A long festive weekend might be difficult to navigate without consuming some extra calories—the same ones you’re normally so careful about—whether you’re starting your fitness journey or in the middle of it. But everyone deserves to take it easy once in a while, which is why cheat days exist. However, you might suddenly find yourself recovering from an entire cheat weekend and some more. In fact, you might already have broken a few rules with the extra sugar intake, and science tells us that exercising is a great way to control blood sugar levels.
“Insulin sensitivity is increased, so your muscle cells are better able to use any available insulin to take up glucose during and after activity. When your muscles contract during activity, your cells are able to take up glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not,” states the American Diabetes Association.
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Next time you come across a long set of holidays, it is worth remembering that there is a way to use them smartly, peppering them with cheat meals instead of an entire day or days of breaking your dietary pattern. This will keep you motivated and give you a sense of control over your food intake.
Celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser, who has the likes of Shakira and Sarah Jessica Parker as her clients, says that she treats herself to a cheat meal shortly after doing a workout."I like to call them 'treat' days because you deserve it after working so hard all week. It will also rev up your metabolism, and you'll be motivated to work out harder before and afterward," she said in an eatthis.com article titled How 6 Fitness Pros Do Cheat Days.
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Depending on how you time your off-diet meals, working out at maintenance levels at lower intensities will still ensure a guilt-free long weekend where you can also squeeze in a full off-day from any kind of exercise. Let’s start with a workout designed by Anna Kaiser herself to get started.
Anna Kaiser’s 10-minute HIIT workout (for all levels): Just shy of nine-and-a-half minutes long, this HIIT workout is good because it takes very little time, can be done multiple times for those who are fit enough, and incorporates everything one is looking for in a workout: some weighted resistance, jumps, twists, and dynamic exercise that challenge all your muscles. There are some kicks, side plank raises, and pulses that will burn your glutes. Do it once, and you will feel great but do it at least twice to feel like you’ve earned another day off.
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30-minute no jumping, low impact, full body workout: With 3.2 million views, 50,000 likes and zero dislikes, this workout does not repeat a single exercise for half an hour and has no jumping involved. So heavy meals are not an excuse (actually, do not exercise on a full stomach) and it can also work as the perfect pre-meal workout. It has some corrective moves, squats, abs, and some really good variations to make up for the lack of jumping. The video is split into 5 minutes of warm-up and 25 minutes of the main workout. Have fun.
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30-min intermediate HIIT workout with weights: There are some of you who will still want to go to the gym or have a pair of weights handy for a workout at home. Tiff X Dan have a great workout catered towards getting a perfect holiday pump – full of pushups, lunges, and lots of abs work, this is a workout that is the perfect substitute for a non-conventional day in the gym or at home.
45-minute aerobics for beginners by NHS: England’s healthcare system NHS says that this follow-along workout is “a combination of moderate-intensity movements. It is a non-stop class which burns calories, tones the muscles, and improves coordination and cardiovascular fitness.” Take the long weekend to try something different, and 45-minutes is enough to make you feel like you’ve done your bit for the day, in terms of activity. Aerobics, which probably isn’t as popular as it once used to be, is still worth the time as a fitness form and incredibly fun as well (probably ask the family to join?).
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.
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