Max Lowery has the ultimate advice on enjoying the festive season to the full (literally) while staying fit, plus the quickest workout you’ll ever do, because, let’s be honest, this is not the time for epic gym slogs…
You may think that it’s easy for a professional fitness trainer and author of an intermittent fasting plan to stay focused, lean and lithe over the festive period, but we’re all human, and Max Lowery tucks into the pigs in blankets, drinks beer (see photographic evidence) and skips workouts like the rest of us. That’s the nature of things, and one of the joys of Christmas- letting go, literally letting it all hang out and letting yourself enjoy a proper break. In case creeping “bad” food thoughts seep in, Max has one particularly vital mindset ground rule:
“The last thing you want to do is have a sense of guilt or shame at your diet over Christmas. Negativity gets you nowhere and can often lead to a bad relationship with food.”
In short, the Christmas break is a time to pour yourself a G&T rather than fret about a PB, but maintaining a bit of balance in terms of health and fitness will help you to feel more sprightly to better enjoy the celebrations, plus minimise your chances of constant Christmas hangxiety and help you to clear your head should any Christmas crabbiness arise in camp. Here’s what Max would recommend to stay well and keep fitness levels ticking over for the Christmas period, alongside the one workout that you can realistically fit in anywhere, anyhow.
1. Keep it real
Punishing yourself for not making it to gym in the Christmas run up? Got mince pie regret already? Stop right there. Max reckons that half the problem with the pre-Christmas/ New Year panic is extreme attitudes to health and fitness:
“When it comes to the festive season, a lot of people find themselves polarising their thoughts on diet and exercise… either “I have to avoid every temptation to keep my fitness journey or track” or “I’m going to give up on exercising and eating right and pick it up again on 2nd January!”.”
Basically, there’s a sweet spot between the two, and while that elusive balance can be difficult to achieve, having a go is far preferable to beating yourself up about forgoing your usual fitness routine or checking out of the fun altogether. Which leads us to…
2. Workout and play on the same day
Aim to exercise three times a week if poss, but that doesn’t mean schlepping to a class or attempting a 10K- you can nail an effective workout in under ten minutes (more on that later). Max finds that, for himself and his clients, planning a workout on the same day as an event or Christmas party has the most payoff, as you’ll be left feeling energised and full of endorphins for the evening’s shenanigans, plus your metabolism will be firing on full so that any party buffet that follows is less likely to make any kind of dent in your fitness gains. Max explains what works for him:
“On the days I’m exercising and indulging I can let my hair down and enjoy what’s on offer, but on the days that I’m not indulging so much, I aim to eat more healthy fats and protein, and less carbohydrates – especially processed carbohydrates like bread, pasta, crisps, biscuits and milk chocolate.”
3. Eat pies and party
Never deny yourself the sausage rolls or a slice of yule log, but keep festive fayre for celebrations rather than grazing on Quality Street for two weeks straight. Max advises on how to enjoy yourself without overdoing it/ feeling slothlike:
“Filling up on healthy fats and proteins before you go out to a Christmas party can be a great way of keeping things in check and making sure you’re not ravenous when you arrive. I like boiled eggs, salmon fillets or avocado, but it’s up to you”
“Over the Christmas period, also try to set yourself the general rule that you mainly tuck into festive treats like mince pies, Christmas pudding and chocolate when you are at a Christmas party, festive dinner or celebratory event. You can assume that all of these treats will be on offer on these occasions and it means that your sweet tooth won’t transfer over into every day. You’ll feel satisfied, not sick or stuffed.”
Listening to your body and only eating when you're hungry sounds basic but it can be prove a bit tricky at this time of year- if you've had a big meal and don't feel like breakfast the next morning, wait until you do feel hungry, which will not only make you feel more comfortable, but will help in terms of not bombarding the body with food or storing too much fat. Because, let’s face it, it is possible to get sick of the sight of a mince pie. Keep the magic alive by not eating five at once. Which kind of applies to the next topic too...
4. Appreciate alcohol without downing it
Max’s counsel on this is kind of common sense, but finding booze you actually enjoy and sipping it, in a quality over quantity manner, is the best way forward for both health and general party vibes. Max also repeats “I am not going to get drunk” to himself just to reinforce the message. Whatever works to stay on the right side of tispy. For Max, shots are always his downfall, so if he’s having tequila, he’s adding lime and soda and sipping it. Avoiding too many sugar laden mixers can help to ease the hangover the next day, and if you suffer badly with bloating , go easy on the beers. Minimise any adverse reactions to alcohol by staying hydrated (boring but necessary), and try to drink around two litres of water a day anyway, possibly more if you have been particularly dedicated on the workout front.
If you’re keen to avoid drinking altogether , at least for a few nights a week, Max recommends planning in a morning walk/workout or coffee commitment with a friend that you won’t want to bail on- that way you needn’t over justify why you’re not drinking to festive punch pushers, and if you are drinking you’re more likely to keep a lid on things.
5. Try the 7 minute workout
Perfect fodder for your morning exercise plan, Max has devised a sub ten minute sweat session, and while in his view there’s no right or wrong way to workout when you’re busy or over Christmas, sticking to shorter, more intense workouts can payoff in terms of time, stress levels and chances of it realistically happening. Follow the 7-minute workout video below for a no equipment needed blast that will get your heart rate up. Working hard for a short amount of time could also pay off more than you might think in terms of stabilising your weight and keeping blood sugar levels even over the Christmas period too according to Max:
“Intense exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, meaning that the body requires less insulin to normalise blood sugar levels. Seeing as high levels of insulin are associated with weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease and other health issues, having a good sensitivity to insulin is generally a positive thing for our health. Individual workouts can have a short-term effect but long term regular exercise has a long-lasting effect. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t super fit, as even brisk walking can help. Being insulin sensitive long term has been shown to have many positive effects on biomarkers of health.”
Every little helps- master the moves below and it won’t matter one bit that you’re not making it to the gym or running marathons…
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