Holiday health survival guide

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Many people love and loathe the holidays in equal measure. Sure they enjoy the time off work, cold drinks and plenty of good food, but they don’t enjoy the way their jeans feel tighter and belts need loosening.

These decisions are around the cornerstones of health; eating, stretching and exercise, but it is Christmas, so they are realistic and achievable.

The first decision is one you are going to like; allow yourself to have a few indulgences. You are no doubt suspicious right now and you should be. By giving yourself permission, it means you can’t use those three helpings of Pavlova as an excuse to completely abandon your health. Too often we use a minor indiscretion to justify falling off the wagon; ‘Oh well I’ve messed up now, I may as well just go for it’. A couple of bad meals do NOT erase a month, a week or even a day of eating well.

You should be aware that everyone falls off the wagon, what matters is how quickly you get back on. One strategy is the; ‘if I stray, I pay’ approach.

After those two bowls of custard, why not leave the car and walk home, eat salad the following day or spend an extra half hour in the gym. This way your little misdemeanour is quickly forgotten and the excuse to abandon your health disappears.

If you are travelling these holidays a great decision you can make is take regular breaks. This is not only for driver safety but the sake of your body.

As humans we have around 206 moving parts. We are not really designed to sit for extended periods.
Sitting does a number of things to our body including tightening hamstrings and hip flexors, straining our lower back and neck and even affecting our circulation.

If you want to arrive at your destination refreshed and reach for a glass of wine, not the pain killers, try these
following stretches every few hours. They can be performed on the bumper bar of a car
and should be held for around 40 seconds:

Hamstring stretch Place one heel on your car’s bumper, leg straight and toes pointing up to the sky. Now push down lightly with your heel for the count of ten before relaxing. This will unlock tight hamstrings and lower back.
Hip flexors  Using the bumper again, place one foot on it and lean forwards so the elevated leg is bent. Keeping the back leg and torso straight, push your hips forward. You should feel a stretch in the upper part of the grounded leg.

Quadriceps stretch With your hand on the car for support, pull one heel up to your bum, keeping the knees close together.

Calf stretch With both hands on the car, place one leg out straight behind you and drive your heel into the ground.

Once you reach your destination, the final decision you should make is to combine family time with exercise. The key to an effective family workout is to make it fun and play on that natural competitiveness among mum, dad, brothers and sisters.

For example you could:

– Challenge the kids to see who can complete 20 x squats, 20 x push ups and 20 x sit ups the fastest.

– Form teams and set a target of 150 star jumps to find out which team can get to zero the fastest.

– Write the number of repetitions (5, 10, 15, 20) and some exerciseson scraps of paper and have the kids randomly pick the work out until the scraps of paper are used up or you all collapse with exhaustion.

If young children are involved, they will enjoy copying mum and dad, but you can also scale the exercises so dad has to finish 10 push-ups while his son completes three. These three little decisions have a good degree of holiday spirit and can help you successfully navigate the holidays with your waist size intact.

You might enter 2016 feeling energetic and focused and if this inspires you to get serious about your health, I recommend you seek out a trainer.

There are many misconceptions in the health industry and a good trainer will help you avoid injury, get measurable results and maintain motivation.

Who knows, when 2017 approaches, your goal might be to maintain that six pack instead of avoiding another notch on your belt.

About the authors

Michael Briggs and Deborah Murtagh are founders of The Body Coaches. The Body Coaches specialise in a revolutionary method of sustained health which includes weight loss, increased functional strength and mobility. www.thebodycoaches.com

Deborah Murtagh has been researching our association with wholefoods and health for over 20 years and runs a Life Coaching and online cooking school www.wholefoodsecrets.com. She is an expert in the Ketogenic diet.

Michael Briggs is a former journalist and qualified Personal Trainer, Strength and Conditioning coach, Crossfit Coach and martial artist, who currently trains a number of clients internationally.

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