The guidelines for my program should set me up for success in this area.
A few weeks ago, I was doing a pull up and felt extreme tension and then some pain in the back of my neck. Pull ups are an exercise I have done for most of my life, and I can say I had never felt a sensation quite like that before while doing a set. In the days that followed, I noticed my range of motion was limited. I even bumped the side of head while getting into my car because I could not move my head/neck into the car door frame the way I have habitually been doing for over 10 years since I have owned my car. My immediate reflection took me through events leading up to this point, including interruptions to my normal routine during the pandemic period. I quickly found what I believe to be a likely culprit of this tension and pain.
During 2020 and up through present day, I found my mentality and focus can be summed up with the phrase “just get it done”. Your job, paying bills/managing money, childcare, household projects/chores, exercise, meal planning…everything had a little extra stress and straining during the past 18 months, and yet our responsibilities did not go away. I found myself very much with the mentality of “just get it done”, and overall this was very effective. I even found myself applying this to my routines of nutrition, and exercise. The problem is, I did not apply “just get it done” to comprehensive stretching, foam rolling, and other mobility work. I did some, but mostly window dressing rather than what I know/have found to be effective for managing tension and muscular performance.
The trap that I have fallen into is that not having serious focus on mobility may not have immediate consequences, like some other areas of life, and fitness. If you stop exercising for 2 weeks and eat whatever you feel like, you will notice some immediate differences in weight, waistline, and energy levels. However, neglecting some of your stretching and mobility work can take some time to present any real consequences, and you can continue “just getting it done” with your exercise routine. It will take some time to get my muscles and joints back to the range of motion and comfort level I am accustomed to, and I plan to use this pre-Holiday training period as a time to focus on this important area of fitness.
All success starts with a good night’s sleep. During my program, I will focus on having a consistent bed time, and strive for 8 hours of sleep per night. I will try to accomplish this through a consistent routine before bed, consistent bed time, and a sleep mask to block out light.
Routine and discipline will be very important to success for my healthy holiday plan. This is not to say that I can never have any treats, but my approach needs to be much like a household budget to be effective. A household budget should not be restrictive, but rather it should give you permission to spend, because you have a plan. If I plan when I have treats and holiday meals, I can still enjoy them, and maintain my energy and fitness levels through the new year!
Week 1 Stats
Weight: 205.4 pounds. Weight on the scale should not be the only indicator of health/success with a program. However, for me it is a helpful benchmark along with other measurements of success. I find that for me, what I am feeling my best and have my nutrition and exercise routine dialed in, my weight is in the range of 195-200 pounds. For consistency, weigh ins will be in the morning.
Waist Circumference: Rather than using a tape measure, I use my belt that I wear to work as an indicator of my waist circumference. When I am feeling my best and have my routine dialed in, I use the 5th loop on my belt. As I start this program, I am using the 4th belt loop (the 3rd loop is bad news).
Week 1 Day by Day
Monday was a rest day physically, I did not exercise. Sunday 10/31 included a morning run, and afternoon lawn mowing/leaf clean up. I am still confident in my ability to exercise 5 out of 7 days this week. For nutrition, I started the week off with a 20 hour fast, eating my one meal of the day at around 5:30 pm. My meal included some smoked salmon with sliced avocado, sauerkraut on the side, parmesan cheese crisps, and some macadamia nuts. I am designing my nutrition plan to focus more on quality of food than quantity, so I am not counting portions or calories.
Exercise included 3 working sets of Kettlebell Goblet Squats, Bent Over Rows, Stability Ball Planks. I was also able to include plenty of stretching and foam roll activities, for around an hour of total exercise. Nutrition wise, I had a shorter fasting window overall, as I had a bulletproof coffee around 7:30 am on my way to work (information and recipe in previous blog post). My afternoon meal was around 4 pm, and included some smoked salmon with sliced avocado, sauerkraut on the side, and some macadamia nuts.
Exercise was 40 minutes on my Nordic Track machine for cardio, with around 30 minutes of stretching beforehand. Today’s fasting window was around 18 hours, and eating window around 5 hours (1-6 pm). I made myself a small bowl of natural peanut butter, coconut oil, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, and sea salt mixed together. For dinner, I had a bowl with sliced avocado and sauerkraut, and a bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed chicken breast (frozen from Costco, all compliant ingredients). I also had some pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes.
Exercise total included 3 sets of Kettlebell Deadlifts, Kettlebell Arm Bars, and 1/2 Turkish Get Ups. I also was able to incorporate stretching and mobility work, total time 1 hour. For the morning, I fasted for around 16 hours, and had a bulletproof coffee around 10 am. My afternoon meal was around 12 noon, and included some smoked salmon with sliced avocado, sauerkraut on the side, and some macadamia nuts (I tend to repeat meals during the week if they are working for me). I also ate some coconut flakes and macadamia nuts around 5:30 pm.
Exercise this morning was 30 minutes on the Nordic Track, with 30 minutes of stretching beforehand. I will be getting a 1 hour massage today, which will be a big help for the mobility. I also plan to do some leaf raking today, which absolutely counts as exercise. My plan is to continue the morning fast for around 18-20 hours, and hold steady on my nutrition plan and guidelines.
Saturday/Sunday (The Plan)
Since I am completing this blog post on Friday, I will include my plan for both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday for nutrition, I plan to follow my guidelines to a T, while Sunday I will allow myself a treat meal. I plan to go for a run Saturday morning, and Sunday will most likely be a rest and mobility day. This will get me to 5 exercise days, a great start to week 1!
Week 1 Top Tips
Plan your meals, and do your own shopping if you do not already. For my particular nutrition plan, I needed to make sure I had a enough food options that did not include grain, sugar, and processed oil, so I did not reach for something quick and easy. Surprisingly, Costco has a lot of good options for the food groups I am looking for. Examples of foods that helped me find success this week include smoked salmon, sauerkraut, sprouted pumpkin seeds, avocados, macadamia nuts, and (unsweetened) coconut flakes. When you are shopping and meal planning, always take a look at the ingredients for any packaged food, just to make sure everything is compliant with your meal plan.
Week 1 Challenges
Eliminating grains proved to be much more of a challenge than I expected, mostly because it showed me how much I had been snacking on junk! This is why periodic elimination of grains is helpful, because it keeps me honest about junk snack foods.
Establishing a new routine was the top challenge this week, especially coming off Halloween weekend with many treats available. As much as establishing the new routine was challenging, this will pay dividends and help me build positive momentum!
My Compliance Grade for Week 1
I will pre-emptively give myself an A for the week. The only thing that could have been better is a little more volume on strength training, but I want to bring that back gradually as I increase mobility. A great start!
Next Week’s Plan
Next week includes some family fun on the weekend, which will require some planning and discipline for in the exercise and nutrition areas. I will plan to build off the positive momentum from week 1, and make it another great week as I push for the post season! Until next time, stay happy and healthy 🙂