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Use the ‘Good, Better, Best’ System for Less Stressful Holiday Workouts

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Photo: BAZA Production (Shutterstock)

The holiday season can be stressful, especially if you’re traveling, hosting guests, or in charge of all the Christmas shopping. On the one hand, there’s no time to exercise. On the other, if you skip your regular workouts, you may find yourself more stressed.

We’ve previously discussed the mental-health benefits of making time for a workout even on vacation. Exercise can help keep you in tune with your regular schedule, give your anxiety a little less space in your brain, and help you feel more limber and capable when you’d otherwise be spending most of the day sitting around.

But busy times in our lives make it hard to measure workouts the same way we usually would. You might not get in as many minutes of exercise, or as many steps, or you might not get to do all the lifts you normally would on a gym day. There’s a brilliant solution to this problem, though, which I noticed in this Washington Post article about ditching your fitness tracker. (By the way: I fully support ditching your fitness tracker.)

The hack is to get rid of the all-or-nothing mindset where either you ace your workout or you might as well have stayed in bed. Decide ahead of time what would be “good,” “better,” and “best” options for the day. Then do whichever of those options works for you.

For example, I haven’t been feeling up to a full hour on the exercise bike lately, but I make sure to get on the bike to do something even if I don’t have much time. For me, half an hour of easy pedaling is my “good” workout, 45 minutes is “better,” and my “best” would be a full hour with a dedicated warmup sequence, some high-energy intervals, and a nice cool-down.

You can calibrate this three-tiered system to any activity and any time commitment or intensity level. Maybe your “good” is doing a few sets of barbell squats at the gym and then heading home, while “better” and “best” would involve accessories and cardio afterward. Or maybe “good” is going for a walk, “better” is a quick follow-along YouTube video, and “best” is making it to the gym at all. You get to decide what makes sense for you.