If you don’t feel much like running or gymming with Omicron in overdrive and Christmas round the corner, what’s the minimum amount of exercise you should aim to do between now and January?
Even those of us who are self-confessed fitness fans are struggling right now. Gyms feel precarious with the Omicron variant knocking people down left, right and centre. Running, if you’re already mentally and physically knackered, is a bit much and if you’re resolute on staying at home and you’ve got very little room, you might not fancy setting up a multi-station circuit in your living room.
But we know that movement is necessary. Not only does exercise have the power to lift mood, it’s also necessary for physical health – particularly if you’re still working and sitting in front of a laptop for nine hours a day.
All things considered, we know that we have to do some kind of fitness between now and the new year but the question is: what’s the bare minimum that we should be aiming for, fitness-wise, before January?
That might sound a little odd, coming from a fitness editor. After all, it’s my job to encourage people to build strength and enjoy exercise as much as possible. But let’s face it: we’re in survival mode right now. Movement can be a medicine to melancholy, if you get the dose right.
“The bare minimum should be aligned to everything else you have going on between now and New Year,” says Peloton Tread instructor and coach Joslyn Thompson Rule. “If you are extremely busy, then some exercise to counter the busy-ness would be great, like a walk, some yoga or some meditation – something that allows you to switch off for a minute.
“If time is at a pinch, shorter workouts are great to keep movement in your day/week; it’s likely that your schedule is different than usual at this time of year, and so too should your workouts be to fit in accordingly.”
This is an usual year, so factor that into your regime
“Given the year(s) we’ve had, not setting yourself any unrealistic, unachievable expectations is key,” says SWTC trainer Dottie Fildes. “Stripping it back to more manageable goals is going to be the key to success.”
Normally at this time of year, we’re busy navigating a ridiculous number of office Christmas parties, friend drinks, flatmate dinners and family visitors. We may no longer have full diaries but for whatever reason, December still feels a lot right now – and that may mean exercise falling by the wayside.
Fildes recommends still trying to fit in small amounts of daily movement. “Gather the troops for a family walk; take nieces and nephews to the local park play area. Those are easy ways to keep the family entertained and catch up in the process.
“There’s a lot to be said for step count too, and looking at your ‘NEAT’ (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). That’s the movement that you do without technically calling it ‘exercise’. That might be taking the stairs instead of the lift, getting off the bus a stop earlier or choosing to walk or cycle to the shops instead of taking the car.”
The point, Fildes says, is that we have to keep moving. “I 100% get it. It’s cold, grey and the world seems extremely uncertain right now. It’s hardly screaming: ‘come out and get active’, but deep down, you know you’ll almost always feel better for it.”
How to stay active over the festive season
Five minute rule
“I always swear by the five minute rule,” says Fildes. “On days where motivation is at a bit of a low, give it five minutes. If after that, you’re still not into it, stop and continue going about your day. More often than not, by the time you’ve got going, you feel like carrying on.”
Grab a buddy
Stuck at home having tested positive? Why not grab your flat mates for a Yoga with Adriene situation? “Knowing that someone else in your support group is moving, will inspire you to do the same,” Thomson Rule says. “The hardest part is starting, once you’re in it, you are in it!”
Take it easy
Perhaps the most important thing is to tune in for what your body is asking for. If you’re knackered, then why not light the candles, grab your pillows and blanket and get comfy for an hour of yin yoga bliss?
Set yourself a non-exercise goal
A morning run always makes me feel better, even if it’s hard at the time. If you can’t face the prospect of running, however, sometimes it’s worth setting non-time/distance goals. Select a juicy podcast and vow to stay out as long as the podcast lasts, or set off as dusk falls with the intention of counting as many Christmas houses as possible on your route.
Want to move but don’t have the energy for a big old workout? Have a go at one of our 15-minute mobility workouts, over on the Strong Women Training Club.
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.