How to Modify Your Workout Routine—and Stay on Track—During Holiday Chaos

Jessica Thiefels, The Upside Blog by

by | Updated: October 13th, 2020 | Read time: 4 minutes

The holidays are always two things: stressful and busy. What’s the first thing to fall off your to-do list when you have too much to do and not enough time to do it? Your workouts. However, maintaining your routine throughout the holiday season is important for staying on track—especially if you have specific fitness and health goals.

Woman Running Outdoors in Snow as Part of Modified Holiday Exercise Routine |

Not to mention, we’re taking in a lot more calories. In HuffPost’s article, Calculate The Holiday Season’s Extra Calories, author Margaret Marshall points out:

  • One cup of cider: 120 calories
  • One cup of eggnog: 350 calories.
  • One half cup of mixed nuts: 400 calories
  • One ounce of potato chips and a tablespoon of dip: 200 calories
  • One slice of pie: 400 to 800 calories

Don’t let these crazy holiday calories hurt the work you’ve done this year. Instead, simply modify your exercise routine to stay on track amidst the chaos.

Less time, more days (or vice versa)

A simple way to modify your routine is to adapt it to your holiday schedule. For example, if you have less time in the day thanks to holiday parties and events, switch from four 1-hour workouts to five or six 30-minute workouts with increased intensity. While this isn’t an exact one-for-one modification, it will allow you to stick with your routine and get the rest of the holiday stuff done.

Conversely, if you simply want to dedicate less days to working out, do the inverse: drop from 4 or 5 days of 1-hour workouts to 3 days of 1.5- to 2-hour workouts. You’re still maintaining the volume, just getting more done in one session than you normally would.

Take classes

Often we deviate from our workout schedule during the holidays because it’s easier to hit the couch between holiday parties and long days. If this is the case, you need accountability to maintain your routine, which classes are great for. If you’ve signed up and paid for the class, you’re much more likely to get up and do it, even if you don’t want to.

What’s more, you don’t have to think quite as much—you just do what the instructor says. Another added bonus: the time goes by faster. When you’re having fun with others and listening to the instructor, you’re less likely to be looking at the clock between sets.

This is a great time to try a new gym or studio, since many are running specials for the holidays. Take advantage and finally check out that new yoga studio you keep driving by.

Find a holiday accountability Partner

If classes aren’t your thing but you know you need accountability, find a holiday workout partner. Look for someone with a similar schedule, so it’s easy to coordinate, and then use one another to get to the gym—or do your run or at-home workout—during the hectic holiday season. If you don’t go to the gym, you can simply set check-in days with your accountability partner. For example, on Sundays you check-in with your partner and on Wednesdays, he or she does a mid-week check-in on you.

The key is setting and sharing goals with one another ahead of time so you both know what the other is supposed to be doing. For example, your goal may be: workout at home 3 days this week for at least one hour. When you do your check-in, your partner will ask, “Did you do that or no?”

Focus on active recovery

The holidays are a great time for active recovery, which your body needs just as much as the movement. The key is remembering that this still requires you to be active—hence the name—but it doesn’t need to be vigorous.

“Generally an active recovery workout is less intense and has less volume. For example, a trainee worried about body composition goals could do active recovery by taking a brisk walk on an off day,” explains Pat Koch, CSCS.

Other active recovery options include a long stretching session, a light bike ride, a yoga class, or any low-intensity cardio or strength workout. This type of workout is ideal for the holidays for two reasons:

  • With less work to do, it’s easier to convince yourself to get up and do it. A brisk walk may feel a lot easier to make time for than a full, weight lifting session.
  • With all the holiday stress, active rest gives you time to truly unwind and release any anxiety or frustrations. Find your zen in a yoga class and then get back to it.

Get paid to work out

Yes, you read that right—there are apps that pay you to workout. That is, if you stick with and achieve the goals you set for yourself. The process is simple: you pay an entry fee of some sort, along with everyone else participating, and the winners split the pot.

During the holidays, we can all use a little more cash, so check out these two apps:

To make your fitness more memorable this time of year, join Charity Miles instead. For every mile you log with the app, money is donated to your charity of choice and there are more than 40 to choose from. This makes the giving season that much more special.

Modify Your Routine

Use these ideas to stay on track with your workout routine this holiday season. It may be stressful, hectic and full of calories, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find time to move your body. Figure out what’s stopping you and then find the solution, whether you need an accountability partner or a few weeks of active recovery.