Our 12 Days of Christmas Workout: Whip Yourself into Shape Just in Time for Christmas

Fit woman lifting dumbbell weights with Christmas tree in background
Fit woman lifting dumbbell weights with Christmas tree in background

Finding time to workout over the holiday season can be challenging. Crunched between family responsibilities, cheese platters and wine, staying fit during the holidays requires both motivation a planning.

The official kick-off for the 12 Days of Christmas is Christmas Day. Because of all the food and spirits consumed during that time, it is excusable to start the practice before Christmas gets here.

#1 Sign up For A Holiday Fun Run

The holidays are a great time to sign up for a charity run or walk. Not only are there an abundance of these such events, but they will keep you motivated to train, put you in the holiday spirit and allow you to give back to a charitable cause. Bonus points for the ones that allow your kids to join in the fun!

#2 Prep Your Meals

Everyone knows what an important role diet plays in your overall health. Around the holidays, it can be difficult to keep your diet in check not only because of all the holiday events but also because in the festive hustle bustle, you neglect to perform tasks that can be vital to keeping you fit over the holidays.

The most important of these tasks is meal prepping, not only so that you’ll have a healthy tidbit to reach for when you’re hungry, but also so that you don’t reach for the sweets, cheese or high carbs snacks you likely have laying around for the occasion. Pre-making salads, grilled meats, healthy dips such as hummus and pre cutting veggies can keep your hunger and cravings at bay.

However, don’t let an obsession with weight loss ruin your holiday season. Food is one of the best parts of any tradition. On a regular basis, the 80-20 rule is a good standard to live by, meaning 80% of the food you eat is clean and 20% is whatever food you want. Around the holidays, you can afford to go 70-30 for a month, eating 70% healthy foods and being indulgent the remaining 30% of the time.

man running on bridge

#3 Try a HIIT Workout

Last minute gift shopping have you scrambling for time to squeeze in a workout? A High Intensity Interval Training session will allow a high calorie burn and intense workout without a massive time investment. Whether you choose to workout at home or in the gym, HIIT workouts involve cardio activity done to almost your maximum capacity for a short interval and then a recovery interval. For instance, you could run on the treadmill at level 10 and incline 5 for 20 seconds and then slow it right down to 3 for 10 seconds. Outdoors, weather permitting, you could do sprints up a hill and then walk back down to recover. HIIT is an extremely effective and time saving method of exercising, especially when you are crunched for time.

#4 Outdoor Winter Fun Can Crush Calories

Holiday memories are made outdoors. Remember sledding and making snow angels as a child? As an adult, you can not only have fun outside, but also exercise, without feeling as though you’re missing out on other holiday activities. Cross country skiing, skating and snowshoeing can all offer a serious calorie burn while allowing you to spend time in the great outdoors.

#5 Workout at Home

Time is in short supply during the holiday season. Do a short but effective body weight workout from home to save you time on the commute and allow you to break up your workouts.

Here is a list of 12 exercises that you can do that use the 12 Days of Christmas concept. Like the song, complete the exercises in ascending order, working back down to number one. Add an exercise each round.

Do one of the first for round #1. Do two of the second and one of the first for round #2. Round #3 consists of three of the third exercise, two of the second, and one of the first. Continue until you have completed 12 rounds.

Suggested exercises include:

  • ​Alternating lunges
  • ​Burpees
  • ​Crunches
  • ​High knees
  • ​Jumping jacks
  • Squats
  • ​Leg lifts
  • ​Mountain climbers
  • ​Pushups
  • ​Side lunges
  • ​Skaters
  • ​Walkouts

​Some of these may need a little explanation. A burpee is also called a squat thrust. The skater is a cardiovascular slimming exercise meant to get the heart rate up. Lean forward, keeping your back flat and your core tight.

Go back and forth in a skater movement. Leap to the right bringing your left foot behind you with your left arm in front of you. Repeat by leaping to the left, bringing the right foot back and the right arm in front of you. This YouTube video demonstrates how to do the exercise.

