Her Best Holiday Wellness Tips

By Taylor Dietrich

You would not expect a gentle approach to fitness from the co-founder of the high-intensity, popular CrossFit workout. Still, Lauren Jenai has an eye on overall wellness as the holiday season brings its unique brand of intensity. “The holiday season is usually a non-stop hustle,” says Jenai, “but it’s also an opportunity to pause and put family first and still maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

A mother of four, Jenai’s children are her number one priority. She homeschools her twin boys and helps her daughters through online high school. She is committed to teaching them valuable life skills with the same immersive experience of in-person schooling. Whether pottery or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes or watching mom work through various home improvement projects, everything they do together imparts countless diverse and valuable life skills and brings them closer as a family. Jenai says it is this same philosophy that she uses to motivate others. “Don’t limit yourself. Instead, find new hobbies and remember the essential things in life, like family.

Now, with the holidays underway, Jenai says there is still a chance to get into the shape that you want before the end of the year. She believes that setting three-month goals is an exceptionally effective strategy for change. “It’s easier to stay consistent when you’re only committed for a set amount of time.” She says that small chunks of time combined with clear goals are the key. “Know what you want,” says Jenai. “Maybe you don’t want to lose 20 pounds; you want to lose some body fat and gain muscle. Get as specific as possible, then you know when you have achieved something and can choose a new goal.” 

Be Nice, Even When ‘Naughty’ Jenai says that clarity of goals and a finite timeline gives you the freedom to enjoy holiday treats without the usual stress and guilt that often kills any motivation for progress. Jenai proposes a change of thinking: “Okay, I just ate a ton of Christmas cookies; they were so good, but do I want to do that every day? No way! Taking all the judgment and stress out of your nutrition routines and giving yourself a break is important.” Yes, you read that right; the founder of the high-intensity CrossFit regime wants you to cut some slack. “It is not about letting go completely. It is about working on how you think and process your individual choices and striving for harmony with your mind and your body,” says Jenai.  

“Physical health will only feel positive if you think positively. Judgment and punishment don’t yield results,” Jenai observes, adding that cognitive distortions often create barriers to achieving your fitness goals. Hence, it is essential to get them sorted out before you start reaching for a plan that can slip farther away. “Plus, who needs to be miserable?” she jokes. Being critical of yourself might seem like a compelling motivation to push yourself to work harder or longer, but it sends negative and self-loathing messages throughout your body. Instead, Jenai believes that the key is to celebrate the little things. Being easier on yourself and celebrating each little victory day can significantly impact your overall health. “Over time, it programs your brain to not be self-defeating in your behavior, but self-celebrating instead,” says Jenai. “Embracing this more forgiving approach to wellness has been a revelation.”

For those already set in their ways with a consistent fitness routine, Jenai reminds you to keep going. She also cautions about the more-common-than-you-think issue of seasonal depression. She reminds us that outdoor workouts are still doable on chillier days and can help to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve immune function. “If you feel like the weather is bringing your mood down, it might be a reminder to keep up with the wellness strategies that you’ve already developed,” says Jenai. She adds, “A good, established workout routine is still great, but I’d recommend a couple of side-projects while you’re hunkered down for the winter.” For Jenai, it’s landscaping, painting, building, and tending a garden. All these tips, she says, can help to alleviate many of those depressive symptoms and see you through the holidays into a happier, healthier new year. “And if you splurge or miss a day here or there, you can always start over,” says Jenai. Now that is intense.