By Jeremy Behnke
Journal Sports Editor
NEW ULM - The holiday season is upon us, giving us plenty of time to spend with family and friends.
Group Cycling, which is offered 5-6 times a week,
offers participants an intense calorie-blasting cardio workout in 45 minutes.
While gifts are often shared during the season, it tends to be a season of getting another unwanted gift - the gift of a few extra pounds that comes with all the goodies that surround us in the office or at holiday gatherings.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Jill Wilfahrt, who is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the New Ulm Recreation Center, says that enjoying foods in moderation, teamed up with exercise, can go a long ways in that battle with the bulge.
As someone who works in fitness, Wilfahrt knows that it's easy for people to develop bad habits. Those habits typically start around Thanksgiving and go through Christmas, sometimes even longer.
"Right around January, even the end of January, I see some people don't have that off switch," Wilfahrt said. "We get in that rut of Christmas eating, getting together eating, and we don't shut it off and all of a sudden January comes and we still have those bad habits."
Like with many things, moderation is key, even if it means having one less cookie or turning down that piece of pie. Of course, it doesn't help that food tends to be sitting out almost everywhere you look at this time of year.
"It's in your face, and I think when we think back to our childhood, a lot of us will still say, it's our favorite Christmas cookies," Wilfahrt said. "There's nothing wrong with, but in moderation is the key and again, having that off switch."
The key to being successful with maintaining a healthy weight is managing calories. This means you shouldn't skip a meal at lunch just so you can go eat at a Christmas party later in the day.
"You see all the time where a lot of us save our calories, we basically almost starve ourselves during the day so we can go eat later," Wilfahrt said. "We need to go to a party full. And during regular meals, if you're going to go back for seconds, make sure that second is a veggie, and a green veggie all the better. At parties, grab the veggies, have one little piece of everything and that's it.
"The other hint, you gotta keep moving. Some of my most favorite things that I've learned is that 15 minutes a day of movement throughout a year equals 10 pounds. And when you think of winter and not moving, those 15 minutes can add up and 10 pounds throughout the year, that's a lot of weight on people."
For those hosting parties, it's always easy to serve up plenty of dips, cookies, cocktail wieners and so on. But you should also serve plenty of vegetables too.
"They're good, like I said you gotta have fun in life, life is too short," Wilfahrt said. "You have to indulge, but also you have to make the veggies very available to people and what's more easy to have a tray of veggies out.
"I think too, learning the tricks of the trade and how to cook with low fat - cream cheese, sour cream substitution with low-fat yogurt. If it's going to be high-density calories, make it high-density nutritional too, because we can get fat on healthy food too if we eat too much of it. So just make sure you've got a lot of nutrients in it."
Some people feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to trying to lose weight. Mothers of young children or the elderly may not have the time nor the money to join a gym or fitness class. But there are alternatives. Whether it means exercising during commercial breaks or splitting up chores so you have to walk up and down the stairs an extra time, it all adds up.
"During commercial breaks, do jumping jacks, run in place, depending on your activity level," Wilfahrt said. "I also think there are a lot of good videos out there that require no equipment at all, or there's weights out there. You can do it while they're [the kids] are napping, and kids need to see exercising.
"The other things I tell moms is to do little things around the house. On days where I know I can't go to the gym, I don't use a laundry basket so that makes me do two flights of stairs, so it's up and down but it works. You don't have to spend one hour a day at the gym, you can split it up in little 15-minute increments."
Wilfahrt also said there are studies that say doing 10 one-minute sprints in a day can equal a 45-minute jog, so there are ways to get productive exercise in even if you don't have time on your side.
Making these changes in your lifestyle doesn't always have to be major. Wilfahrt says you can accomplish a lot just by doing a little bit at a time, and you don't even notice it sometimes. The small changes help people stick with the diets.
"I see that 60-70 percent of people stay with it, the other tend to be the yo-yo and those are the ones hit the gym the hardest," Wilfahrt said. "Those are the ones that just get pooped out and then they don't wanna do anything. Especially for the novice person, you gotta start them out and make them see it's not bad and they're gonna want it even more."
Of course, watching what you eat and exercising shouldn't be reserved for the holiday season, but rather something practiced year-around.
"It should be a lifestyle," Wilfahrt said. "When I get clients, I want it to be a lifestyle, not a six-month thing or just so they can look good for their trip and then fall off the wagon again. You really gotta watch it and my biggest thing is you can't set yourself up to fail, you have to set yourself up to win. So if you have nothing but treats in the house, you're going to fail."