It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but it doesn’t always feel that way to folks who are balancing their health with an abundance of holiday cheer. “You may be good about your diet normally, but you still have to go to the holiday party and eat something,” says trainer Monica Vazquez, who was in charge of a hotline (1-855-I-AM-FULL) that Washington Sports Clubs staffed over Thanksgiving. Operators are no longer standing by, but we asked Vazquez a few questions we suspect people will have throughout the season.
I’m stuck in the kitchen all day. Are there any exercises I can do while I cook?
Put a lot of things you’ll need on top of the fridge, and put a step stool there, so you’re climbing up and down. That can get your heart rate up. Grab cans of cranberry sauce to do biceps curls and lateral raises. Find a kitchen chair and do squats sitting onto it, but just barely grazing the seat. You definitely have a kitchen timer. Tell yourself you’re going to do it nonstop for one minute three times. I’ve also seen my husband do push-ups off the counter.
I’m traveling in a car/plane/train to get to my family for the holidays. What are your suggestions for stretches to do along the way?
Sitting wreaks havoc on the hip flexors. They wrap around the lower back, and so it gets tight. If you get up — say, to go to the bathroom — put one leg in front of the other. It’s a small step you can do it in a tight space. Then, keeping the back leg straight, lean over with only your hips. You’ll feel a wonderful stretch on your hip. Hold for 30 seconds and then do the other leg. The other thing is the figure-four stretch, which I’ve done on planes. Put your right ankle over your left knee. Then take your right hand on right knee, push down and lean your torso away from the knee you’re pressing. It stretches the lower back. Then lace your fingers together, lift your arms overhead and reach left and then right. You won’t be distracting your neighbors more than [if you were] adjusting the air.
My family makes fun of me for wanting to exercise. How do I deflect their jokes — and maybe even get them to join me?
I lost 65 pounds. I remember that first Thanksgiving after and everybody said, “You’re already so skinny. You don’t need to do that.” What I’ve learned is vanity isn’t an acceptable reason, but health is. So you can say, “When I eat rich things, my stomach bothers me and that makes me feel bad. I just don’t want to feel sick.” I don’t know why, but people push less and are more accepting when you say that. You can also bring up the endorphins you get from exercise. Tell them, “I feel better after a morning run. I’ll enjoy it more.” You can also remind your relatives that this is a good time to step away and talk about family drama. Say, “I find this is a good way to de-stress before Aunt Crazy or Uncle Gossip comes over” or “I want to get away from Mom and Dad,” and you’ll be able to pull a few partners in crime away.
My home will be stuffed with tons of visiting relatives. How do I find space (and time) to exercise?
A bathroom workout. No shame from this girl. You can do jumping jacks, do squats on the toilet. If people have a hard workout, what do they say the next day? “I had a hard time getting off the toilet.” That’s because it’s a squat. You can do triceps dips off the side of the tub. Even if it’s just a few minutes of alone time, it can be beneficial. And if you don’t want anyone to hear you, run the water.
Drop, Then Shop
If you’re looking for a good warm-up before hitting the mall, Vazquez recommends the burpee: Squat, put your hands on the ground, jump your feet into push-up position, then hop back and up into the air. “You’re jumping to the ground like you’re reaching something low, then you’re jumping up like you’re reaching for something high on a shelf. It also works your reaction time, which will help you in dodging crowds,” she says. She suggests parking far away to log some extra steps going back and forth to your car.