Struggling to exercise right now? It’s worth pushing through this month, says writer Alice Porter, who claims that December is the best time of the year to work out.
For most people, Christmas is a time of indulgence, and this is certainly the case for me. I eat mince pies for breakfast, have a Baileys with my Sunday lunch and find extra time in my diary to see all the friends and family I’ve put off making plans with during the rest of year.
You’d think that my workout schedule might take a hit as a result, which would be completely reasonable. But December actually tends to be the time of the year when I go to the gym most consistently. Here are some of the reasons why.
It can help protect your mental health in the dark months
I’m a serial winter-workout lover and if there is a time when I lay off exercising, it’s definitely the summer. During heatwaves and sweaty hangovers, the last thing I want to do is raise my body temperature even more by working out.
With shorter days and colder weather in winter, however, I get in a much better routine with the gym. In fact, it’s an essential part of my self-care routine during the winter months, when looking after my mental health feels more important than ever.
My winter workout routine means that I’m often at my strongest and fittest just before Christmas, so training feels easier and more enjoyable than normal. I find myself more motivated to reach my goals at the end of the year, rather than at the start of the year when everyone else is setting new year’s resolutions. That last-minute push definitely helps me feel more motivated than normal to head to the gym.
Exercise helps to maintain a sense of routine
I love how busy the festive period is, but sometimes it can be overwhelming to have your routine completely overhauled by a hectic social calendar. Maintaining a regular workout routine helps me to combat social burnout at Christmas, as it ensures I have some time for myself and a regular routine that helps me find balance.
Of course, there are some days when I’m too hungover to head to the gym or days when Netflix’s new original Christmas romcom looks too appealing to drag myself off the couch. But I have learned to adapt my routine at Christmas time, so I might workout at different times of the day or do longer sessions less often.
A midday trip to the gym when you’re off work feels particularly luxurious and a nap next to the Christmas tree is even more enjoyable after a long, hard workout.
It’s a chance to embrace community
My favourite part about working out in December is celebrating the community of people who are doing the same thing. I’ve often walked into the gym on Christmas Eve morning expecting it to be empty. But it’s always busy, often with familiar faces, and the atmosphere is unlike any other time of the year as people are experiencing that festive buzz and are looking to complete some small acts of kindness (Christmas is the best time of year to train if, like me, your least favourite part of a workout is putting your equipment away).
Exercising at Christmas has always been a bit of a tradition for me thanks to this community aspect. When I was a teenager, I’d go to a Christmas Eve kettlebells-focused class with my mum every year before heading to the supermarket to stock up on festive supplies.
Now, going back to my old local gym when I’m staying with my parents at Christmas feels so nostalgic, especially when I’m able to train with childhood friends. This is actually a very welcome way to socialise when every other reunion tends to take place over a bottle of wine – something there just aren’t enough evenings for, even at Christmas.
Learning to see exercise as enrichment, not punishment
It can be so easy to see exercise as a way to punish yourself for the foods you eat or other lifestyle choices you have made, especially at Christmas, but doing so can lead to an unhealthy relationship with moving your body. Exercising at Christmas, alongside all the other parts of the festive season I enjoy, helps me to see all of these things as ways to enrich my life and helps me to find pleasure in them all, rather than perceiving some activities as “good” and others as “bad”.
With so much going on this time of year, however, I make an effort to make sure I don’t push myself too far in the gym. I try to get any personal best attempts and heavy lifts out the way at the end of November or the beginning of December, and I’m also less strict when it comes to programming.
Being able to change my workout on the day it takes place is a really important part of ensuring exercise stays enjoyable for me during the festive season. And anyway, there’s always January for a strict programme. December is all about having as much fun as humanly possible, even at the gym.
Don’t want to leave your warm house this winter? Hop over to the Strong Women Training Club where you’ll find over 100 workout videos to try.