It is traditional to start worrying about your fitness in the new year. Like most traditions, there is a fundamental lie at the heart of it. You did not wake up on 1 January feeling huff-and-puffy. You’ve been worrying about it since November, or before. Indeed, you may have been trying to get fit since then – and if so, yule becomes not a respite but a pain, since you’re likely to be holed up somewhere, with very little scope to do anything except eat and drink, maybe not even in your own house. There are hardly any gyms open, and your friends and family are ready with a caustic remark if you show any sign of wanting to exercise. How do you stay fit, maintain your tiny bit of progress, over this fortnight?
Helpfully, I’m going to cover the whole gamut, from fitness you can do if you genuinely don’t want anyone to hear you doing it, through little workouts that you don’t mind being mocked for, to full-on training for the person whose family is perfectly well aware of their healthy inclinations, but doesn’t want it rammed down their throats.
The best silent workout is yoga; give it half an hour a day, in your room (or your nephew’s old bedroom), some time when you might reasonably be expected to be asleep, and no one will know. Don’t forget your mat. Follow a Yoga With Adriene YouTube video, if you like (on mute). Slightly more noisy than this is a standard resistance bodyweight workout: press-ups, planks, tricep dips, squats, wall-sits. You don’t need equipment, and could do it in three sets of 10 minutes (or try Shona Vertue’s chair-only routine, below). If you have resistance bands and are feeling bold, you can do a not-bad workout while you’re cooking, by looping it around your thighs and doing side lunges (though do check the moves online, otherwise you might be building up a really peculiar muscle group that you won’t use again until you’re roasting another 25-pound turkey).
For advice for the serious athlete, I asked Jo Pavey, five-time Olympian, ambassador for Saucony. She will take her family to a forest or some exciting outdoor space, and do a run while they have a Christmas picnic. “If you’re at someone else’s house, there’s always a hill nearby. I’ll get a lot of benefit from a hill session: just run from the doorstep, up a steep hill, come back.”
As a general rule, if you want to do the same amount of good, with less disruption, try harder. “Try a tempo run, where you run at an uncomfortably hard pace for 20 minutes,” Pavey says. “The training boost is massive.” If you can dragoon other people along with you, there are often Reindeer runs – mixed-ability fun runs, on Boxing Day or thereabouts.
“Don’t forget some off-road shoes,” Pavey adds. “Local football pitches are empty on Christmas Day – you can use the markings to do interval sprints. But whether you’re an elite athlete or regular self-improving individual, if you take a break on the day itself and just enjoy it, that’s not going to kill you.”
What I learned
There are 290 calories in a portion of Christmas pud. That’s three sets of 200 squats.