December 20, 2010 / 11:05 AM / 8 years ago

Holiday Fitness: how not to fall off the sleigh

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Hollywood trainer Erin O’Brien approaches the challenge of holiday fitness in a spirit of peace, good cheer and negotiation.

Clients work out on machines at a fitness facility in Arvada, Colorado in this June 15, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“I make a bargain with myself,” said O’Brien, a group exercise specialist and personal trainer for 20 years. “I must do a good workout if I’m going to a holiday party.”

For O’Brien, creator of the Strong Body, Fit Body DVD workout, it’s important to try to maintain a workout routine over the holidays to avoid bah humbugging in the New Year.

“Give yourself the gift of exercise,” she said, even if you cut down on workout time. “Just do the best you can.”

Many fitness experts echo O’Brien. Be active, they urge the seasonally stressed fitness fanatic, but also be flexible and forgiving in the whirl of holiday temptations and disruptions.

New York City-based nutritionist Joy Bauer is a fan of the selective splurge.

“I choose a few special meals and parties that I’m looking forward to and plan to indulge at those celebrations,” said Bauer, creator of the DVD Slimdown Workout. “The rest of the season, I stick to my normal, healthy eating and exercise habits.”

Bauer said even a 30-minute daily walk can keep at bay those extra holiday pounds and tame the seasonal stress that so often attends the comfort and joy of family get-togethers.

When the holidays find Mary Jane Johnson, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, away from her Albuquerque, New Mexico home, she finds a workout nearby.

“You tend not to be very regimented,” said Johnson, a personal trainer and Pilates instructor. “When I’m traveling I look for a local yoga studio, so I can let somebody else do it.”

With 25 years in the fitness industry, Elisabeth Halfpapp says she favors the “everything in moderation” approach to holiday indulgence.

The co-creator of the Core Fusion classes, which combine Pilates, dance and yoga, Halfpapp suggests trying to exercise every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

And get out there early.

“Exercise first thing in the morning this time of year, because it will become more challenging during day with shopping and holiday parties,” said Halfpapp, a founding team member of the Exhale spa chain.

New York City-based Pilates and yoga instructor Kristin McGee advises those fretting over workout withdrawal to relax and smell the poinsettias.

“We get fit so we can enjoy ourselves and the people we are around,” said McGee. “If you have to run on the treadmill instead of sharing a cup of cocoa with your friend or family member, it defeats the purpose of being fit.”

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, she said, so do it to be happy. Schedule fun physical outings like ice skating, tree trimming, snow shoeing or caroling.

“My family likes to ski so we all meet and go skiing over the holidays.”

A few stretches at night and a few jumping jacks in the morning might be just the thing to subdue your seasonal Grinch, said McGee.

Or, in this time of giving, you might decide to give yourself a little break.

“If you are always working out, your body will appreciate a brief rest,” she said. “You might even come back stronger.”

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