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Who Says You Can't Shop and Then Drop for a Few Push-Ups?

By Vicky Hallett
Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Your social calendar is packed with holiday soirees. There are the cocktail parties, office must-shows, family get-togethers (and, if you're Howard, a whole lot of getting tanked and watching football). Every other waking hour is devoted to gift-hunting. So when do you squeeze in a gym visit? You probably don't.

But there's no need to resign yourself to a Santa physique. In the second installment of the Holiday Challenge's "12 Days of Doing Something," I present three more ways to make your December world a workout wonderland.

Mall Makeover

Take, for instance, all those hours you'll be logging at massive shopping centers. You could circle around the parking lot until you find a primo space, target stores in the most direct possible fashion and then pig out at the food court. Or you could handle mall visits the MisFits way, with the help of Nathan Stormer, area fitness manager for Bally Total Fitness. He's brimming with fat-burning ideas.

For starters, park at the far end of the lot. You'll still have plenty of time inside to hear that Christmas Muzak, but this way you get in a few minutes of fresh air and the chance to use open space. Stormer suggests that you make the trek with walking lunges or side squats. It looks a tad silly, but as he explains, "Any time you move in a lateral motion, you burn more calories."

Once you've made some purchases, any movement is going to be more effective because you're holding weights. "The primary thing to remember is that shopping bags are a kind of resistance," Stormer says. Use them for biceps curls, overhead presses or lateral raises while debating whether your mother-in-law would really enjoy that birding book. Waiting in line? Stand on one leg and pump the other leg back, knee bent or straight, to engage your glutes. Points deducted for kicking the shopper behind you.

Between each store, try taking a lap around the level. Think of it as window shopping with benefits: You're on your way to racking up serious mileage.

When it's time to take a break, shield your eyes from Auntie Anne's and find a bench instead. But don't just use it to plop your butt down. Start with triceps dips. Hold on to the bench's edge while sinking your rear below the seat, and then press up. Or flip your body around, place your hands down and go into elevated push-ups and plank pose.

You're worried about stares, right? No need, apparently. When we tried this routine out at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, other shoppers just passed by on their merry way. (Although management did swoop in to advise us that the benches were not built to be used as exercise equipment. So be careful and don't get them too sweaty, okay?)

Good-for-You Gatherings

Maybe you can't control what your pals have planned for their yuletide events, but at least your holiday bash can involve literally rocking around the Christmas tree. After all, polite guests know to follow the leader, says D.C.-based party planner Jodi Moraru. "So if the host and hostess start dancing, other people will, too," she says, noting that a DJ or a peppy iPod playlist can be key in motivating folks to cut a rug. Also: Offer prizes!

More Prancer than Dancer? If you have a few pals who live in the same area, consider throwing a progressive party: Start off in one house, then hoof it over to a few others throughout the night. Or make the main attraction scoping out the holiday decorations in your neighborhood. As long as they're fortified with mugs of glogg, guests will be game.

Just playing works, too. Moraru's family get-togethers usually involve Twister, which gets both kids and grown-ups up and moving. And -- ahem, Howard, if you're out there -- you don't have to merely watch football. You can actually get a match going in your own yard.

Date Night on Ice

And if you end up under the mistletoe during one of these active affairs? There's no better place to take a wintertime love interest than the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden ice rink: music in the air, masterpieces in sight and lots of opportunities for touching each other. It's $7 per adult for a two-hour session ($6 for kids and seniors), and $3 for skate rental. And while families with wee ones rule during the day, they're long tucked in bed by the 11 p.m. closing time on Friday and Saturday nights. Even with a hot cocoa nightcap, this is certainly better for your waistline than dinner and a movie.

There are nearby backup options for when your backside needs a break, whether it's from figure eights or falling down. Hop inside the East Building to take a peek at that hot Pompeii exhibit, head over to the newly reopened National Museum of American History (and join the holiday music singalongs on weekends) or stroll by the magical train display at the U.S. Botanic Garden. All are in walking distance, just far enough away to encourage hand-holding for warmth.

I don't think it can get any holly jollier than that, but we'll see what Howard has in store for you next week.

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