By Jeana Durst | shared from


Let’s be honest: The holiday season can feel like anything but a celebration–especially when frenetic, stressful weeks and some hefty holiday meals threaten to undo a year’s worth of sweat and healthy choices. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American gains around one pound each holiday season. Problem is, we don’t often lose that pound. A few seasons later…well, you do the math.

Relax. Survival is possible. “It takes a little forethought and planning, but you can swim against the current,” says triathlon and running coach Matt Fitzgerald, C.I.S.S.N., co-author of the new book Run Faster From The 5k To The Marathon.

In this strategic guide, expert trainers and sports nutritionists offer solutions for the top five excuses women give for losing sight of their fitness goals, and Her Sports + Fitness readers share time-tested strategies for a festive and fit season.

The Excuse: With all the holiday distractions, I’m not motivated to exercise.

The Fix: Make a realistic plan and be consistent. “We women lose focus on ourselves while we are trying to make everyone else happy,” says running coach Jenny Hadfield, co-author ofRunning for Mortals. Take time to set some concrete fitness goals for yourself during the holidays and share them with your family. For runners, Hadfield advises setting a realistic weekly mileage goal of 15 to 20 miles per week. “Put it on your fridge,” she says.

Your best bet to stay motivated: Commit to a road race or triathlon. “I signed up for a Turkey Trot 10k as well as a Jingle Bell Jog to keep me moving,” says Christine A. Kopsidas from Bethesda, Maryland. Holiday races have a fun vibe and are often family-friendly. Best of all, registration fees often benefit charities, which can help you feel better about plunking down all those dollars at the mall.

In addition to training for a race, Fitzgerald says the season “is a great time to add in cross-training. That gives you variety, and variety gives you motivation.”

Need more incentive? For a competitive athlete, abandoning your training plan can be risky. “If you realize in February that you are out of shape and suddenly step up mileage, that’s when you get injured,” Fitzgerald cautions. “If you plan, you won’t have to hit the panic button later.”

The Excuse: I can’t stick to an exercise routine because of all my holiday travel.

The Fix: Be flexible and think ahead. “Do some intel before your travel,” Hadfield advises. She suggests calling a local running store–staff members are usually glad to rave about favorite running routes.

Find training partners in the community at or connect with local running clubs through Road Runners Club of America ( Then, track your mileage using Web sites that chart your route, such as, or

If winter weather drives you indoors, ask neighborhood gyms if they offer special deals for travelers. “I live in Atlanta, but my family lives in Michigan, where there was a lot of snow last holiday season. I found a local gym offering a ‘home for the holidays’ promotion, which included 15 visits for only $30,” says Nicole Kuiper. If you have a long layover, to find a place to work out either in or near the airport.

But realize you don’t need to hit the gym to continue training–mix it up by doing fitness routines from your favorite magazines or trying something new. “A yoga class can be a great way to de-stress during the holidays,” Hadfield says.

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 and the healthy living section

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, 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.”