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December Fitness Tips

Michelle Walker, the Recreational Specialist at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., poses for her photo in the base gym on November 2, 2011.  Michelle was hired to work at the base gym to train, educate and encourage McEntire’s airmen to remain “fit to fight” and excel in the new Air Force fitness standards. 
(SCANG photo by TSgt Caycee Cook)

Michelle Walker, the Recreational Specialist at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., poses for her photo in the base gym on November 2, 2011. Michelle was hired to work at the base gym to train, educate and encourage McEntire’s airmen to remain “fit to fight” and excel in the new Air Force fitness standards. (SCANG photo by TSgt Caycee Cook)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD, S.C. --

Maple-Nut Granola

My family loves the maple-nut flavor combination of this heart-healthy granola, but feel free to substitute your favorite nuts or dried fruit for your own custom blend.

This is easy to make with your family and also super fun to make and give away in glass containers for gifts!

INGREDIENTS

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips, (see Ingredient Note) or flakes
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
⅓ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup pure maple syrup                                       
½ cup water
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup raisins 

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 275°F.

2. Combine oats, coconut, almonds, pecans, brown sugar, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Combine syrup, water, and oil in a medium bowl or large measuring cup and pour over the oat mixture; stir until well combined. Spread the mixture into a large (12x15-inch) roasting pan or large rimmed baking sheet.

3. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir, and continue baking until golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 45 minutes more. Stir in cranberries and raisins. Let cool completely before storing.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Ingredient note: Large thin flakes of dried coconut called coconut chips make attractive garnishes. Find them in the produce section of large supermarkets.

People with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity should use oats that are labeled “gluten-free,” as oats are often cross-contaminated with wheat and barley.

Tips to keep your fitness plan on track during the holidays:

Ready or not, the holidays are here. With all the feasting and shopping and party-going, it can be tough to keep up a regular exercise routine.

Research shows that taking just a week or two off from exercise can erase months of favorable metabolic gains, and gaining just one percent of your body weight can have serious health implications.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of activity to prevent both of those things from happening. So by developing these four small, but effective habits, you can survive the holidays with your health and fitness intact:

1. Schedule Your Workouts

Sitting down on the weekend and planning your workouts for the week ahead can be the most effective 15 minutes you spend on your health and fitness. By writing your workouts into your schedule, you’ll be more likely to regard them as protected time and actually do them.

Just stay flexible by checking in a couple of times during the week to make adjustments as soon as you know about things that have popped up. This lets you create a backup plan for those extra busy days, rather than being caught off guard and ditching your workout.

2. Put Exercise First

By far, the best way to ensure that you don’t miss a workout is to do it first thing in the morning. Not only does this guarantee those unforeseen interruptions in your schedule won’t interfere with exercise, but studies have shown that our willpower is higher early in the day before we’ve had to exert a lot of self-control.

Devoting the first 20 to 30 minutes of each day to exercise not only makes it more likely to happen, but an early morning workout could help you fight food cravings throughout the day, too.

3. Recruit an Exercise Buddy

Another great way to motivate yourself over the holidays is to make a pact with a friend or group of friends. Even if you don’t work out together, checking in with someone else daily will make you think twice about skipping a session.

4. Plan Ahead for Travel

If you’ll be spending the holidays away from home, it’s imperative that you have a quick and easy travel workout in your repertoire. This doesn’t have to be your typical high-quality workout to be effective. A simple routine consisting of three to six exercises you can do with no equipment in a very small space is enough to keep you on track until you can get back to your usual routine.

The six exercises I would suggest are one-legged balance stands, push-ups, sit-ups, walking lunges, bicycle crunches and prone back extensions. Doing two or three circuits with little rest between exercises will give you a cardiovascular workout as well as maintain your muscular strength and endurance.

5. Squeeze in Mini-Workouts

One more thing: Because you might not get to exercise every day during the holidays, or the workouts you do get in might not be as robust as usual, try to focus on sneaking in short bursts of activity as often as you can throughout each day.

These “activity snacks” can be as simple as a trip up and down the stairs in your home, a fast-paced walk around the block. 

Studies have shown that walking just over one mile a day or doing three four-minute bouts of high-intensity exercise per week, can help you maintain your weight and fitness level, for the short holiday break.