10 Ways To Challenge Your Fitness, Build Muscle, and Burn Fat This Holiday Season

The holidays can be a challenging few weeks when it comes to finding the time (and resources) to train how you normally do. For some, that may mean doing some research on gyms you can drop in at while traveling. For others, it may be a good time to vary your training up, and have some good, clean fun!

Below are 10 ways you can challenge your fitness, stimulaute new musclue growth, and burn bodyfat while traveling (or staying home) this holiday season.

1. Push a Car with Friends and Family

Tis the season to spread cheer and joy. If you happen to be on the road and see a stalled car, jump out and push them to the nearest gas station! In all seriousness though, car pushing may be one of my favorite “training while on the road” exercises out there. Simply put the car in neutral, have a fellow training partner or friend steer (in my case my entire family joined me), and drive…with your legs. You will literally have the gym at your doorstep, and a quick 10-20 minute session comprised of 5-10 sets down the street can burn some serious body fat, and build some serious leg hypertrophy (if you push the car for prolonged periods of time). 

***As with nearly every attempt of heavy lifting, the inherent risk should be considered and understood before embarking on this test of strength. Be sure to wear proper footwear, stay clear of crowded streets, and be sure to have everyone aware of the car while it is moving.***

2. Do 20/20 Workouts

In an earlier article I walked through Joe Mills’ 20-minute Olympic weightlifting sessions. These are great for training the snatch and clean and jerk in a very effective and efficient manner. Add in some back/front squats, pulls, and some accessory lifts, and you have a very legitimate weightlifting training session that can be done in under one hour.

3. Deload and Reload

Some of you (like myself) may have foreseen the holiday season as a potential challenging time to train how you regularly would. If you planned your programming accordingly, you may find yourself in a much needed deload week, to allow your body and mind to “reload” after some intense weeks of training. By using the holiday weeks (10-14 days) to “reload”, you can cycle moderate heavy lifts (50-80% lifts, increased volume at lower intensities, etc) with more varied training (like the other aspects on this list) to give your body a break from maximal loading and training. It is important to note that DETRAINING, a state at which one deloads “too much” can set in if you decide to do minimal training or at too light of intensities. My advice is to try out doing the other things on this list, sprinkle in some of your favorite things, and then increase your sets and reps of basic movements using 50-60% of your 1RM.

4. Lift, Carry, and Throw Anything

In the summers I find myself in Canada, 30-45 minutes away from a suitable (one where I can do olympic lifts) training facility. What I have adopted from that situation is the ability to find heavy, randomized objects that may reside in the yard, park, or anywhere else, and train with them. Stones, logs, wheelbarrows, and shoveling snow are all simple, real-world exercise that can be used to develop muscle and burn fat. Traveling can be challenging, and we must be creative in the ways in which we train. So, when in doubt, find something heavy, and pick it up. If Highland Games athletes or Bud Jeffries can train with stones, logs, and kegs (which you may or may not have lying around), so should we.

5. Go for a Jog

The midwest is nasty cold this time of year, however I find it somewhat nostalgic to go out for a smooth, cold, 1-3 mile jog. A simple 20-30 minute jog can help to increase blood flow to muscle and connective tissue, improve cardiovascular health, and release “feel good” endorphins to keep you motivated and on point this holiday season. Strength and power athletes (functional fitness athletes too) can all benefit from low-intensity cardiovascular training.

6. Attack the Machines

Find the local 24-hour gym, health club, or globo gym and GO HAM. I recommend machine based hypertrophy-strength training interspersed with bodyweight training to induce muscular hypertrophy without compromising movement (that’s where bodyweight comes in). While machine-based training may not be a suitable long-term training modality for strength, power, and fitness athletes, they can most definitely be used to deload the joints and still attack muscle tissue, which can help to induce some serious muscle and mass gains and body fat reductions.

7. Keep It Simple

A video posted by Julio G (@juliusmaximus24) on

When in a time crunch or at a lower-scale training facility, fear not. When in doubt, pick 4-6 exercise per day and get to work. Stick to the compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, cleans, and snatches. You can throw in body weight and other forms of assistance lifts using whatever you can find. Simply adding more reps and sets to a workout can be enough to stimulate new muscle growth and keep bodyfat down (provided you train intense enough).

8. Sleep In and Nap Often

Sleep allows for the hormonal, neurological, and muscular processes to recover and repair. It may seem like a no brainer, but often travelling, staying up later than normal, and excessive food and booze consumption can really impact your performance during the holidays and beyond. Take the time to get some rest, even if that means napping for a few extra minutes per day. Your body, brain, and mood will thank you.

9. Stay on Your Program

As the disclaimer above stated, if you find yourself approaching the holidays on a strict training program, say for preparing for a meet or personal record, stay the course. No matter what you need to be training consistently to ensure that your progress. Many athletes may not understand the programming that goes into a training regimen, and how a lackluster week or two at the wrong time (say a few weeks prior to a meet or testing day) can have a huge negative impact on their performance. If your results and success truly mean something to you, find the right type of training facility, tell your family and friends you love them, and escape to find your iron zen for an hour or so each training session.

10. Do Short, Intense Bouts of Fitness

A video posted by Adam (@glock3o) on

You may not be able to devote 60+ minutes per day while traveling and spending time with family. The time you do have, make sure you spend it wisely. If your goal is to keep body fat at bay and stimulate muscle growth, try doing some German Volume Training (10 sets of 10 reps at 50-60% RM, with 1-2 minute rests) splits, or attack you favorite Hero WOD. Intensity is key. One of my go-to quickies is a timed 500m row or a reverse Tabata Assault Airbike for max calories. You will always get out of it what you put in.

Final Words

Bottom line is to stay active, embrace your surroundings, and be present in your process. If life gives you heavy weights and Eleiko bars, go for it. If not, make the best out of it you can, and always remeber you can push you car and do bodyweight any day and time you want.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: J2FIT on YouTube

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

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