How to Start an Active Holiday Tradition


My grandparents' house, where I spend most holidays, is like a black hole—in a good way: Whenever I'm there, I spend most of my time sleeping, eating, and lazing about, pleasantly sedated by the combination of the blazing fireplace, the comfy blankets that Grandma knits and leaves on all of the furniture, and the inevitable food coma that results after one of our afternoon Pennsylvania Dutch feasts. My parents have actually asked me if I ever sleep in New York, since I seem to need a lot of catching up in that department whenever we're at Grandma and Grandpa's.

But this season, I'm determined to approach the annual trip differently. Holidays are all about tradition, and that's exactly what I need: A new tradition that keeps me, and my family, moving. So I talked to Nikki Glor, a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor at Crunch Fitness in New York City, and creator of her own NikkiFitness DVDs. Chances are, your family may be planning a similarly lazy couple of days; if so, here's now to get them (and yourself) out of the rut.

Pack the right gear
Whether you're heading to a friend's or relative's house for Thanksgiving or for New Year's, preparation begins before you even set foot out of your own door—by packing workout clothes and shoes. "The number-one excuse I get for people who can't work out while they're away from home is that they don't have their sneakers," says Glor. "I don't care if you have to squeeze them in: Make them fit in your bag. They're the one thing you can't borrow from someone else, and if they're there in your suitcase, they're going to remind you every time you go in there that you promised yourself you'd use them at least once on this trip."

Got extra room? Toss in a fitness DVD, a pair of Yoga Paws, resistance bands, or a set of aqua dumbbells that can be filled up with water when you reach your destination. And remind your travel companions, too: I'm emailing my sister right now and reminding her to pack her ipod and winter workout gear, so we can head out for a run on Friday morning.

Stay energized during your commute
Whether you're driving, flying, or taking public transportation to your destination, any long trip can zap your energy levels—especially if you don't plan ahead with healthy snacks. "Throw an apple or orange and a bottle of water into your bag, and you won't be tempted to stop at McDonald's along the way," suggests Glor.

Next Page: Spend quality time walking [ pagebreak ]Spend quality time walking
One of the best things about being home for the holidays is spending time with friends and family—and one of the best ways to reconnect is by bundling up and getting outside for a walk-and-talk bonding session. Instead of driving, walk to the nearest grocery store for those last-minute cooking needs. Take a stroll to the video store after dinner and rent a movie instead of watching your latest Netflix pick. Or find a trail near you and embark on a rugged nature hike over the weekend.

Staying in an unfamiliar area? Last year I discovered the USA Track and Field website, which lets you map out a pedestrian-friendly route or choose from courses already submitted and ranked by other users in the area. Earlier this year I used this tool to look up and test out a 2.5-mile course around my grandparents' neighborhood, which kept me on track (and out of the black hole) while I was training for a half-marathon.

Get up early
Even if you're not hitting the stores at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, chances are someone in the house will be up early in search of bargains. If so, use it to your advantage, and enlist them to drag you out of bed as well. Head out for a morning jog, or tag along to the mall and do some indoor walking: I guarantee the crazy hustle and bustle will be entertaining people-watching. And stop looking for the closest parking spot: That extra walk through the lot will do you good.

Be inspired
Springing up across the country are traditional Thanksgiving morning "Turkey trot" runs to help people stay active and enjoy the evening's feast, guilt free. During the month of December, you can probably find Christmas-themed and New Years Eve runs in your area, as well. Sign yourself and your family members up for a holiday race near you—or if you're not in shape to do one now, at least get up and go cheer on the runners. Who knows, you might be inspired to do it next year!

Squeeze in an indoor workout
One day this weekend I'll make sure to try some of Glor's Fitness on the Road moves, which can be done at home with very little equipment. These moves, which include push-ups, planks, and tricep dips (which Glor is demonstrating in the photo on the previous page) are simple enough that even my mom and grandma—who try to focus on strength training to protect against osteoporosis—can participate.

My grandparents' house is certainly no full-fledged fitness center, and with these tips, it doesn't have to be. But come to think of it, I may take along a yoga mat and a few pieces of equipment that I can leave in the guest room (I'll use this living room fitness kit as a guide) so they're waiting for me—just like the fuzzy blankets, the big meals, and our family's other holiday traditions—every time I visit.