Of course, in the blindered world of a Fitness Professional (because no matter what the question is, exercise is almost always one of the best answers), we'd argue that if you're life gets so stressful that you don't have time to exercise, you really can't afford to NOT exercise.
But, enough's been said on that. So what I will pitch as a solution to December exercise deprivation is the notion of Frequent Exercise Quickies. That is, rather than spending 75 to 90 minutes working out 2 or 3 days per week this month, plan instead for training 3 or 4 days per week (one extra) for just (much shorter) 45 to 55 minutes.
Normally, we coach clients (and you should plan) for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes warming up before your workout and 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular work following your session. Along with your 45 minute session, this give you have a standard 75 to 90 minute workout. While that doesn't seem like a huge time committment to us, it can certainly seem intimidating when there's cooking to be done, the in-laws are inbound, and you have an unfinished gift shopping list.
A 50 minute workout, on the other hand, is short, sweet, and mentally conquerable. Heck, it's not even a workout ... more of a workoutling ... a workout too small, cute, and incomplete to be a real workout. Get in, get it done, and be on your way. The key, of course, is that if you reduce you cardio and resistance effort volumes, you'll really, really need that additional exercise quickie per week!
Training for 50 minutes 4 times per week (200 total minutes) instead of 75 minutes 3 times per week (225 total minutes) also has other advantages.
For one, you raise your metabolism one extra day per week. Not only do you burn calories while exercising, but you'll burn additional calories recovering from the exercise after your workout. And this extra day of recovery effort more than covers for the reduced total volume (25 minutes).
Additionally, the 4th workoutling per week gives you one more boost of energy to make it through stressful days, and another shot of endorphins to make the holiday stress more tolerable.
If you're training with FT, your session pace is always quick and with aerobic elements, but if you're getting your (regular or extra) workoutlings on your own, keep these things in mind for effective exercise quickies:
- It's just 50 minutes, so plan for being seriously committed for the entire workout; it goes fast!
- Rest no more than 1 minute between sets
- Drink plenty of water
- Wear your headphones, and don't make eye contact with anyone else in the gym (no time to get pulled away into a conversations)
- Look ahead, and plan your next exercise before you're finished with your current one
- Have an alternate exercise in mind with alternate equipment to keep you moving should your equipment get taken before you get there
- Go relatively light with high repetitions (20+) on the 1st set of any exercise (missing out on a proper warmup will increase the risk of injury, so you'll need to warmup in-line)
- Plan for no fewer than 10-12 repetitions on any exercise (again, making the workout more aerobic in nature to compensate for reduced cardio)