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HEALTHY LIVING: Make an appointment with yourself!

Yes, that’s right. The holidays are upon us. It seems like every minute is packed with parties, family events, church functions, and the never ending shopping. But don’t let the holiday season derail the fitness routine you have worked so hard for all year. Even the most committed exerciser can throw up their hands in defeat when the calendar fills up. But slacking off on your fitness program during the holidays will only leave you with more pounds — and more stress — come New Year’s.

The first step is acknowledging the holidays probably will affect your exercise program to some extent. Then you can make adjustments that will help you stay fit during the season. For example, if you usually take exercise classes only offered at a certain time, skip the classes and take a hike or a swim at an indoor pool instead. Take an honest look at your schedule, and instead of trying to squeeze exercise into your schedule, take other things out. The goal is not to do more (as we all have a tendency to do this time of year), but to do less, and do it all well. It’s also important to keep fitness a priority in your schedule.

Here are a few tips for staying fit during the time-crunched, temptation-packed holiday season:

Be flexible when your days get busy. Instead of simply blowing off your 5 p.m. trip to the gym in favor of an office party at the same time, wake up an hour early and walk or jog before work. Or fit a brisk walk into your lunch hour.

Mix up your routine to avoid boredom. If you usually run four days a week, try running once, swimming once, and lifting weights twice. The novelty of the new exercise will hopefully be a stronger motivator than the ‘need’ to do something else during your normal exercise time.

To save time, try combining exercising and family commitments. For example, get outside and toss a ball with the kids. Taking the family biking or on a backpacking trip will provide exercise as well as quality time with loved ones.

Try creating a home workout routine for those times you can’t make it to the gym. Crunches, push-ups, and many other exercises can be done without any gym equipment.

Increase your time management skills over the holiday season. Organize your day the evening before. Prioritizing your tasks beforehand will help you find time to exercise. Each week, make it a priority to fit in three exercise sessions.

Walking is an exercise that can go anywhere, from the woods to the mall, always have a pair of running or walking shoes with you, along with a set of light, hand-held weights, and a clean pair of socks. If all else fails, you have the minimum equipment necessary to get in a walk. Add a heavy book to a backpack to make your walk more challenging.

Or, if the weather isn’t cooperating, something really fun to do is turn on your favorite music and dance, dance, dance!

Remember, though, even if you find yourself simply too bogged down to exercise at all during the holidays, that’s no excuse to stay inactive once the season is over. If you do fall off the exercise wagon, there’s no reason not to climb back aboard once your post-holiday routine is established.

And though it sounds cute, please, try NOT to gobble till you wobble.

Stay healthy, my friends!