Vail’s Ask the Trainer column: Stay fit and healthy this holiday season |

Vail’s Ask the Trainer column: Stay fit and healthy this holiday season

Rod Connolly
VAIL CO, Colorado
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The holiday season is often the busiest time of year for many locals. It is also a time of financial importance to our community and local businesses. The combination of busy schedules, work stress and shorter days can have many people feeling less healthy than our typically active community desires.

Americans typically will gain more weight from Thanksgiving though the end of the year than the other 10-and-half months combined. Studies also show that Americans consider the holiday season as the most stressful time of the year.

Here are some helpful tips to help you enjoy your holidays and help you stay healthy, which will allow you to enjoy the gatherings, be more productive and efficient at work, and to be in a better place for yourself and the other important people in your life.

Take a different perspective: Most polled Americans say they “just want to make it through the holidays.” Once people have resigned themselves to this attitude, they have put themselves in a place where they feel less empowered and more susceptible to being reactive to other people or circumstances. Practice positivity and set short-term goals for yourself during this season. These can be personal or work-related goals. Create targets that are important to you and keep them at the forefront of your mind. Then actively pursue actions that lead you toward your targets. Be receptive to challenges that arise during this time and try to think of them as opportunities that will create growth, both mentally and emotionally.

Create structure: Most people do well with structure as things get busier. Make appointments for yourself. These can be appointments for a workout or healthy activity with a friend, a fitness class, or a workout with a trainer. Even if it is a workout on your own, mark it on your calendar just like it is a business meeting. And be specific on what time you are going to exercise and what you are going to do. If you use the “I will try to fit something in” approach to your days during this time of year the probability of exercise drops significantly.

Even short amounts of time help: Often people feel that if they don’t have an hour or more, it’s not worth working out, so they skip exercise altogether. Small chunks of time can be very effective. Even if it is short 15-minute blocks of moving around. Try these tips to keep you moving on busy days.

• Get up and go for a short but brisk 10-15 minute walk first thing in the morning before breakfast and set positive intentions for the day. This helps get your metabolism up and creates a platform for being less susceptible to pitfalls that can happen during your day.

• When you get stressed out, take five minutes. Often when something creates stress, we turn to food or take a reactive measure. If you are feeling stressed out, move around for five minutes or do five minutes of meditative breathing. This will quickly switch responses in the brain to allow you to not fall into emotional eating patterns or reactive behavior that derails your goals.

• Get in a little intensity. You might not have much time, but using a little intensity for short workouts is very effective at helping lean out and de-stress. On a walk or on a treadmill, try a five minute warm up then go as hard as you can safely go for one minute, followed by a one minute easy recovery. Cycle through this five times then cool down for three minutes. In 18 minutes total you will have significantly increased your metabolism and created a sensation in the brain that will reduce emotional stress and promote positive thought.

• Plan ahead with snacks. Don’t allow yourself to go long periods of time during the day without a healthy snack. And definitely don’t go to social gatherings or parties on an empty stomach. The human body will keep its metabolism revved up and less likely to store body fat if we take in small amounts of healthy food every 3 to 3-and-a-half hours. A perfect snack is a green apple, a small handful of almonds and a glass of water. The combination of the pectin fiber in the apple, the protein and healthy fats in the almonds and the water creates a high level of satiety that will keep most people full. This will significantly help you avoid falling into the trap of unhealthy trigger foods and overeating at meals and gatherings.

Rod Connolly is owner of Dogma Athletica and an exercise physiologist. For questions on health, fitness or nutrition, email him at

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