STICKING to a fitness routine is not always easy, but holiday feasting, drinking and family can make it even harder. ‘Tis the season, experts say, to bend your fitness routine so it does not break.

“Consider the holidays a time to maintain fitness, not a time to set new goals or be ambitious,” said fitness expert Shirley Archer, author of Fitness 9 to 5 and Weight Training for Dummies. The average American gains one pound each year during the holiday season, Archer said, but it’s a fate you can avoid by being active when time allows.

Danielle Hopkins, instructor at an Equinox fitness centre in New York City, tells her clients to try to sweat at least 20 minutes a day. “I stress the importance of keeping to your routine,” said Hopkins. “If you’re travelling, bring your running shoes, or a jump rope, or look for a gym.”

Constantly avoiding holiday temptation is tiring and in the end unsustainable, according to Gregory Chertok, a sports psychologist with the American College of Sports Medicine.

When navigating holiday stresses, Chertok said a simple change in attitude can yield powerful results. “Embrace challenge rather than avoid temptation,” he said. “Avoidance over time can be pretty exhausting. Just like our physical muscles, our mental muscles can get exhausted.”

He said studies show when people try too feverishly to control themselves, their willpower wanes. “There are ways to keep your willpower at a strong level, such as staying away from overly restrictive diets, planning the occasional indulgence and eating small frequent meals,” he added.

He encourages his clients to allow for the occasional slip up. Being self-forgiving and self-compassionate leads to greater success.

Trainer Tracy Anderson, whose fitness DVDs include Metamorphosis and Mini-Trampoline Workout stresses consistency.

“The most important thing is to become a consistent exerciser, where you go and have 30 minutes to one hour daily of focused work,” she said. “That is the number one best thing we can be doing.” But her advice for people fretting about the holiday season is to feed your soul. “One time a year is not toxic; in fact, it is the opposite,” she said. — Reuters

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