Over the coming weeks, I’ll be bringing you my health survival plan to help you stay on track for Christmas. I will be guiding you through the challenges that you are likely to face this festive season.

December is actually a time when I find I lose weight; as work calms down, I get a chance to train more, plan and map out my schedule for next year. I love Christmas!

However, one thing’s for sure: this time of year presents a challenge for all of us who like to exercise. The dark evenings, cold weather and socialising are all going to try get in your way. In today’s column, I’m giving you tips to help you get as much exercise done while it’s still bright and curb the potential excuses you can use to avoid exercising.

Get it done early

Tough as it may be, getting up early is one of the best ways to ensure you stay on track during the Christmas festivities. Not only does it reduce the chance of something getting in your way, but it also gives you metabolic benefits of exercise for the whole day. What’s not to love? The endorphin rush, the fat burning and the rest of the health benefits – you get them for the entire day!

Team up

This is my own personal favourite. I regularly team up with my friends, not only to train, but also to support each other through our WhatsApp group. We set targets each week, motivate each other to get the sessions done, compete against each other in a fun way and also keep an eye out for those in the group who aren’t doing well, ensuring to support that person in particular. So why not set up your own group, give it a fun title and set out some goals? You will be surprised what a difference it makes.

Hit your lunch breaks

Most people get an hour for lunch in work. I recommend using 20 or 30 minutes of that for exercise. Work hard for that 30 minutes, take a quick shower and then grab some food before you go back to work. One of our most popular classes in the gym is our lunchtime class, 30 minutes of high intensity training and then back to work. If you work hard enough, you will be amazed at just what you can do in such a short space of time.

Gear up

We all know that the weather is going to throw challenges at you over the next few weeks, so the ball is in your court to prepare for it. Start with a light windproof rain jacket, then add some base layers, tight to the skin but great for heat. Complete the look with a warm hat, light gloves and winter running or walking leggings and you’ll be good to go in any weather.

Weekly targets

Every Sunday, sit down and set your targets for the coming week ahead. Make those targets small, achievable and simple. Hitting those targets will lead to greater things. Build on them as the weeks go by and watch what happens.

Don’t try too much

My final point is one I am guilty of doing myself. I sometimes aim for unrealistic goals, forgetting just how crazy my schedule is. My schedule then gets in the way of achieving that goal. With age, I have learnt to try balance out these goals. I take a realistic look at what’s in store for the week or month and then try to build my training around it. It’s still challenging but it means I am far more likely to achieve those goals.

This article appeared on Independent.ie