Even the most health-conscious of us slip out of our regular workout and nutrition habits over the holidays. The good news is that Hollywood's top trainer, Gunnar Peterson, says it's not the end of the world — in fact, he thinks it's good to divert from your routine, and may even benefit you in the new year.
"Don't beat yourself up about indulging, it's called having a life," Peterson, who trains stars such as Kate Beckinsale, Kendall Jenner, Jennifer Lopez and the Los Angeles Lakers, tells LIVESTRONG. Unless they're getting buff for a movie role or playing in the NBA, Peterson tells his clients they should take a breath and enjoy themselves. "You are training to live, you are not living to train."
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However, Peterson stresses that his mantra doesn't give anyone the excuse to totally let loose for the entire holiday season. "Halloween is a big speed bump and the total crash comes at Thanksgiving," he says. "Some people manage to right the ship a little bit but then the office parties start so they're just extending the season and go hard every weekend until the New Year."
LIVESTRONG sat down with Peterson at his high-tech Beverly Hills gym to get the advice he gives his A-list clients on how to rebound stronger than ever after the holidays.
Taking a break can actually be good for you
"Even if you did drink too much, eat too much and not train as much – you might be sleeping seven or eight hours a night as opposed to five," Peterson explains. "When I go on vacation, I loosen the reins on food, I'll have a couple of glasses of wine, have some dessert, but I am going to sleep more and be a little more relaxed and I will come back with my body fat and overall weight down. For me, that flip is healthy and it's a great reset."
See the new year as a marathon, not a sprint
"I don't try to fix in one day what people took two, four or six weeks to screw up," Peterson says. "What I try to do is get them back on track in terms of becoming consistent again. You are never going to get results if it's not consistent."
Set realistic goals
"It's not about what you used to do, but what you are doing today," Peterson tells his clients their first day back in the gym after the holidays, as the pace, volume and weights lifted are all going to be slightly reduced compared to when firing on all cylinders. "Workout one of the new year doesn't have to set your personal record, it's more about seeing what we've lost," he says.
"Let's get a workout in, set a goal and manage your expectations. Don't think that you're going to be as strong as when you were here two weeks ago before you went into your sugar and alcohol coma." Instead, have the mindset of "we're knocking this workout out, it's going to be great" and build on it.
Don’t go to extremes
"We're all way too smart for extreme detoxes, let's not go from whatever you just did to a month of self-flagellation and beating yourself up," Peterson advises, stressing that no one can train hard on 800 calories. "That's ridiculous. A lot of people go from terrible holiday eating to starving themselves, which is never going to work. Your body shuts down, stops trusting you and hoards fat."
Cover all health bases
Achieving overall good health takes more than just going hard in the gym. While Peterson sends his clients to a registered nutritionist, he does give them general "brushstrokes" advice by putting them on a basic program that is comprehensive from a strength and cardiovascular standpoint.
"Let's make sure your sleep is on point, your hydration is on point, your nutrition is key – even if it's not perfect from the get-go. Are you getting adequate protein, are you eating enough times a day, are you getting enough calories overall?" He also recommends having blood and body composition tests carried out, otherwise "you're kind of throwing darts. It doesn't mean you can't hit a bullseye, but it's not the right way to do it."
Do something active every day
Even if you are not training in the gym, just keep moving. "Take a class, practice yoga, go for a hike, but be active to move the blood and the body because circulation is king."
Take recovery seriously
"If you are half as serious about your recovery as you are your workout" then you're going to be successful, Peterson says. While deprivation tanks, hypobaric chambers and cryo are all great but expensive options, there's nothing better than good old fashioned sleep (eight hours is ideal) and even pro athletes like LeBron James recognize it as an essential part of their recovery program.
Other cost effective methods are drinking tons of water and flexibility work, because "stretching doesn't just help your body recover, it feels great too."
Choose your supplements wisely
"Some people rush to the health food store at the beginning of the year and literally buy every bottle on the shelf," Peterson marvels. "It's unhealthy, it's financially irresponsible and it's not going to give you what you want." Instead, he recommends taking a multivitamin and MitoQ, a supplement that works on a cellular level so "you are not just putting gas in your car, you're cleaning your engine out and letting it work at a higher level," he says.
"It's helping the powerhouse of your cell (the mitochondria) recharge and recover so when I do get after it in the gym tomorrow, I know I am bringing my best version of me. I take one in the morning and one in the evening, there are no magic pills but if I stay steady with my intake then … damn, I am on fire and can operate at a higher level for a longer period of time."