The best holiday gift is the simplest: less stress. Though it’s the most joyful time of the year for many, it’s also the most stressful time of the year. According to a survey by OnePoll, 77 percent of Americans said they have a hard time relaxing during the holidays, with “financial strain” being the number one stressor.
To make matters worse for personal trainers, clients tend to take time off around the holidays, which means you have less work to do and less money coming in.
The best thing you can do this holiday season, for you and your clients, is to find ways to feel less stress with the tools you already know so well: health and fitness. Use these three tactics to keep your stress in check and make sure to share with your clients so they can experience extra holiday joy this year too.
Tactic #1: Intermittent Fasting
Safeguard Against Overeating
Thanksgiving dinner is never just one meal on the fourth Thursday of November. It’s a potluck of meals at your company, the gym, with friends, and then the two or three days after Thanksgiving, when you indulge in leftovers.
Of course, this increase in calorie intake leads to weight gain, which is stressful for your clients who have been working on their body for months and for you, as a trainer, who wants to role model healthy behavior for others. Mitigating the effects of inevitable overeating is critical and one way to do that is with intermittent fasting.
Research indicates that practicing 12 hours of intermittent fasting over a period of six weeks is enough to:
- Lose bodyweight
- Increase brown fat (the “good” fat)
- Improve healthy cholesterol (HDL)
All of this can happen without exercising or food restrictions come time for the big Turkey dinner. To use intermittent fasting this holiday season, follow the 16/8 method. This says that you only eat within an 8-hour window, and fast for 16 hours. As such, you might only eat between 12pm and 8pm each day to get both lunch and dinner into your eating window.
Don’t forget to tell mom about intermittent fasting too. The method has been found successful in older women.
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Tactic #2: HIIT
Move Faster, Harder—and for Less Time
A common reason for not following through with exercise and nutrition programs is lack of time. However, never is this excuse more relevant than during the holidays. Be it bad weather, shorter days, or an exponential increase in engagements, the struggle to manage time around the holidays is real.
Lacking time is stressful, so get your workout in with a mode of exercise that is effective and time-efficient: high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
A 2018 meta-analysis in the prestigious Journal of Sports Medicine analyzed 39 studies on HIIT's effectiveness in reducing visceral and abdominal fat in normal weight and obese adults (mean age 38.8 years). The results showed both men and women lose fat deposits in these areas.
Overall, lower intensity exercise (<90% Max HR) was better at reducing abdominal and visceral fat mass, whereas higher intensity (>90%) was better at lowering whole-body adiposity. No specific lower intensity range (I.E. 78-90Max HR) was provided to best burn abdominal fat, nor was a duration threshold (I.E. > 10 minutes) provided.
The authors did say that most of the studies generally lasted 12 weeks, and in all but nine of the 39 protocols analyzed, HIIT exercise occurred three times a week. Trainers, you can take this information and reduce your stress in three ways.
- Save time in your own workouts: Keep your body moving all holiday season long with HIIT, which can easily be worked into your daytime routine to save time.
- Present this information to straying holiday clients. With 30-minute sessions, you can remove the stress of time and being less mobile during this season while providing a cost-effective alternative for the client.
- These data offer insight into possible spot reducing strategies to keep specific clients seeing results during the holidays. In other words, using lower intensity HIIT running sessions may work best for males with more abdominal fat.
Moreover, shorter and higher intensity workouts, the common format is 10 seconds on 20 seconds off x 10, can be the key to less stress for you and your clients.
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Tactic #3: Try Ashwagandha
This Herbal Supplement that Reduces Stress
It’s hard to imagine someone building a successful personal training business without the discipline to rise early—many clients fit their workouts into their morning routine, before work. It is also worth noting that cortisol, a stress-response hormone, is highest in the morning.
One way to have less stress this holiday season is to enjoy Ashwagandha, a small shrub native to Asia and Africa. The research supporting its effectiveness on several biomarkers are many. For example, a recent randomized double-blind controlled trial compared a placebo group (n = 30) and an ashwagandha supplementation (n=30) group consuming 240 mg over 60 days.
Morning cortisol levels were 25 percent and 22 percent lower in females and males than in the placebo group. Anxiety levels were also reduced by 17 percent more in the ashwagandha group than the placebo. These data are consistent with not just one systematic review, but two systematic reviews concluding that the herb effectively reduces stress and anxiety when regularly supplemented.
The herb has also been aggregately evaluated to reduce brain oxidative stress, improve maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), and even improve male reproductive function. Considering that many large wholesalers and retailers sell the product at an affordable price, it can be an easily accessible tool to you and your clients.
Learn more about how to use Ashwagandha before trying it for yourself or with your clients.
Have Less Stress This Holiday Season
The holidays are both blissful and stressful at the same time—encourage clients, and yourself, to invest in physical and mental health over the next seven weeks to manage overeating, anxiety, lack of movement, and more. With HIIT, intermittent fasting, and Ashwagandha as tools in your back pocket, you and your clients can feel all the joy this season has to offer.