Friday, October 25 2019 6:20

Fit for the Holidays

Written by Cindy Walker

Set your fitness goals now so you’re fit before you feast.

Among the many things on your holiday To-Do list, did you include fall fitness goals? You should. You’ll be able to enjoy the festivities with a clearer conscience, calmer mind and slimmer middle if you plan now. And, follow through.

Some of us have seasonal routines that we follow. During my more energetic 30s—as a squash & fitness club member who played racquetball regularly and walked to work—my Thanksgiving morning ritual was running to the Lincoln Memorial and back from my Capitol Hill condo. That extended run was my only extra preparation. Now my primary exercise is cooking.

Others who are more hard-core may run marathons—November 3rd in New York City or the 24th in Philadelphia—half-marathons, turkey trots or a local 5K. There are certainly plenty to choose from. (See our Best Local Events section, under Fundraisers and Outdoor Activities.)

But what are some other options to add variety into the fall fitness regime?


Stay the Course

Not everyone craves variety, though. For those who exercise regularly, the holidays are a time to keep focused on those positive habits. At West Chester’s ACAC Fitness and Wellness Center, Katie Gwinn notes the regulars are even more … regular. “We do see an uptick in attendance during this time of the year, especially with kids being out of school and adults taking time off work,” she says.

In fact, for those with the fitness habit, this time of year is time to re-commit. “We find a lot of our members make it a point to keep up with a workout routine both to combat the stress that the holidays bring and to balance out the extra eating and drinking during that time of year,” says Gwinn.

But for those looking for something new, what are some options?



A quick Google search brings plenty of inspiration and a novel option to celebrate the core with Planksgiving. Yes, the simple yoga pose has exploded on the Internet and Instagram from 30 Days of Thanks and Planks or the Planksgiving Challenge. It’s got a nice ring and a hashtag to boot (#planksgiving, or for the more political, #planklikeRBG).

The idea is straightforward, with opportunities for variety. Put this versatile yoga pose at the core (pun intended) of your fitness plan. Spend the month of November planking and thanking your way to a better self.

Planksgiving can be as simple as extending your time in the plank pose from 20 seconds on day 1, up to a full 3 minutes (180 seconds) or more on November 30th. Or visit websites that offer a variety of plank poses to try: the diagonal, reverse, inverted V, leg lifts, donkey kick, x-plank, plank jacks. Beginners can simply take the 7-Day Planksgiving Challenge.

Just remember to give thanks while you plank.


Free Group Fitness

If you’re looking to join a group to keep your motivation up but don’t want to add another budget item, consider starting a local branch of the free fitness movement with the November Project. It’s certainly the right month for it.

Started in Boston and spreading worldwide (Iceland, Serbia), though mostly in the U.S., this exercise community is based on free empowering group workouts. The closest branch started in Philly in 2013 and meets Wednesday and Friday mornings at 6:25 a.m. for a sub-60-minute workout filled with “all the sweat and hugs you can handle.”

Open to all fitness levels, and meeting on the Rocky steps on Wednesdays, this group asks you to show up, at the right time each week and pay nothing. No sign ups, just show up, always in the mornings, and just on weekdays. And no charge—to remove another excuse for not exercising.

Surely there’s a great spot to meet up for community and fitness in Chester County. And for the extroverts, this has to sound better than a solitary fitness app.


Family Fitness

Want to make holiday fitness a family tradition? Well, National Family Week has been observed the week before Thanksgiving since 1987, and that 30+-year tradition is evolving into Family Fitness Week. So, that’s a start.

Families can spend healthy time together being active in the fall, but ramp it up around Thanksgiving. Set a family challenge to accomplish two to three activities per day during Thanksgiving week. You can stay active, work on team building and spend that quality time together making memories to savor at future Thanksgiving gatherings.

Suggestions from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation include everything from running a race together as a family, doing a charity run or walk for a cause, raking leaves and jumping into the piles, flying a kite, visiting a zoo, playing family tug of war, learning a yoga pose (maybe for planksgiving?) to creating a Family Fitness Scavenger Hunt.

Or just head to the local Y and let them be your guide. Kim Cavallero of the YMCA of Greater Brandywine recommends the family-friendly fitness classes (for kids 8 and up). “We offer family classes from cycling and boot camp to yoga and zumba, and so much more all year round,” says Cavallero. “But families can certainly come in for holiday fitness.”

There’s everything from a Youth HIIT (high intensity interval training for those 10 to 16) to Big Little Story Time, with reading and acting out the tales for the younger set with yoga poses. “Happy baby pose is a favorite,” says Cavallero.


Strategic Indulging

How much weight are you likely to gain from one Thanksgiving dinner? Well, you’ll likely consume around 4000 calories on that full day of feasting—from breakfast to your late-night slice of pie.

And while some news stories predict a 7 to 10-pound weight gain from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the good news is the amount is actually much less—closer to a bit over a pound. The bad news, though, is that few of us are likely to lose that extra pound or so quickly. And studies show men gain more than women, older folks more than younger, and those already overweight more than their slimmer family members.

In addition to pre- or post-holiday exercising and dieting, another option is strategic indulging. When faced with high calorie options—gravy, marshmallow topped anything, all pies—take a smaller portion. Instead, fill your plate with plain sweet potatoes, steamed veggies and skinless white meat. Limit yourself to one plate of food—no second helpings or late night snacks. And eat slowly, savoring every bite!

Or, you can try to work off 4000 calories in the gym. After all, the folks at ACAC say, “Thanksgiving morning is one of our busiest days out of the entire year.” See you there!

Tagged under: Fitness, Health