We’re fast approaching the time of year when healthful eating is tossed aside for handfuls of candy corn, gut-busting turkey dinners and endless holiday parties. It gets harder to find the motivation to work out once the shorts and tank tops are packed away. And eventually you’ll tell yourself there is always the new year to start fresh.
But fitness experts say now is actually a great time to shake up your routine or start a new one. Having healthful habits in place or maintaining the ones you’ve already developed can keep you fit throughout the holidays.
“If you adopt healthy habits now, when the stressful holiday season comes you’ll already be in the groove,” said Cedric Bryant, chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise. “There are a lot of benefits of a healthy lifestyle that can serve you well during that time — feeling more energetic or having a handle on stress.”
Starting this month, Vida Fitness is promoting a 12-week program to help members build better habits for the holidays. The gym kicked off the initiative on Oct. 1 with a free health expo featuring 25 vendors offering dietary consultations, acupuncture, health screenings and workout plans.
“We figured most people in D.C. travel for the holidays to see friends and family, so why not launch a program that gets them in shape so they’re looking their best?” said Aaron Moore, director of operations for Vida.
To keep the momentum going, Vida has designed a six-week training plan to get members ready for its 5K run/walk on Nov. 14 at Hains Point in the District. Participants can get free nutrition counseling to prep for the event, with all proceeds benefiting Thrive DC, a nonprofit that provides services for the homeless.
Even if you don’t sign up for the 5K, Vida is offering workouts between Halloween and Thanksgiving using pumpkins for weights with squats and overhead presses. Club members can also sign up for a three-part nutrition seminar that will run through December, or check out Vida’s social media pages for short videos on what to eat during the holidays.
“If we can give ourselves six to eight weeks to get people to buy into this program, that should be enough to get them feeling good, see some results and not want to give it all up in December,” Moore said.
Roula Sweis said she works out at Vida throughout the year but struggles to maintain healthful eating habits during the holidays. Setting boundaries has gotten easier since a nutritionist at the gym helped her figure out how to maintain a balanced diet. She still indulges a little but knows when to pull back.
“It’s okay if you want to splurge a bit as long as you get back into your routine,” Sweis said. “And I am not myself unless I’m exercising and eating well.”
Sweis said the sense of community around the programs at the gym keeps her on track throughout the year.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm. You want to be a part of it, and it reinforces a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “You have people that encourage you, motivate you, challenge you, hold you accountable, and when you accomplish a fitness goal they celebrate with you.”
Personal trainer Traci Swearer encourages her clients to set small fitness goals throughout the holidays, such as working out a few hours throughout the week and adding an extra workout as time progresses. That way, even if they indulge a bit, they won’t completely derail their fitness goals.
“I don’t want people beating themselves up for indulging with friends and family during the holidays,” she said. “I want people to find balance so that having a healthy lifestyle is more realistic to maintain.”
Swearer, who runs T-Lynn Health & Fitness, said New Year’s resolutions to get fit are often focused on the instant gratification of losing a few pounds, not creating a sustainable lifestyle. To keep her clients on track while they travel for the holidays, Swearer creates routines, usually involving body-weight exercises, that they can do on the road.
Another key trick to not letting holiday travel throw you off your game is to pack healthful snacks that are a part of your everyday routine, said personal trainer Gerard Burley (a.k.a. Coach G).
“Sometimes with travel you may not be able to fit in a good workout, but at least if you can keep your nutrition moderately healthy, you can avoid derailing your fitness goals,” he said. “Bring your protein powder, bring your kale chips.”
Fall and winter can be tough for people who prefer outdoor activities. As it gets colder, running, biking or hiking outside can lose its appeal, but dropping into a spin studio or starting a new Pilates class could help with the transition, Burley said.
Starting Oct. 17, Burley will revive his Sweat Fitness Party, a mix of circuit training, cardio conditioning, core exercises and yoga. The party, which comes complete with a live DJ, will take place every Saturday at the Wonder Bread Factory in the District’s Shaw neighborhood.
“People are tired of the same old monotonous 10 reps, three sets all the time,” Burley said. “Find something that you consider fun that doesn’t exactly feel like a workout. And those are things that will inspire you to stay in the game throughout the year.”
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