10 Tips for Staying Fit During the Holidays

We asked local personal trainers and athletes how they keep the weight off during the holiday season.

By: Melissa Romero

MINT trainer Lance Breger encourages his clients to treat themselves to one piece of chocolate a day. Photograph courtesy of Breger

Starting on Thanksgiving, a lot of us find our exercise regimen falling by the wayside. “Another slice of pie won’t hurt” can quickly snowball—and by January 1, we’re cursing ourselves for taking it upon ourselves to polish off the eggnog and all of Santa’s cookies.

But this year can be different. To help keep you (and ourselves) on track, we turned to local personal trainers and athletes for some much-needed advice. They told us how they stay fit during the season of overindulgence and shared some pointers they give their own clients for keeping off the holiday weight.

1. “To avoid dessert disaster, I have clients go out and buy the best chocolate they can find (80 percent or higher cacao) and give themselves one piece every day. That way, they aren’t depriving themselves and are learning about moderation at the same time.”
Lance Breger, head trainer at MINT Health Club & Spa


2. “As the personal fitness trainer to Miss District of Columbia and several pageant contestants throughout the region, I attend many holiday events. Prior to attending any event, I fill up by eating a lean, high-protein meal and drinking plenty of water. At the event, I avoid alcohol, and if I decide to indulge in a dessert, I’ll only eat half or a third of it or share it with a friend.”
—John A. Morris, personal fitness trainer to Miss District of Columbia


3. “Having a short-term goal on the horizon prevents anyone from slacking on their diet (or training) too much at any one point in the year. Everything is good in moderation, but when you have a training or race goal in the next month or two, then you’re less likely to throw off your fitness by overindulging for an entire week. The short-term goals keep you in check.”
Mike Hamberger, DC Running Coach


4. “Drink lots and lots of water daily. Many times, we eat when we are actually dehydrated and thirsty. Before I try one of my favorite holiday goodies, I have a glass of water. It softens my craving and helps me eat more moderately.”
Elizabeth Brooks, personal fitness trainer and owner of Effervescence PT Studio

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5. “Allow yourself a taste of anything you want to try, but only eat more than a bite of the things you really love. And give yourself a little leeway, too—it will be great motivation in January!”
Margie Shapiro, co-owner of Potomac River Running, professional triathlete, and coach


6. “No matter how sinful (or virtuous!) you are in your consumption during the holidays, it is important to stay diligently active and to stay on your normal schedule. If you eat three cookies at a holiday party, don’t skip breakfast the next morning to make up for it. Just make sure to walk more, take the stairs, and finish the day with a light dinner to make up for the caloric excess.”
Monica Pampell, Advantage Trainer and swim instructor at the Sports Club/LA


7. “One of the best ways for triathletes to stay on track over the holidays is to sign up for a series of winter conditioning classes. Typically, these are intensive indoor cycling sessions—some even with running or strength training mixed in—specifically designed to maintain or improve your triathlon conditioning, so you are not playing catch-up in the spring. Another popular focus for off-season is swim technique training, either joining a masters group or working with a swim coach.”
Alex Korab, owner of Transition Triathlon and triathlete


8. “To avoid overindulging during the holidays, start your meals with a large salad. This way, you fill your stomach with a high-nutrition, low-calorie meal that doesn’t allow room for overeating. Stay active between meals, and seek out things you can easily do where you are and with whom you are: walking, playing the Wii, swimming, etc.”
Timea Presley, head Pilates trainer at MINT Health Club & Spa


9. “When you know you’re going to a holiday party, eat your normal healthy foods before you go, so you won’t be as hungry once there. It’s not as festive as cramming your mouth with delicious, high-calorie treats, but you’ll feel so much better.”
Laurent Amzallag, personal trainer and creator of the YaLa workout


10. “The holidays are all about celebration and indulgence—both of which are essential elements of a healthy lifestyle. Loads of sugar will pack on the pounds, but on the other hand, depriving yourself is not healthy, either. So take full advantage of the 80/20 rule at the holidays, allowing yourself carte blanche 20 percent of the time for 100 percent of the results both mentally and physically.”
Grant Hill, personal trainer with My Bootcamp