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Up your fitness for the holidays

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Holiday exercise challenge

For the last three years, I've participated in an exercise challenge between November and December. The challenge requires me not only to continue to exercise during the holiday madness, but actually increase the amount I exercise. Amid all the holiday stress and busy-ness, I find this challenge, well, challenging - and very worth it.

Holiday exercise challengeIt sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? Intentionally adding in one more thing? There are holiday concerts and family gatherings, there's cookie baking and gift shopping, and so much more. For me there is also a dedicated time for the rowing machine as one of my highest priorities, six days a week.

Calorie management

One of the most obvious benefits is a counter attack on holiday calories permanently attaching themselves to my hips. At a time of the year that I use more butter, cream, sugar and other less than optimal ingredients in my cooking, I am working off those bits almost as quickly as I consume them. I always used to gain a couple pounds - or three or four - in December and work to get them off through the rest of the winter or spring, but now they don't stick in the first place.

Stress management

In addition to calorie management, this increased level of exercise helps me manage the general holiday stress. Whether I like it or not, there is extra stress during the month of December. If anything, the exercise gives me more energy, not less for dealing with whatever may come up. Those endorphins are wonderful things.

Time management - and time for myself

The exercise challenge also forces me to be extremely conscious of time management, and guarantees I get at least a little time to myself each day. To get this in, I have to plan my days and priorities carefully. In the past it's even help me recognize the less than important bit that I can completely drop off the schedule. In a time when moms in particular are doing so, so much for others, it's a healthy thing I can do for myself - and the kids know that when I am exercising, they need to leave me to it. No bugging Mom to settle the latest minor skirmish.

While I am on the rowing machine, I can veg out completely in front of a movie if need be. Sometimes I strategize how to get this, that, or another thing done - so even time exercising is time spent managing the rest of the month.

If you can set an exercise challenge for yourself this month, I highly recommend it. Not only will you be in better shape for the New Year, but you will be calmer and happier, too. And that can only make the holiday season a happier time in total.

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