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Holiday Fitness: The Sixty Day Survival Plan
Jennifer Schumm, Fitness Consultant

The holidays are a time of celebration and joy with family and friends, yet why do most of us dread the holidays? It may be because the closer it gets to the holiday season, the higher and more intense our stress levels get. Sure, shopping in crowded malls frantically trying to purchase all the gifts on your list is stressful, preparing holiday meals can be stressful, planning and decorating the house is stressful, and managing family members can be too. Yet, for the fitness minded, these are not the main reasons that we dread the holidays. We dread dealing with the endless temptations and interruptions in our routines that result in losing the hard earned results we have worked so hard for all year.

The holiday season is an extremely busy time, and exercise often is reduced or diminished completely. Yet, with the extra calories being consumed, this is not the time to minimize exercise, if anything exercise should be maximized and prioritized. Working with a personal trainer is a great way of maximizing your workouts, getting the most out of every minute of exercise. By increasing your energy expenditure on a day-to-day basis the damage from increasing your caloric intake during the holiday season will be greatly reduced and even inconspicuous. The more intense your workouts, the more calories are burned, and a greater caloric deficit is produced. Even if your caloric intake increases due to holiday eating, as long as you maintain a holiday training regimen weight gain will be minimized or even abolished. You can make smart choices to survive the holidays and even indulge in moderation

You don’t have to become a calorie-counting maniac, nor should you completely ruin your diet either. You do need to recognize that many factors will be out of your control and will inevitably interfere with your routine. However, you still have the power to make smart choices. The key is consistency, indulging in moderation, and preparation to keep you on track. You should regularly exercise and plan ahead when traveling, attending parties and hosting guests.

Allow yourself to eat a little bit of everything, never deprive yourself. You will not ruin your diet or body by having a little bit of the foods you enjoy, but remember the key is a little bit. Sampling holiday treats among family and friends is a well-deserved reward, especially for those who have worked hard all year to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you happen to get carried away and over-indulge, don’t punish yourself, just get back on track the next day with exercise and a period of clean eating. Before parties eat a light meal so that you won’t be hungry during the event, but can still eat a little food while socializing with others. The idea is to be somewhat full before the party so that the temptation to over-indulge is eliminated. Avoid or limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks. Alcohol is loaded with empty calories that will be sure to help you pack on those extra pounds. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated, help flush your system, and to keep that full feeling. Avoid pop, punch and fruit juices for these contain empty calories as well. Eat slowly and talk often. It takes 20 minutes for the brain to recognize your stomach is full. The longer it takes you to eat the sooner you will feel full. During meals, fill up on low-calorie foods such as salads and vegetables, limit your high-glycemic carbohydrate consumption, and increase your protein consumption: more turkey, less stuffing, potatoes and bread. Moreover, the idea is to not be unprepared. Anticipate food temptations and provide healthy alternatives. For those long shopping days at the mall, bring healthy snacks with you to avoid being stuck eating mall food. When cooking and baking holiday meals, substitute low-fat or non-fat ingredients whenever possible. Finally, reduce carbohydrate consumption a few days before a holiday meal. Reducing carbohydrate intake can reduce the amount of glycogen stored in the body, thus ensuring that extra calories consumed during holiday meals will be more likely to be stored as glycogen in the muscle cells and in the liver and less likely to be stored as fat.

Preparation is even more important when traveling. Pack workout attire and equipment such as resistance bands and even an exercise video. Because you may not have time to go to the local gym, your workouts will need to be done wherever you are staying. A brisk walk or run for cardio and a resistance workout with body weight or bands, will keep you on track until you return home. Contact a personal trainer for help with a "traveling program." Also, be sure to pack shakes and bars for snacks, these can be a traveling savior.

For those of us who have a hard time staying disciplined or are just beginning a new fitness program, staying on track can be extremely difficult. Just remember, fitness and food are not as important as family and friends. Many of us become so obsessed with training and dieting that we forget the more important things in life. We need to give ourselves some slack, and enjoy the holiday season for what it is; time spent with loved ones.

Jennifer K. Schumm is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, and ACE Certified Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant, and a Fitness Instructor. She may be reached at (303) 517-1684 or by e-mail at jkschumm@hotmail.com .