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Your holiday fitness survival guide

The Christmas holiday season is a hard time of year to get in shape, unless that shape is ‘blob’ or your fitness aspiration model is Santa. Here’s a brief survival guide that will keep all your fitness and healthy eating goals alive.

Don’t succumb to ‘food pressure’

You don’t have to eat everything you’re offered – any offense made will pass faster than the gas caused by that 5kg pudding. Better still, take control by hosting events so that you can set the menu. Ban people from bringing chips, crackers and biscuits to picnics and parties – challenge them to make a healthier choice! (Hint: home-made flatbread crisps and banana chips.)

Prepare to party

Survive all those Christmas and New Year’s drinky-poos and functions by planning ahead. Eat beforehand so you’re not starving when you get there, drink plenty of water before you get into the harder stuff, and avoid mixing fatty foods and alcohol.Stand away from the food and drinks and enjoy the people, the view, the conversation instead. Don’t let anyone “top up” your drinks – that way you know exactly how many you’ve had.

Christmas treats are for Christmas

Christmas crap fills the shops from November, but that’s no reason to eat Christmas cakes and mince pies and lollies for eight weeks. Think about which Christmas treats you really enjoy, and which ones you eat “because they’re there”. Savour the ones you enjoy, but spread them out over the week of Christmas.

Buy in moderation

Buy the Christmas goodies in moderation so there’s no eating “because we have to get through this”, like you’re a rat stuck in a plaster wall. Choose quality over quantity.

Savour your choices

We’re lucky in Australia because we have so much delicious fresh produce at Christmas – so who needs all that stodgy, fatty, processed stuff forced on us by the Old World?Throw together a fruit-filled trifle instead of having Christmas puddings and cakes. Use fresh Aussie special Christmas season foods, like avocadoes, boysenberries, gooseberries and cherries. For nibbles, slap together some prosciutto-wrapped melon balls, some Christmas ham and fresh figs or some prawns and asparagus with basil aioli. Skip the belly fat-growing and cholesterol-raising trans fats by making your own gingerbread, mince pies(replace butter or margarine with olive oil) and rum ball – they’re easy as.Try substituting a thick Greek yogurt for cream or ice-cream, use it in desserts like trifle, and make your own creamy dips and salad dressings by mixing it with mustard and some fresh herbs.

Get moving early

Schedule a shortbout of training first thing in the morning, just in case you can’t fit it in later with the socialising and the family commitments. You went to bed late?Don’t worry, it’s holiday season – there’s bound to be a time of the day you can slip away for a quick nap (sometimes even if you’re at work!).

Focus on fun, not food

Schedule some evening activities, such as night hikes, evenings at the beach and cricket,tennis or basketball under lights. Pack up a picnic and take family and friends to a secret location paddling kayaks or riding bikes.

Organise group training circuits

Pool together and see what implements each person can bring. Useful items include: long ropes(for agility drills and tug-o-war), boxing bags (for throwing or carrying them up stairs or hills), old tyres for flipping, a sledgehammer for hitting a log, barbell or dumbbell sets, boxing gloves and focus pads, skipping rope, medicine balls,a stationary bike stand. You’d be surprised how most people seem to have at least one of these items or other exercise equipment lying around. Do a traditional timed circuit and/or relay events, e.g. one person has to hold boxing bag while partner runs 100m then swap, and lunge 20m with medicine ball to a partner then change over. Add in some sprints and plyometric movements such as consecutive long jumping (bounding), jumping up onto a box or steps,and hopping for distance (e.g. try to cover 20m is as few hops as possible).

All stations to exercise

Enjoy the outdoors – grab a friend or three and go to a park that has exercise stations set up. Make a competition by setting up events like handicap races through a circuit, maximum reps on an exercise in a set amount of time or a team challenges for reps.

Use your body

Gyms might be closed or out of the way, but you can always set up some bodyweight exercises that you can turn to during holiday down time. Some good examples include:

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  • Bicycle crunch
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Push-up(full or on knees)
  • Lunges in place
  • Chair dips (feet on floor)
  • Side planks
  • Shoulder bridge with one leg raised
  • Bicycle crunch


  • Lying twist
  • Single-leg squats
  • Jump push-ups
  • Jump lunges
  • Chair dips – feet raised
  • Side planks with the top leg raised
  • Full bridge walking (i.e. get into bridge position and move with hands and feet for 5-10m at a time – don’t just walk normally across a bridge)


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