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You're invited for the holidays

Tempted to take a workout break? Gyms and trainers saw that coming -- and want to save you from yourself.

November 26, 2007|Jeannine Stein | Times Staff Writer

With gifts to buy, halls to deck, parties to plan and copious amounts of rich, fatty food to be consumed, even devoted fitness buffs might lop a few workouts off the holiday schedule. Less devoted enthusiasts might just say to heck with gym visits altogether.

But health clubs, personal trainers and fitness instructors would like you to know they're here for you during this hectic time -- and they'd really, really like you to come in. They're so concerned about the slide toward flabdom that, even before Thanksgiving leftovers are history, they're offering special classes, parties and workout sessions to bolster your flagging motivation and make sure you don't opt for sloth over svelte.

If the major get-in-shape push from clubs comes at the first of the year and the beginning of summer, this is more of a stay-in-shape push. Gyms are livening things up for the holidays, hoping to be more tempting than cheesecake -- or at least offering a way to do penance for eating it. Trainers are leaving nothing to chance, mapping out strategies for their clients to maneuver past holiday pitfalls. Instructors are offering abbreviated classes, operating under the premise that a little activity is better than none.

"I think it's better to keep an even keel going versus that panic that comes Jan. 1, when people feel they have to make their New Year's resolutions," says Toni Brown, group fitness director for Spectrum Athletic Clubs.

Although the fabled average holiday weight gain of 7 to 10 pounds has been blasted (it's really only a pound or so), fitness experts say there's danger in slipping out of the exercise habit.

"It's easy to get sidetracked because you're always going to be busy and have challenges," says Marcus Pierce, a master trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Hollywood. "No one likes to keep starting over. Today you'll wake up thinking that you'll start again on Jan. 1, and that'll drag on until February."

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Holiday workout treats

The Spectrum in Rolling Hills is offering a one-time Doggie and Me hike in December, "so that the pooches don't get too puffy" along with their owners, Brown says. "People just have to break away from the craziness and shopping and get in here." Spectrum's Howard Hughes club in Los Angeles booked a DJ for an Afro Brazilian Beat class in December. He'll venture into the club afterward to pump up members as they head into the home stretch toward New Year's.

Bally Total Fitness gyms will offer extra classes this Thursday, encouraging holiday revelers to burn off those Thanksgiving calories. The chain's clubs will also offer free small-group personal training sessions that day for members. "We're trying to help members stay focused during this tough time," says Tia Willows, senior vice president of member services and customer care.

Because many people are scheduled within an inch of their lives this time of year, several gyms have half-hour classes on their calendars through the holidays. Equinox in Century City created two classes: Cardio Quickie, with high-intensity drills; and Rock It Out, which concentrates on core and upper-body work. Spectrum's holiday short classes target upper and lower body: "If they do this, then they feel like they've done something," Brown says. "And usually they'll stay a little longer once they get in the door."

But not everything is designed for a massive calorie burn. YogaWorks studios schedule more restorative classes this time of year to counteract the stress of the holidays. "I think people know it's a refuge," says Julie Kleinman, director of programming. "The thing that most people need to attend to in December is that they're super stressed out."

Those needing a mood-lifter can attend the Yoga to Lift Your Spirit class at the Larchmont studio in December. The classes designed to help people de-stress and have fun have featured stand-up comedy, art, poetry and chocolate.

"It's a lighter approach," says Kleinman. "For a lot of people, the holidays are a time for depression, and this is community-oriented and is something to make you feel good."

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They know where you live

But keeping people focused can't be left just to corporate headquarters. Trainers know that the holidays can be treacherous for clients with maxed-out schedules and ample opportunity to wine and dine. Canceling sessions is the first and most obvious sign of exercise negligence, followed by halfhearted workouts. Some plan outdoor runs or hikes just as a change of pace; others substitute basketball games for the regular cardio routine.

People need to stick to their workouts, even if they scale back, trainers say, because a one-week slip can easily segue into a three-month hiatus.

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