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High-Intensity Holiday Travel Workouts

JoggingIt’s an age-old problem: Between holiday parties, family feasts and the well-meaning co-worker who loves to bake, the deck seems stacked against us when it comes to holiday weight gain.

But gaining those pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year isn’t inevitable.

Here are some tips on how to incorporate some high-intensity workouts in your holiday travels that you can squeeze in between those holly-jolly food fests.

Let’s start with visiting family.

There are really only two scenarios: It’s a stressful experience for you and it becomes easier to avoid family arguments if your mouth is full; or, if you truly love to visit them, you all end up eating and drinking too much while hanging out on the couch for too many hours!

When traveling to see family during the holidays, see if you can communicate to others who are going to be there in terms of what activities can be planned. You might be able to plan excursions that keep you busy the entire day, or smaller outings that can be incorporated on most days you are together.

See if you can plan ahead for energetic activities. Can you plan to go skiing with your relatives and friends? Make a snowman with the kids?

Speaking of kids, we all know the phrase, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Why? They have the right attitude! We should stop expecting kids to be as sedentary as we adults are. See if you can be that person who plays with them, and then you will be just as tuckered out as they are at the end of the day.

I will never forget my German uncle who, at the age of 72 was the most active adult in the room. He played with the kids constantly, and guess what? He was the fit one who ate with a voracious appetite, as opposed to others who were still full from the cake and coffee several hours earlier! Go sledding with the kids, or make snow angels. Ever tried snow shoeing? Killer workout!

When hanging out with your family or friends, look for opportunities to where you can be the one to move more. Can you be the person who volunteers to go to the store for supplies? Tell the others that you are there to help move furniture to get ready for the party, or whatever else might need to get done to prepare for the holiday festivities.

If you travel to where it is warm during the winter, go to the beach for a run, or go hiking or cycling outside. Then later, you can show off your tan, lean body to the poor slobs who had to freeze during the holidays.

Woman StretchingIf you want more of a “workout” in the traditional sense, you can get a high-intensity workout by doing isometrics and negative repetitions. This is great to do in the mornings before you meet your family and friends, as well as a great option when you are traveling for work during the holidays.

“Isometric exercises” mean that there is no change in the length of the muscle. So there is no movement, you just hold the position for as long as you can, or for a specific time. Think of a push up, where you are half way to the floor, and you just hold that position. You can do isometric exercises in any point along the range of motion. Think of holding a push up position really close to the floor (harder), or holding the position halfway up (easier). Research has shown that you get stronger within a range of positions. So if you do several different ranges or positions, your body will benefit.

“Negative exercise repetitions” involve lengthening the muscles against resistance. Let’s say you are not strong enough to push yourself off the floor in a traditional push up exercise, but you can start up on top, then lower yourself towards the floor. Basically, gravity is pulling your body towards the floor, and you just need to resist it. It is this lengthening of the muscle fibers against resistance that contributes to the sore feeling you get after a hard workout.

Ready for some holiday cheer? Try this for a great quick workout. You can do just a few repetitions of each exercise to get yourself into a positive mindset, making it easier to resist potential temptations through the rest of the day, or do more reps to get a longer workout if you can spare the time.

1. Isometric bridges
You can do these off of a hotel bed, or a chair or really any object. The higher the object, the harder the exercise will be. Assuming you are using a bed: lie on the floor with your butt far enough away from the bed to only get your feet on the bed. Lift up your hips by pushing down into the bed. Lift up as high as you can, or to where there is basically a straight line from your leg to your shoulder. Hold this position and count up to 30 seconds or to where you feel you can no longer do this. If this is too difficult, you can put more of your leg on the bed, not just your foot. If it is too easy, lift up one foot so you are doing the bridge with just one leg.

2. Isometric into negative-only push ups
Get onto your hands and your toes, with your hands a little wider than your shoulders. Keeping your body in a straight line with your normal slight arch in the low back and abs tight, lower yourself towards the floor to where you can hold the position for up to 10 seconds. Remember that the closer you get to the floor, the harder it is! After doing five reps, do some negative only reps. Start on top, then lower yourself as slowly as possible towards the floor. Do up to 10 of these.

3. Isometric single leg lunges
Stand in front of a chair, with your left leg on the chair. You should be far enough in front of the chair in order to get 90 degrees at the right knee as you do this exercise. Relax your left leg, and bend your right knee, lowering your hips towards the floor. Get as low as you feel comfortable, or to where your thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 15 seconds, then switch legs and do five reps on each side. When you start getting fatigued, you can hold the position to where your leg is not quite as low as it was earlier.

4. Isometric hand/shoulder stand
Shoulder Stand Ending Get onto your hands and knees, facing away from the wall. Your hands should be right under your shoulders. You might want to do this barefoot to avoid footprints on the wall!

Start walking your feet up the wall. The higher you walk your feet, the harder the position will be. See if you can get your legs high enough so that you have a right angle at your hips, with your legs parallel to the floor. Hold for up to 15 seconds, or as long as you can. Do three to four reps.

Have a safe and happy holiday and remember: Let’s move more!

By Annette Lang for Learn more about Annette Lang Education Systems at

Check out the rest of the Health & Fitness category for more tips for keeping in shape on the road.

Part of staying healthy is staying safe.  Get information on how to do that better in the Travel Safety & Security section.