How to Survive the Holidays

Sometimes a travel schedule is simply too hectic to make time for training. If you anticipate a jam-packed trip, you can still maintain your fitness. "Train more before you leave for a trip and right after you come back. Treat travel as a recovery period," says Fitzgerald.

The Excuse: I can't resist huge holiday meals.

The Fix: Cut yourself some slack, but be smart. "The holidays are about maintaining weight, not losing," says Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Fourth Edition. You train hard, so allow yourself to enjoy some holiday meals. "A handful of days won't set you back. It's continuously snacking on cookies that's a problem," Fitzgerald says.

If you're watching your calories, have a plan before you indulge. "Pick what foods you want to splurge on ahead of time," Fitzgerald says. In other words, don't waste your time on the green bean casserole if you really want to dive into the mashed potatoes with gravy. Or take the opposite approach and have a small bite of everything.

Also, don't commit the common blunder of going for a long run or ride before the big feast. "It sets the stage for disaster," Clark says. With a revved up appetite, you'll eat even more. Better to go to dinner with normal hunger, then burn off those carbs with a long workout the next day.

Another option is to take charge of the menu. "Volunteer to be the host, then you can control how healthy the holiday menu is," Fitzgerald says. Find recipes for healthier versions of popular favorites on Web sites like eatingwell.com and the healthy living section of mayoclinic.com.

The Excuse: I can't find the time to exercise.

The Fix: Get up early and enlist group support. "I set my alarm early enough to get my run in and have a nutritious breakfast before everyone else is up and about," says Amber Gates of El Dorado, Kan.

Of course, there will be times when the best plan gets sidelined. In those cases, experts recommend just to keep moving. "Do what I call the 'Better Than Nothing Workout,'" says Hadfield. "It's 20 to 30 minutes so that when you get back to your regular schedule, you won't be too far behind."

The Excuse: With all these treats and goodies around, I'm constantly snacking.

The Fix: Control your cookie monster. While a few holiday meals won't set you back, constant snacking can be detrimental. "Budgeting your calories is no different than budgeting your money for the holidays," Hadfield says. She recommends logging onto fitday.com, a free online journal that allows you to track your daily physical activity and calories.

But it does help to know a few tricks. Eat a small meal before you go to a party to avoid overindulging. And stay away from the bar--that glass of pinot could cause you to eat more. "Alcohol lowers your inhibitions," Fitzgerald says.

"Pick a small plate," says Hadfield. Fill three-quarters of it with healthy foods, saving a small space for treats. If you really don't want to miss the cheesecake, don't be shy. "Ask your host if you can take it home. Have it tomorrow," Clark recommends.

Most of all, don't give the goodies power over you. "I bought some dark Ghirardelli chocolate squares and had one square when my sweet tooth got the better of me," says Mary Jo Pugh from Helotes, Texas.

Sometimes we overindulge on seasonal treats because we view the holidays as our only shot at enjoying them, but Clark recommends a sweet strategy. "Who says you can only have your favorite Christmas cookies now? Have a few year-round, and you'll be less likely to splurge."


Jeana Durst is the senior editor of Her Sports + Fitness.

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