It’s definitely OK to take a fitness break over Christmas

It’s definitely OK to take a fitness break over Christmas
Date: 21-12-2018 Time: 06:12:24:pm

Christmas is all about indulgence. And with indulgence, comes the guilt. Torrents of guilt for having that extra mince pie, eating cheese for dinner for the third night running, sitting on the sofa for five straight hours.

It can be tempting to overcompensate for these indulgences by hitting it even harder in the gym. But our relationship with fitness shouldn’t be built on guilt and repentance – it never makes for sustainable goals or a healthy mindset.

Fitness culture has become about punishment and pushing your body to its limit. If you’re not utterly broken and sore – did you even work out?

Christmas is the perfect time to push back against this kind of toxic spiral, and give your body the break it needs. Rest is criminally undervalued in modern society.

But maybe it’s time to reintroduce yourself to the concept of doing absolutely nothing and recognise the benefits.

Sit on the sofa. Watch all the movies. Eat all the leftovers. Leave your trainers in the cupboard. Your body and mind will thank you.

Embrace the lack of schedule You spend the entire year on the clock. You’ve got to get up for work, you’ve got to catch this train, you’ve got to be on time for dinner, you’ve got to make it to six am spinning.

Having every minute of every day mapped out in relentlessly undeviating order can make you feel a bit trapped. There’s no space for spontaneity, surprise or much in the way of choice.

Wiping fitness off your to-do list entirely will open up hours of free time – for you to do whatever you please. Maybe you can finally read that book everyone has been banging on about, or pick up a new hobby – knitting looks relaxing.

Or, of course, you could always use those extra hours to sleep. Spend time with your family You’re probably only going to be home with the family for a couple of days, a week at best.

And yes, they might drive you up the wall at times, but spending time with your family is rare and you should do your best to make the most of it.

That means not spending half the day on a big run, or disappearing at dinner time to go to a HIIT class.

If your mum wants you to help her bake Christmas cookies, or your little cousin wants you to watch Moana for the fifth time in two days, then just do it.

These are the moments you’ll remember for years to come, not the time you spent working out. The gym can wait. Rest your body This is a biggie.

Your body is tired. So tired. It’s really important not to underestimate the power of resting. As well as helping you feel less sore and achy, taking a significant rest can actually help to improve your fitness in the long term.

So you really don’t need to feel guilty for taking time off. Alessandra loves lifting weights in the gym, but she’ll be taking some time to rest this Christmas.

‘I think it’s important to give your body the chance to rest completely every now and then,’ she tells us. ‘You can review your workout plan and goals and take note of any progress you have made since your last break.

When you enter the gym again you feel more ambitious and motivated. ‘I’ve found It’s actually better to give my muscles a break every few months so that they can fully recover.

I always seem to make gains during this rest period at Christmas.’ And that isn’t surprising. Resting allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues – the body uses this time to strengthen itself, so don’t be surprised if a few days away from the gym leave you feeling stronger.

It won’t ruin your goals Taking a week off isn’t going to undo all the hard work you’ve put in this year. When you’re consistent with your training schedule 80% of the time, it’s more than ok to allow yourself the other 20% to completely sack it off.

A couple of days on the sofa isn’t going to make any kind of noticeable difference to your fitness levels  – so you can cross that worry off your list.

Give your mind a break For many of us, fitness is a form of therapy. It’s a release, an escape, a tool to help reduce and maintain feelings of anxiety and negative emotions.

But, while the release of endorphins can do wonders for your mood, exercising is still a stimulant and can leave your brain feeling a bit frazzled.

Running and intense fitness increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body – which is basically linked to a primal response where running equals a threat.

That cortisol bump can cause mood issues, irritability, sleep problems and other health issues if stress levels are chronically high.

So really it’s about finding a balance. Taking a few days out from high-impact and high-intensity can do your nerves a lot of good.

Use the time instead to try meditation or gentle yoga to further reduce your stress levels. Reinvigorate for the New Year Over-training can lead to exhaustion, injury and illness – and if you work out too much you can start to resent it. It stops being a positive thing that you do for the love and the exhilaration and starts to become a chore.

Taking a concentrated number of days completely away from fitness can deflate this balloon of negativity, and reset your outlook.

Sometimes you have to step away from something to really examine why you do it, and what you get out of it. If you’ve fallen into a training rut, this is particularly important.

Taking time out gives you the chance to properly miss fitness, which will lead to a real desire to get active in the New Year, rather than doing it out of a sense of obligation.

But don’t forget that guilt works both ways, and if you want to continue exercising over the festive period then you shouldn’t let pressure from friends or family stop you.

‘Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and if you’re spending the day alone then some exercise might be a way of doing something for you, if it makes you feel good,’ explains personal trainer Polly Hale.

‘Christmas can be a challenging time of year for  people with mental health problems. ‘If exercise helps relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, or keeps you away from the booze you might otherwise drink far too much of, then keeping up your normal workouts over the holidays isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

‘I guess it’s up to you and if you need a break, take one guilt free, relax. But if you genuinely feel better when you exercise, don’t let family and friends make you feel guilty for taking that important time out for yourself.’