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Caution: Holidays Approaching!

If you spend any time at Target, Home Depot, or any other chain retailers, you'd be forgiven for thinking the holiday season started back at the beginning of October at some point.

Alas, all those premature weeks of Christmas tree displays, and piped-in carols were only a training drill. Now though, my reader friend, the season is officially upon us. I make this declaration with a measure of confidence: Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror and the calendar now has 'December' clearly displayed. Tangible, indisputable signs that 2021 is coming to a rapid end and, if history is any indicator, the next month will be a busy one.

In a world where consensus can be in short supply, one thing that most seem to agree on is that the holidays seem to bring our ordinarily hectic pace of life to new levels of breathless activity and sprinting around. Whether it's additional work events, a busier social calendar, holiday-related activities the kids are involved with, more family visits, or some combination of these commitments plus others, life can, and does typically, get hectic over the next month.

While we are all busy contending with this spike in activity and general holiday merrymaking, another common and relatable theme takes shape. Specifically: our regular routine of diet and exercise that we have (hopefully) been consistent with trying to stick with over the last 11 months gets put on the back burner or tossed out the window altogether. In most of my conversations with people on the topic, the explanation for this annual faltering of healthy habits is as simple as it is predictable: "too busy".

Unfortunately, it's often not until most of December has passed by and we are in full holiday swing that the realization occurs that our regular exercise routine has been either neglected or abandoned altogether. This realization can be quickly followed by mentally beating ourselves up over the uptick in eating and drinking while simultaneously slowing down with exercise. (Not to mention possibly adding a few holiday pounds that were most certainly not on our Christmas wish list.) It's at this point where we may find ourselves dusting off the old trusty rationalization: "I'll get back on track in January."

Here's the excellent news: this cycle doesn't need to happen this year! What works in our favor is that this often-frenzied holiday cycle is predictable. As such, a plan can be put into place to avoid letting the additional demands on our time derail our commitment to working out. Further good news, the plan is a simple one, but it's just that we don't often take the time to do some December pre-planning with this particular aspect of our holiday calendar.

It comes down to taking the extra step to schedule time each week to get your regular exercise in, whatever that may be, whether it's walking, running, swimming, biking, a fitness video, or going to the gym. The main point, as history proves, is that the approach of "I'll do it when I have a chance" is a strategy with a low likelihood of success this month. Taking the extra step of personal accountability and scheduling that time at the start of each week, like you would any other holiday season commitment, will go a long way towards ensuring it actually gets done. For example, simple but effective calendar entries like: Tuesday 7-8 am: neighborhood walk. Thursday 4-5 pm: rowing machine. Saturday at noon: run on the rail trail. The specifics do not matter; it's the act of entering them into your weeks' schedule and treating them as you would any other necessary appointment that you have no intention of missing.

That said, things come up, and plans change, but that results in a reschedule of that appointment with yourself, not an outright cancellation. If you intend to stay consisten

t with your exercise regimen this holiday season, the (somewhat overused) saying sums it up: failing to plan is planning to fail. Taking the time for this extra step of prioritizing your health and wellness this season will be the ultimate gift to your future self in January 2022. Just envision your near-future self and the sense of accomplishment with kicking off the year feeling great about the last month instead of the alternative of wondering where the previous month went.

Make it a habit at the start of each week; for example, Sunday night tends to be an optimal time to schedule your upcoming week. Take 10 minutes and grab whatever you us

ually use for your schedule, whether your phone calendar, PC, or analog datebook and pen. Carve out the time you need for your usual exercise routine (or more!), enter it into your weeks' schedule amidst the already entered appointments, and commit to yourself that you will make every attempt to stick to that plan for the week.

Think of this approach in terms of 'A Christmas Carol'. Scrooge wakes up Christmas morning after his harrowing night with the three spirits and realizes it's not too late for him after all; he's been given a second chance to be the best version of himself. This, as we all know, is a game-changer for old Scrooge, and he wastes no time in changing his former, well, Scrooge-like ways.

We don't need any Ghost of Christmas future to scare us straight, all we need is a calendar, a plan for holiday schedule management, and your self-commitment to ensure we finish the year the way we started it: fully focused on getting things done in 2021!


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