Those nice health clubs are there to keep small holiday indulgences from getting out of hand

When you're naughty...

November 29, 2007|By Jeannine Stein

With gifts to buy, halls to deck, parties to plan and copious amounts of rich, fatty food to be consumed, even devoted fitness buffs might lop a few workouts off the holiday schedule. Less-devoted enthusiasts might just say to heck with gym visits altogether.

But health clubs, personal trainers and fitness instructors would like you to know they're here for you during this hectic time - and they'd really, really like you to come in. They're so concerned about the slide toward flabdom that, even before Thanksgiving leftovers are history, they're offering special classes, parties and workout sessions to bolster your flagging motivation and make sure you don't opt for sloth over svelte.

If the major get-in-shape push from clubs comes at the first of the year and the beginning of summer, this is more of a stay-in-shape push. Gyms are livening things up for the holidays, hoping to be more tempting than cheesecake. Instructors are offering abbreviated classes, operating under the premise that a little activity is better than none.

"I think it's better to keep an even keel going versus that panic that comes Jan. 1, when people feel they have to make their New Year's resolutions," says Toni Brown, group fitness director for Spectrum Athletic Clubs.

Although the fabled average holiday weight gain of 7 to 10 pounds has been blasted (it's really only a pound or so), fitness experts say there's danger in slipping out of the exercise habit.

"No one likes to keep starting over," says Marcus Pierce, a trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Hollywood. "Today you'll wake up thinking that you'll start again on Jan. 1, and that'll drag on until February."

Bally Total Fitness gyms will offer extra classes this week, encouraging holiday revelers to burn off those Thanksgiving calories. Its clubs will also offer free small-group personal training sessions for members. "We're trying to help members stay focused during this tough time," says Tia Willows, senior vice president of member services and customer care.

Because many people are scheduled within an inch of their lives this time of year, several gyms have half-hour classes on their calendars through the holidays. "If [clients] do this, then they feel like they've done something," Brown says. "And usually they'll stay a little longer once they get in the door."

Trainers know that the holidays can be treacherous for clients with maxed-out schedules and ample opportunity to wine and dine.

People need to stick to their workouts, even if they scale back, trainers say, because a one-week slip can easily segue into a three-month hiatus.

"This should be a separate conversation aside from the regular session," says Gregory Florez, chief executive of health and fitness coaching and training companies First Fitness Inc. and FitAdvisor, both based in Salt Lake City. "You should set some realistic parameters and expectations," and learn how to deal with potential land mines.

That's helped Mia Sable, who's been working out with trainer Nina Moore three times a week for about a year at the Sports Club/LA. "The holidays are particularly tricky," says the Los Angeles singer-songwriter. "You don't want to pass up Grandma's special whatever, and any time you're not at home, there are definitely challenges."

Moore gives Sable marching orders the minute a holiday schedule is set. Staying in unfamiliar locations away from a gym requires detailed instructions on alternate workouts using body weight, resistance bands and, if possible, the outdoors.

Moore also takes a client's measurements before and after the holidays, making it impossible for even the most convincing fibber not to get caught.

But there's a fine line between motivation and nagging, which can backfire. It's all about balance this time of year, Florez says.

"Throw the scale out," he says. "It will only serve to create anxiety. This should not be about stress; it should be about fitting things in when you can and ... knowing that four weeks from now you'll get yourself back on track and be fine."

Jeannine Stein writes for the Los Angeles Times.

MOTIVATION ONLINE

Need some help staying motivated during the holidays? Here are some Web sites offering tips and advice for sticking with your workout and healthful-eating plan:

fitnessonline.com Find low-fat, tasty holiday recipes and fitness tips culled from the sites for Shape, Men's Fitness and Natural Health magazines. Fitness calculators for body mass index and calorie burn help manage the pounds through the season and beyond.

prevention.com It's all about the holidays at this site, which offers slimming recipes, advice on eating strategies, fitness tips from instructor/trainer Chris Freytag and exercise videos. Message boards help those seeking support and community.

exercise.about.com Fitness calculators abound here, offering help for keeping track of body fat, heart rate and basal metabolic rate. There's advice on how to stave off weight gain during the holidays via workouts such as the 10-minute cardio blast. There's even an equipment-free travel workout.

[LOS ANGELES TIMES]

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