Stress Free Holiday Fitness


Do you remember that television commercial from a few years ago where a woman, dressed in a thick, fluffy red robe with white furry trim, is bent over, fussing with the Christmas tree? Her young daughter comes into the room, catches a glimpse of her mom from behind and shouts, “Santa!”

Mom’s cheerful holiday humming stops cold as she straightens her stance and looks into the camera. The yuletide smile on her face melts into the picture of mortification as reality sets in—her backside is as wide as Santa’s!

For many, the holiday feasting began in October with that yummy candy corn that hits the store shelves every fall. You only planned to have a few and then, whoops … did you just graze on that entire bag? And of course, later in the month, you’d get your good parent’s card revoked if you didn’t personally check out the kids’ Halloween swag, right? Did chocolate and peanut butter, and chocolate-and-caramel-covered cookie sticks always taste this good?

Oh and then comes that ginormous Thanksgiving spread (the one on the table, not the one you see in the mirror.) Hey, isn’t turkey a healthy food choice? Why, yes, it is! Until you douse it with extra-rich giblet gravy, cradle it in buttery, cream-whipped potatoes and slice it up to make that round two dressing and cranberry sauce sandwich.

Let’s not even parse the trays of December holiday party canapés, cocktails, buffets and cookie swaps.

Before you know it, January is here. You’re back to work, back in your work clothes and—uh-oh—the drycleaners shrank your slacks!

Don’t blame the laundry. You’ve just been overindulging.

Fortunately, what has been wrought in the name of merriment can be made right with time and patience.

Rush Cornwell, co-owner of Clubhaus Fitness in Little Rock, also is a personal trainer and instructor. We asked him for his best advice for overcoming the “holiday five”—or 10—pounds that linger behind with us once the sugar cookies and eggnog are just a sweet memory.

Cornwell said that this time of the year is always a challenge for those who like to monitor the numbers on the bathroom scale. “Between the Halloween candy and all the parties for New Year’s, somehow we manage to squeeze in those big family meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which by the way, usually include lots and lots of leftovers.” It’s no wonder, he added, that it’s so hard to stay on your fitness track during the holidays.

His first piece of advice for battling the holiday bulge: It’s time to put yourself first! After you’ve embraced that declaration, try his three tips to get you through the holiday season with as little extra pounds as possible. Follow them, and Cornwell said they will “help you feel great and tip the bathroom scale in your favor.”

Tip #1

Enjoy your family

gatherings … and EAT.

Yes, you read that correctly … eat! Cornwell advises to just watch your portions. He says this applies to leftovers as well. “Everyone always makes too much food and begs you to take leftovers. Be strong and only take home a portion. Enough for one more meal, not a week’s worth,” he said.

Tip #2 

Make some changes to your workout routine.

“It is easy to make excuses when it comes to your workout routine,” according to Cornwell. “Make some changes this year. Take a new class, find a workout partner, plan your weekly workout in advance or keep a workout/food journal. Don’t forget how hard you are working to reach your goals.” He warns that it only takes two weeks for our bodies to start regressing. “Find something or someone to keep you accountable. You will reach your goal!”

Tip #3:

Don’t beat yourself up for getting off track.

“Well maybe that sweet potato casserole was just too good to pass up and you ate it like it was the last on the planet. It happens to the best of us,” Cornwell admitted. “Just adjust your exercise routine for the next week or two by throwing in some extra cardio. Add an extra 15 minutes to your run, bike 10 extra miles, hop in a cardio class, or just go for an extra walk in the evening.” He said, “anything extra is better than nothing extra.”

And Cornwell’s bonus advice: We have enough stressors to deal with during the holidays. “Don’t let your bathroom scale be one of them. Portion size your meals, find your accountability, and if you do stray, throw in some extra cardio. Don’t throw in the towel this year and have a great holiday season.”

Breast Cancer
and Physical Fitness

For breast cancer survivors, being overweight or obese increases the risk of death from breast cancer, as well as death from other causes, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s website. However, the foundation suggests that reducing weight and increasing activity may play a role in reducing death from breast cancer and other causes.

One study found that activity equal to a 30-minute brisk walk several times a week improved survival. Exercise benefits survivors in other ways, too, including improved body image, improved mood, increased sexuality, more energy and reduced stress and anxiety. Your doctor can provide the best advice about including exercise in your treatment plan, so make sure to consult your physician prior to beginning a routine.

Reducing the risk

And what about the cancer-fitness connection for prevention? Some studies show a relationship between exercise and cancer prevention. Women who engage in regular exercise or physical activity may have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who are inactive. The American Cancer Society recommends about 2.5 hours of physical activity a week to lower overall cancer risk, and it does not need to be an intense workout. Walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk.

The reality is that women are at risk for breast cancer. In fact, the Komen Foundation reports that the two greatest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. It makes sense then that as women approach their 40s, if they are not already exercising in some way, they begin after getting the OK from their doctor.

We asked David Shropshire to provide some guidelines for over-40 fitness. He said he is the first and only natural movement trainer in the state certified through MovNat. MovNat is an exercise philosophy that emphasizes movement skills, strength and conditioning and a mindset for practical and adaptable performance. He also is a certified yoga teacher and master Reiki teacher.

Shropshire said that when many people turn 40, they may begin to notice some changes in their level of fitness. They want to address these changes, but aren’t quite sure where to start. “One of the more pressing issues that my female clients bring up on a pretty regular basis is what can be done to raise my level of fitness to lessen my chances of such things like breast cancer?”

For these clients, Shropshire offers the following advice:

1. “Always consult your physician before starting a workout program: Make sure that there is an open line of communication between you, your trainer and your doctor. I always make sure that I work with the client’s doctor to put together the best program possible.”

2. Choose healthful foods and supplements. “Try to limit your sugar and bad fats. Instead of juices, try to eat whole fruits if you have a sugar craving. Cook meals with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or grass-fed butter to add good fats to your regimen. Most of us skip out on supplements, but I find that they play a huge role in filling in the blanks when we miss things in our diet.”

Shropshire noted that 70 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which is important for healthy bones and teeth. He adds that it also helps protect against multiple diseases and conditions including cancer. “To take out the guess work,” he advised, “get a blood test to see what vitamins you are deficient in. That way you know what to buy. This will save you a lot of time and money.”

3. Find an activity that you are passionate about. “I always ask my clients what they want to train for and if they aren’t sure, I’ll put together unique workouts that keep them on their toes. Your workout should not be a punishment. If you focus on training for something you are excited to do, then you will be more likely to stay with an active lifestyle well into your later years.”

4. Don’t take this fitness thing too seriously. “You can be concerned about your health, but stressing over it will do you no good at all. I have never heard someone say, ‘I’m sure glad I stressed out about that. It really helped.’ Get regular checkups, put the time in to keep yourself moving and if you have questions, always ask.”

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