We all know the feeling. We’ve all felt it. The holidays are over. You worked hard, played hard, and met every single obligation with family and friends. You watched all the old movies and ate all your favorite foods.

You get dressed to head back to work and your pants don’t fit like they did just a few short weeks ago. We’ve all been there and usually, when this happens, we all freak out. We beat ourselves up, make some resolutions, and get back into the gym. And we’re usually pretty good about it for a few weeks.

What if I told you it didn’t have to be this way? Not this year. What if you found yourself on the first of January feeling rested, healthy and ready to conquer 2017.

Instead of preparing yourself for the rehabilitation that comes after the holidays, this year resolve to use the holidays as a time for some healthy pre-hab.

Just like preventive medicine is intended to keep you from getting sick, the idea of pre-hab is meant to help you avoid illness, injury and the extra work needed to make up lost ground. The key to both is being intentional about your habits and your choices.

I’m not suggesting you forgo your holiday favorites or skip the nap in favor of the gym every day while you’re off. You simply need to account for the fact that you will “cheat” a bit over the course of the next month and account for it.

Here are a few simple ways to stay ahead this year:

  • You are going to eat more; so amp up your calorie burn by focusing your workouts on cardiovascular activities like running, biking or swimming.
  • Beyond an increased amount of food, you’ll also find yourself tempted to cheat with a few extra treats – especially at holiday parties and events. It’s important to pick and choose what’s really worth it. Most of us will lose ground on our health and fitness goals if we allow ourselves to cheat multiple days a week. So, pick your day and plan it around a party where you know you’ll want to indulge, and prepare yourself for a little extra work the next day.
  • Most people will drink more than they usually do. Be intentional about drinking more water after 3:00 p.m. You’ll have to go to the bathroom more often, but that’s true regardless of what you’re drinking. Drinking more water makes you less inclined to overindulge since you’ll have less actual space in your stomach.
  • Getting to the gym can be hard this time of year. Sign yourself up for something in the first quarter – a half marathon, a 10K, a Tough Mudder, a hiking trip with friends, etc. If you have something to plan for early in the year, you’ll have more motivation to keep finding time for the gym.
  • Between travel and late night holiday parties, most of us also cheat ourselves out of sleep this time of year. If you’re staying out late and waking up early, give yourself at least one day where you can wake up without an alarm. If you plan properly and keep that morning clear, it could be one of your favorite days of the month.
  • Finally, make the most of your time off. Plan ahead and be intentional about how you use it. The holidays are about connection, not perfection. Use some of this time as a gift for yourself. Schedule a massage. Set aside time to reflect and set goals for the new year – not resolutions! Carving out time for yourself during the holidays is absolutely critical. Decompress – let your mind water, meditate, do yoga – give yourself a mental break.

I know what you’re thinking right now… “Ari, I don’t have time for all of this. I’m hosting 15 people in my home or I have to travel to my in-laws.” I do too; I understand. We all get more invitations to more holiday parties than we know what do with.

Here’s the secret. You don’t have to accept every invitation. It’s okay to be intentional about how and with whom you spend your time. This holiday, reconnect with the most important people in your life in ways that energize you – whether that’s going out or staying in. And for those invitations that you really must accept whether you want to or not, know that you’re doing it for a reason and simply plan ahead.

A little extra effort, being intentional up front, will save a lot of time and energy making up for it later. So, set some pre-hab goals for yourself this holiday season, find a friend or family member to hold you accountable and prepare to start 2017 from a position of strength.

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