Holiday Training Tips

You don’t have time for the gym … at least not right now.

Really, nobody does. It’s December, the most wonderful time of the year, right? Except from shopping to holiday meals to all those crazy travel plans, it’s far from wonderful for your fitness regimen. Two-hour gym sessions can’t happen when mom, dad, and Uncle Joe are staying at the house for four days.

It’s no wonder so many people, from weekend warrior types to hardcore fitness fanatics, struggle to maintain their fitness goals throughout the holidays; it’s just not that easy. So why not take a few weeks off, right?

Because you don’t have to, and really, a good, quick workout just might be what you need to get through the stress of the holidays. No, you may not be able to log the marathon muscle-building sessions of months past, but if you get a good sweat in, you’ll lubricate your joints, get much-needed blood flow to muscles, and actually juice your entire body with energy. Use these three tips to maintain a barebones holiday training program … the kind that’ll help you survive the holidays in the first place.

USE YOUR BODYWEIGHT

You won’t always have access to a gym, especially if you’re traveling, and you won’t have your own home gym gear, either. So, stop looking for that gear in December, and just look in the mirror. Your bodyweight is enough to get a workout in, even if it’s not going to push you to your absolute limits.

Basic exercises like pushups, high-knees, squats, and Superman holds won’t exactly leave you sore the next morning, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. You have too much going on to be sore every day and to push your body to the limit. Your bodyweight is just enough; however, to stimulate blood flow and help you maintain strength.

Oh, and if you’re one of those people who’s always trying to bench the planet in the gym, you get an underrated bonus here, too: You’re essentially “deloading” your body from all that resistance with a few weeks of recovery that should revitalize your muscles, joints, and tendons for January.

THINK FULL-BODY

It’s hard to maintain a normal six-days-a-week split during December travel, so don’t try. This isn’t the time for a two-hour Saturday afternoon arm blast (unless you have photos that day, of course).

You want a routine you can do anytime, anywhere, and a routine that doesn’t need a lot of maintenance or other workouts. You can’t think about whether you’ve done chest today or legs yesterday or shoulders the day before.

So hit everything at once, in a very simple way. Aim to do one leg exercise, one pushing exercise (like a pushup or incline pushup), one back exercise (think of Superman holds or pullups), and an ab exercise in every session. Then, whether you’re working out three days a week, one day a week, or seven days a week (good luck with that), you’re still hitting every body part.

HIT THE CIRCUIT

Sets and reps aren’t ideal for this time of year, because they take a lot of tracking, and there are rest periods to navigate, and you never know how much time you’ll have. That’s why this is the ideal time to rely on circuit training.

Take your four or five (or however many) exercises, and plan to do each move for a one-minute interval, working for 30 seconds, then resting for 30 seconds. Whether you have 10 minutes or 20 minutes, you’ll get quality work in, even if it’s only for a round or two. Remember: Some fitness for a day beats no fitness for a day.

TRAIN EARLY

When everyone’s awake at your house (or wherever you’re staying), it’s easy to get dragged into family time – and hey, your family and friends deserve to see you, too! But, do you know when nobody will be bugging you for time? Five or six every morning.

Sneak your fitness in before the house is hopping and wrapping paper is all over the floor. Set your alarm for early in the morning, battle through a quick session, then call it a day.

On board, but not sure where to start? Try this 20-minute circuit 

Ebenzer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

Fitness Director for Men’s Health Magazine and CSCS trainer -

Ebenzer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He's logged training time with NFL and track athletes, and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men's Health in 2017, he served as a sports and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.