Walkouts are done by standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Reach down to the ground and use your hands to walk away until you are in the high plank position. Hold for a second. Tuck your abs and squeeze your cheeks. Then walk back to your feet.

Do not stand until you complete the intended number of repetitions. Check out the video to see the walkout executed correctly. The exercises can be arranged in any order you like or you can choose others as substitutes.


Finding the right combination of exercises will serve as motivation. Turn the burpee into a celebration. The celebratory version starts with feet apart and the body in a mini squat position. Jump up in the air in an X position with arms and legs spread. The side lunges are a cardio sequence that begins with the feet performing a Tic-Toc motion. Touch one foot to the side. A variation of the exercise has you touching all the way to the floor as you lunge one leg out. There is an illustration of this exercise on the Lorna Jane Active Living website (link provided below).

​​On the same web page is an illustration to use as a mountain climber variation. From the plank position, alternate feet to touch the opposite wrist. Even jumping jacks can be done a little differently.

Alternately touching the floor and crossing one arm and leg over the other changes the traditional jumping jack. The site also has a reaching exercise that can be substituted for one of the others.

High knee exercises can begin with a deep squat. When you lift one knee, rotate the arms and torso towards the raised knee, then alternate knees.  

Christmas Gift Blue Sport Dumbbells

# 6 Work On Your Inner Peace

Although the holidays bring joy, family and fun, they can also bring on a power of stress.  Hit your local yoga studio or complete a yoga practice at home for a good workout that will work your flexibility and balance and also let you unwind and relax!

#7 Dry Yourself Out

Mark couple of days over the holiday season where you commit to going alcohol free. Alcohol is full of calories and can also decrease inhibitions, which make you more likely to binge out on food. Even a few drinks the night before can dampen your motivation to get active, so cut out a few days where you spare yourself the negative impacts of alcoholic beverages.

#8 Jam Out

Many times, people neglect exercise over the holiday season because they feel as though they are missing out on valuable family time. Many workouts however are way more fun as a group! Grab a few family members and head over to a barre or zumba studio for a high calorie burning, groovy workout that you’ve likely never tried before!

#9 Family Friendly Fun

With kids home from school, leaving the house becomes a bit more difficult. Family friendly, yet active activities are available in abundance. Whether you go on a long nature walk or head to the pool and swim a few laps while the kids play, you are benefitting everyone by offering up a fun but active pastime that everyone can participate in together.

three girls on Cardio Stationary Bicycle

#10 Calorie Crushing Cycling

In the last couple of days of the program, you might feel the need for a more intense workout to burn off that turkey. A spinning class may be just what the doctor ordered to allow you to sweat it out. Most spinning classes only last about 45 minutes to an hour and can allow you to burn up to a whopping 800 calories. Bonus: spinning classes are often included in monthly gym memberships.

#11 Try out a Fitness Video

The Internet can be both a blessing and a curse. Your kids may have spent much of the holiday season glued to their Instagram pages, but you also have a plethora of amazing (and often free!) fitness tools at your fingertips. Many sites have free workout videos and you can customize the types, length and intensity to suit your schedule. Pilates, kickboxing or kettlebell workouts, all in the comfort of your own home!

#12 The Last Hoorah

It may be that you are heading back to work after this last workout and back into your regular routine. Plan a fun sporting activity to do as a family or with your group of friend to mark the end of a wonderful and joyous season. A hockey game or an evening of sledding with hot apple cider in hand is an active, but festive way to finish off the season.

The reasons staying fit and losing weight does not become a reality is people look too far into the future. The recommendations made here have a type of built-in deadline. The goal, of course, is to make getting into shape such an accomplishment that the lifestyle continues after the holidays.

All you have to be concerned with now is getting and staying in shape through the holidays. You can do this! Kick off the adventure with moderate exercises that allow you to be comfortable with the activities.

Success breeds success. Achieving any of the goals will make you want to do more. As far as food intake goes, focus on the good stuff and cut out unnecessary junk food. Enjoy some daring exercises and combine activity with family time. Most importantly, allow yourself some wiggle room so that you indulge a little bit. After all, the holidays only come around once a year.

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