Holidays can be a challenge to stay with program
Wed, November 21, 2012 at 14:03
Brad Spiegel in Holidays, News, bracken

PALM BEACH POST IMAGEWe have all thought about it the past few weeks. It is inevitable. And, unfortunately, it is right in front of us. 

The dreaded holiday season – it starts with the omni-present and unfortunate accessibility of candy during and after a trick-filled Halloween, followed by the over-eating and one-too-many drinks during an over-indulging Thanksgiving. It continues during Hanukkah and Christmas for pretty much all of the presents-that-aren’t-good-for-you December; in addition to those two holidays there are the parties – both work and personal – throughout the final month of the year. And, finally, it is a no-holds-barred for New Year’s Eve and Day. 

With two months of being naughty and not finding the time to work out, as well as pressures from the cubicle next to you, friends on social media and even members of your household, it is nearly impossible to not stray from your routine. 

But how does one stay on the straight and narrow (or, skinny, in this case)? Luckily, most of those who live and breathe going to the gym and living a healthy lifestyle have strong willpower and getting off course will be far and few between. 

For those who don’t have such luck, there are many tips out there. And, if you are lucky enough, your gym has programs and incentives to allow you to not worry if you slip and have a few M&Ms or an extra helping of potatoes. 

Dr. Brian Parr, a guest columnist for Aiken Standard in Aiken, S.C., said that he has seen research that show the average American gains one pound during the holiday season. Well, that doesn’t sound bad, even if it is only two months. 

Since he knows bad habits can continue throughout the year, he compiled a list of five tips:

  1. Remain active
  2. Try to stay away from food
  3. Don’t drink excessively
  4. Plan ahead by eating healthy before a party  

A search on, a health and wellness social media platform that connects people with top-ranking experts to answer questions, and of which IHRSA is a strategic partner, comes up with a variety of suggestions to focus away from food and alcohol. 

An alternate solution is to be fortunate enough to have an outlet to not only work off any slip-ups but also have the support of others going through what you are. And, if there are incentives built in, that is only a bonus. 

Of course these magical places is your local gym. Many realize that this is a difficult time. They want to be your support system, while it doesn’t hurt to get as many visits from you in the process. 

Andrea Merritt, Program and Childcare director at the three Sportsclub locations in South Carolina, runs her holiday challenge. It is a contest where members get points for a variety of activities, challenges and participation. At the end the top point-getters receive prizes. 

“I think … (the contest) is motivation to come to the club and burn off the parties they went to,” she said. “I think a lot of people use it to lose weight, some to maintain their weight. People realize that they do need to (continue to) workout. They know they can’t go to cookie swap and not gain weight.” 

The way Sportsclub’s holiday challenge - called 6 Weeks to a New Year and New You! - works is from the day before Thanksgiving until the day after New Year’s participants get points for a variety of things: purchases at the juice bar, working out at the club, taking part in a class, purchasing personal trainer packages, attending events at the club, and more. Merritt says this is one her favorite times of the year, and thus she gets into it as much as the members. She makes it fun, too, giving points for members who find clues at the gym or make posts on Facebook. 

“The responses are amazing: ‘Thanks for keeping me motivated.’ ‘I love the holiday challenge, it kept me coming to club even when I didn’t want to.’ ‘I was able to lose 15 pounds during challenge.’ ‘Thanks to Sportscub, I am ready for January’,” Merritt said. 

At the end of the contest the person with the most points gets a gift card to the club. Everyone who took part gets a T-shirt. 

At VIDA Fitness & Aura Spa, a chain of five clubs in Washington, D.C., it opts for a variety of classes in order to get members to come to the club. 

“There are several different reasons we do what we do during the holidays: capitalize on the holidays and to help our members with over-eating,” said Aaron Moore, Regional director. “Not all of the programs are necessarily holiday-specific, but it is more for us to maintain the feel of a community club. This gives people something fun and different to do.” 

VIDA’s holiday season began around Halloween with a Zumba class with a fog machine and black light to make it eerie and scary, and a kickboxing class where the participants had a glowstick in each hand to make the movements a little more fun and interesting. 

“Zumba classes are already pretty popular, so this was to make it a little more fun,” said Moore, who said the classes had 25-35 people in them. 

During Thanksgiving, VIDA brings in a registered dietician to talk to members about smart eating, exercise routines before and after the holiday and a good lead-in to post-Thanksgiving programs. 

The program, according to Moore, is one of the more popular, necessitating a fee to join in order to keep numbers down. 

After Thanksgiving a six-week weight-loss program begins, a “functional movement indoor boot camp,” as well as a six-week TRX program and a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Challenge where $50 club credit is awarded to any member who takes 15 group fitness classes from Thanksgiving until Dec. 31. 

“The most common reactions we get is people aren’t gorging themselves as much during the holidays because they have a class the next day and they don’t want to feel sick,” Moore added. 

It’s not all “work” at VIDA. There is a Zumba party in the middle of December with holiday music, which is then followed by happy hour at a local restaurant. 

“I think one of the things we do well is personal training and group fitness. It might not be the best retention tool, but people tend to take part in it and tend to stick with us for it,” Moore said. 

For Brenda Athletic Clubs in the Modesto, Calif., region, the holidays is all about retention and keeping members fit. 

“We offer contests, classes and programs, as well as a buddy referral program for members who need to stay fit and on track with a friend,” said Lisa Bracken, director of Activities. “Offering fun contests, programs and tournaments keep our members engaged and encouraged to keep up with their fitness routines and recreational activities at our facility.” 

Among the offerings are the Annual Holiday Weight In Contest and Turkey Shoot Tennis Tournament. Groups of Brenda members also volunteer at community and charity events. 

“(The) holidays can be a stressful time and we want to encourage health for our members all year round with a fun ‘spin’ on fitness," Brackensaid.



Article originally appeared on IHRSA (
See website for complete article licensing information.