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The combination of stress from a busy season, higher consumption of desserts and drinks at numerous holiday parties, and interruptions to regular exercise routines often result in weight gain during the holiday season.

The Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA in Santa Ynez offers 12 ways to help local individuals and families stay fit during the holidays despite these challenges.

“Fitness doesn’t take a vacation because you do,” said Nicki Marmelzat, Health and Wellness Director for the Stuart C. Gildred YMCA. “Taking time out of the busy season to care for yourself is key and the Y is pleased to offer advice and encouragement through a special challenge to the community this month.”

1. Remind yourself daily of your why

It’s easy to get off track if you aren’t reminding yourself why working out and eating healthy is important to you. If you make it automatic to wake up and remind yourself of why exercise is important to you, you will be more likely to keep your commitments to yourself. Wake up thinking of what exercise you will do today and it becomes a priority.

2. Stretch post workouts

An effective exercise regimen involves cardio, strength training and stretching. Post-workout, when your body is warm is the ideal time to stretch. The risk of muscle injury is much lower, and you will save yourself from tight, sore muscles the following day. Plus, the calm, relaxing feeling of a good stretch is a great way to end a workout.

3. Put yourself first

Stressful situations can take your focus away from properly caring for yourself. You aren’t able to effectively take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.

4. Mix it up

Do different types of workouts to keep things interesting and to exercise different muscle groups. If the elliptical machine is usually your thing, hop on the stair climber for some cardio instead. Same with group exercise classes, try a variety of classes throughout the week.

5. Add strength training to your weekly routine

Exercise isn’t cardio alone. Strength training is critically important to retain muscle as you age, have a strong body and an effective metabolism. A great way to get into strength training is with a personal trainer who can properly assist you learning how to lift weights or try a group exercise class that involves resistant/weight training.

6. Don’t be your own drill sergeant

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Half of all people who start a new exercise program ditch it within the first year. It often happens because they can’t keep up the boot-camp pace they’ve forced on themselves. It’s better to work within your limits and gradually get stronger.

7. Bring a friend

Friends help hold you accountable to your workouts. Studies show you’ll also work out longer when you have a pal along. In the month of December, the YMCA offers a bring a buddy pass.

8. Develop a ‘move more’ mindset

By reminding your body to get more movement throughout the day, you will be more likely to do it. So sit less and stand more. Take more steps and stairs. Walk to talk with a coworker instead of emailing them. Stretch in your chair, squat to pick something up, park far away from stores so you will walk more, stand up when you talk on the phone and exercise while you watch TV

9. Can’t get to the gym? No problem

Remember there are multiple ways to work out. Hiking, walking, running, home workout videos and YouTube and other internet workout channels.

10. Short on time? That’s okay

Studies show that a 30 minute workout can be just as, if not more effective than an hour workout.

11. Always drink water

Drinking water is a simple and inexpensive way to increase energy, fight fatigue and assist your body in operating at prime efficiency.

12. The only bad workout is no workout

If you’re looking for more ways to stay motivated and fit during the month of December, the YMCA offers the 12 Days of Fitness Challenge in which all YMCA members and any friends referred by a member are encouraged to log 12 days of workouts by Dec. 31. Those who successfully complete the challenge will earn a t-shirt. To learn more about the program, call 805-686-2037.

Mackenzie Hopkins is the Associate Wellness Director for the Santa Barbara Family YMCA, a branch of Channel Islands YMCA.

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