santa runningSo, I’m not going to lie. I fall into the holiday health traps just like everyone else: lots of desserts and cocktails, less time exercising and less time sleeping. But, I have learned a few tricks to keep me from gaining the 5-7 lbs that most Americans gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. (Science Daily)

When I started researching for this post, I felt a little disappointed by suggestions to “park far away from the mall” and “take the stairs instead of the elevator” as real suggestions for staying fit. While those might work for some individuals, it’s not exactly what I was looking for- this would not constitute a workout for me and those 5-7 lbs would add up in no time.

But, I did find a few practical ideas out there, along with my own holiday game-plan (not always perfectly executed). So here are 10 tips for you to try this year to keep up your health and fitness:

Winter Run1. Morning workouts– I’m not a fan of morning workouts myself, but I find that if I can commit to getting up early 1-2 times a week, it makes a huge difference in what I accomplish. While rolling out of my warm bed at 5:30am, in the dark, is one of my least favorite things to do- it does make for a great start to my day, and I am always glad I made the choice. (See #5 and #9)

2. Have a stash of healthy food options. I tend to munch (pretty much anywhere), so in the car I try to grab a bag of carrots or a piece of fruit if I know I’m going to be traveling — this helps when we make gas stops and my choices are Doritos and Slim Jims. I also prepare for being at the office with a healthy stash so I stay away from the candy dish (most of the time).

3. Don’t deprive yourself. It is unrealistic to think you are not going to have any desserts over the holidays. I love holiday desserts like everyone else, but I (try to) pace myself. I don’t buy sweets to have at home on a daily basis, so when I go to a party/event I can indulge my cravings a bit. Eat healthy in your day-to-day meals, then you won’t feel awful when you splurge a little at the office holiday party. If you have a party at your house, send home the sweets with a guest.

4. Plan a hard workout before a big meal. If you know you are going to be having a large meal, schedule an intense workout that day or the day before. But this also means getting any prep work done well ahead of time so you don’t “run out of time” and have to cancel your workout. (See #1)

5. Do a short, intense workout. Some of us fall into the mindset that if we don’t have at least an hour and can’t go to the gym then it’s not worth working out. With a household to run and three kids to chase around, I can think of a lot of excuses to not workout. One of my favorite websites is It offers FREE workouts that usually last 12-15 minutes. You may think that 12-15 minutes isn’t worth your time- but these are high intensity interval training workouts and you are really working for the duration. My first New England winter was spent doing these daily and kept me in good shape until the frigid temperatures let me back outside. I’ve been known to stir our dinner during the 10 second interval breaks and wear my pjs just so I can get it done.

Healthy Salad6. Bring a healthy dish to that potluck affair. I know you have that favorite family recipe that everyone loves with the 2 lbs of sugar. Skip it. Offer to bring a salad, veggie platter or fruit kabobs. My “go-to” is spinach salad with walnuts, apples, and gorgonzola. Here are some other great ideas from the Food Network.

7. Reminders. It may sound a little cheesy but write a note to yourself and post it on the bathroom mirror: “Did you workout today?” Look at your weekly calendar, or at least a few days ahead, and schedule in your workouts. You only need 15-30 minutes of intensity to make a difference. Try to schedule in at least 1-2 longer workouts if you can squeeze them in.

8. Sign up for a race/event. There are so many winter running events over the holidays — even in freezing New England! Commit yourself (and your family?) to running together or some other endurance event.

9. Make plans with friends. I find that I get more workouts in if I involve others. I meet up for yoga, a run or a spin class. We sometimes grab a coffee or smoothie afterward but usually it’s workout-and-go — we all have holiday shopping to do!

10. Keep yourself healthy. Last year I got the flu — the real, actual, knock-me-down- and-run-me-over flu. I have never felt physically worse in my life. I was in bed for 7 full days and a few more partial days after. It was HORRIBLE. I never want to experience that again and I know that I tend to run myself into the ground before/during the holidays. So now I am much more aware of keeping myself healthy during the holiday months. I know my body is ingesting more sugar (see #3), so I try to combat it with eating lots of green veggies everyday. I also take Emergen-C packets regularly over these germ-infested months. I try to get enough sleep (often falling short — but at least it’s on my mind) and practice mindfulness to keep my head in a good place.

Good luck this holiday season! Small steps are better than no steps. Keep moving!

Stephanie Goley