If you spend any time at Target, Home Depot or any other chain retailers, you’d be forgiven for thinking the holiday season started back at the beginning of October.
Alas, all those premature weeks of Christmas tree displays and piped-in carols were only a training drill. Now, my reader friend, the season is officially upon us. I make this declaration with a measure of confidence. Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror and the calendar now has ‘December’ clearly displayed; tangible, indisputable signs that 2021 is coming to a rapid end and, if history is any indicator, the next month will be a busy one.
In a world where consensus can be in short supply, one thing most seem to agree on is that the holidays seem to bring our ordinarily hectic pace of life to new levels of breathless activity and sprinting around. Whether it’s additional work events, a busier social calendar, holiday-related activities the kids are involved with, more family visits or some combination of these commitments plus others, life can–and typically does–get hectic during the year’s final month.
While we are all busy contending with this spike in activity and general holiday merrymaking, another common and relatable theme takes shape. Specifically, our regular routine of diet and exercise that we have (hopefully) stuck with consistently over the last 11 months gets put on the back burner or tossed out the window altogether. In most of my conversations with people related to the topic, the explanation for this annual faltering of healthy habits is as simple as it is predictable: “too busy.”
Unfortunately, it’s often not until most of December has passed by and we are in the full holiday swing that the realization occurs that our regular exercise routine has either been neglected or abandoned altogether. This realization can be quickly followed by mentally beating ourselves up over the uptick in eating and drinking, while simultaneously slowing down with exercise. (Not to mention, possibly adding a few holiday pounds that were most certainly not on our Christmas wish list.) It’s at this point where we may find ourselves dusting off the trusty old rationalization: “I’ll get back on track in January.”
Here’s the excellent news. This cycle doesn’t need to happen this year! What works in our favor is that this often frenzied holiday cycle is predictable, so a plan can be put in place to avoid letting the additional demands on our time derail our workout commitment. Further good news is that the plan’s a simple one. It’s just that we don’t often take the time to do some pre-planning with this particular aspect of our holiday calendar.
It comes down to taking the extra time to schedule time for regular exercise each week, whether it’s walking, running, swimming, biking, following a fitness video or going to the gym. The main point, as history proves, is that the approach of “I’ll do it when I have a chance” is a strategy with a low likelihood of success this month. Taking the extra step of adding personal accountability by scheduling that time at the start of each week, like you would any other holiday season commitment, will go a long way toward ensuring it actually gets done. For example, try creating simple but effective calendar entries like Tuesday 7-8 am: neighborhood walk or Thursday 4-5 pm: rowing machine or Saturday at noon: run on the rail trail. The specifics do not matter. What does is the act of entering them into your week’s schedule and treating them as you would any other necessary appointment that you have no intention of missing. That said, things come up, and plans change, but that results in a reschedule of that appointment with yourself, not an outright cancellation. If you intend to stay consistent with your exercise regimen this holiday season, this (somewhat overused) saying sums it up: failing to plan is planning to fail. Taking the time to prioritize your health and wellness this season will be the ultimate gift to your future self in January 2022. Just envision your near-future self and the sense of accomplishment you’ll have from kicking off the new year feeling great about the last month, instead of the alternative of wondering where the previous month went.
Make scheduling fitness time a habit at the start of each week. For example, if Sunday night tends to be an optimal time to schedule your upcoming week, take 10 minutes and grab whatever you usually use for your schedule, whether it’s your phone calendar, PC or analog datebook and pen. Carve out the time you need for your usual exercise routine (or more!), enter it into your week’s schedule amidst the already-entered appointments and commit to yourself that you will make every attempt to stick to that plan for the week.
Think of this approach in terms of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning after his harrowing night with the three spirits and realizes it’s not too late for him after all; he’s been given a second chance to be the best version of himself. This, as we all know, is a game-changer for old Scrooge, and he wastes no time in changing his former, well, Scrooge-like ways.
We don’t need any Ghost of Christmas future to scare us straight. All we need is a calendar, a plan for holiday schedule management and the self-commitment to ensure that we finish the year the way we started it: fully focused on getting things done in 2021!
Eric Bartosz is the founder of BAR40 and the author of the internationally acclaimed and bestselling book ‘BAR40: Achieving Personal Excellence.’ He lives in Center Valley with his wife Trish, daughter Riley and pug Piper, is an adjunct MBA professor at DeSales University and serves the community as an Upper Saucon firefighter, a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley and a local race organizer. Eric is a 20+ year runner and racer and can often be found logging miles on the Saucon Rail Trail.