Your Holiday Fitness Program
The holiday season can be enough to derail even the most dedicated exerciser. Here are some tips to help you stay fit through New Year's.
You're busy, you're stressed, it's chilly out … so why not just take a break
from your fitness program until the New Year?
Sure, you can always come up with an excuse not to exercise. But slacking
off on your fitness program during the holidays will only leave you with more
pounds -- and more stress -- come New Year's. Fitness experts recognize that
this time of year is difficult for many people trying to stick to an exercise
program, so they have some suggestions to keep you motivated and
The first step, says lifestyle coach April Masini, is acknowledging the
holidays probably will affect your exercise program to some extent. Then you
can make adjustments that will help you stay fit during the season. For
example, if you usually take exercise classes only offered at a certain time,
skip the classes and take a hike or a swim at an indoor pool instead.
"Take an honest look at your schedule, and instead of trying to squeeze
exercise into your schedule, take other things out," Masini suggests.
"The goal is not to do more (as we all have a tendency to do this time of
year), but to do less, but do it all well."
It's also important to keep fitness a priority in your schedule, says Rich
Ray, chairman of the Kinesiology Department at Hope College in Holland,
"Whether or not you already have well-established exercise habits, make
sure you actually schedule time into your day for your exercise," he says.
"There's nothing like having an entry in your Palm Pilot for
Indeed, maintaining a workout schedule is even more important this time of
year because most of us tend to eat more than usual, says Michael Thurmond,
author of the 6 Week Body Makeover and resident fitness guru on ABC's
As such, Thurmond recommends not only keeping to your same schedule, but
striving to add an extra workout session or two whenever possible.
"Not only will this make a difference physically, it will mentally
remind you that your No. 1 objective is to lose weight and stay healthy,"
Be Flexible and Mix It Up
Here are some more expert tips for staying fit during the time-crunched,
temptation-packed holiday season:
- Be flexible when your days get busy, Ray advises. Instead of simply blowing
off your 5 p.m. trip to the gym in favor of an office party at the same time,
wake up an hour early and walk or jog before work. Or fit a brisk walk into
your lunch hour.
- Mix up your routine to avoid boredom. “If you usually run four days a week,
try running once, swimming once, and lifting weights twice," Ray says.
"The novelty of the new exercise will hopefully be a stronger motivator
than the 'need' to do something else during your normal exercise
- To save time, Ray recommends combining exercising and family commitments.
For example, hauling the kids up a hill a few times can make a sledding trip as
beneficial as a jog. Taking the family snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or on
a backpacking trip will provide exercise as well as quality time with loved
- New York-based exercise physiologist and personal trainer Louis Coraggio
advises his clients to book a long weekend getaway at a warm destination for
January or February, This will motivate you to keep exercise a priority. When
you're tempted to slack off, envision yourself looking good on the beach.
- Create a holiday wish list for one or more improved body area(s), Coraggio
suggests. Expect this to take a certain amount of sacrifice. Keep your
- Be ready for the mistletoe, says Coraggio. People are attracted to a
strong, healthy body. Your confidence will show if you've been keeping up with
your eating and exercise habits.
- Coraggio recommends creating a home workout routine for those times you
can't make it to the gym. Crunches, push-ups, and many other exercises can be
done without any gym equipment.
- Increase your time management skills over the holiday season. Organize your
day the evening before. Prioritizing your tasks beforehand will help you find
time to exercise. Each week, make it a priority to fit in three exercise
- Walking is an exercise that can go anywhere, from the woods to the mall,
says health and lifestyle coach Jackie Keller, author of Body After Baby:
The Simple 30-Day Plan to Lose Your Baby Weight. "Always have a pair
of running or walking shoes with you, along with a set of light, hand-held
weights, and a clean pair of socks," Keller suggests. "If all else
fails, you have the minimum equipment necessary to get in a walk." Another
Keller suggestion: add a heavy book to a backpack to make your walk more