10 sneaky ways to stay fit during the holidays

The mind may be willing, but the post-Thanksgiving, tryptophan-riddled bodies of even the most dedicated among us can turn the hoildays into a season of inactivity.

 Experts agree that exercising every day is one of the best ways to avoid weight gain amid all the food, social obligations and travel. But how do you do it? 

RELATED: 5 easy hikes to Atlanta’s hidden waterfalls

Here are our top 10 ways to work in a workout - and sneakily keep yourself fit all season long.

Kick off your holiday season with the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon and 5K in downtown Atlanta. (BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM/For the AJC)

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  1. Run, turkey, run: Earn your post-meal nap by starting your Thanksgiving with a run. The Atlanta Track Club's Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon also includes a 5K that casual runners and walkers can complete. Take your finisher's medal to show off during the big meal! Can't make it to trot under the Olympic rings? Run Georgia has a full list of other races during the holidays, including 5Ks in Blue Ridge and McDonough.                                                RELATED: Weight Watchers debuts diet wine to toast the holidays
  2. Go streakin': Now that you've started with a Thanksgiving run, why not challenge yourself (and maybe some friends) to a running streak through New Year's Eve? Runner's World magazine is challenging everyone to log at least one mile a day for 40 days. Running's not your thing? Mix it up and try a new activity each day. Just keep moving.  
  3. Plan ahead: Sign up now for a hike, race or fitness vacation in January or February. Knowing you have that on the books will keep you accountable and, hopefully, on target with your training. And nothing says staying in shape now doesn't mean some fun later. Check out the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh on February 3. Runners test their stamina to eat 12 donuts – yes, an entire dozen – in the hour given to run the five-mile course. And if your tummy isn't up for all those calories at once, casual runners can eat as many or as few glazed goodies as they like. There's even a No Donut category for the spoilsports.
  4. Be practical: There will be some days when your schedule is hectic, the daylight is slipping away too soon or you've just had it with Atlanta traffic. So when you're focused on the shopping, make a point to take a lap around the mall before spending on gifts. Atlanta-area malls aren't for slouches: It's a full mile to take a lap on each level of Mall of Georgia, Perimeter Mall, North Point Mall and Town Center in Kennesaw. You'll need four laps at Lenox Mall for a mile. And perhaps you'll find that perfect gift tucked away in an area you wouldn't otherwise visit.
  5. Find a buddy: It's so much easier to bail on your workout when no one else is counting on you. Find an exercise buddy, either a family member who is traveling, too, or a friend or co-worker who understands how trying it is to get everything done and still be active. Having a buddy not only keeps you accountable but can also lead to better results
  6. Blades of glory: Embrace the season and go ice skating, just like the kids in that classic holiday cartoon. For every hour on the ice, you can burn 500 calories - almost as much as running five miles, but with the promise of hot chocolate afterwards. Popular Atlanta-area rinks include the enclosed skating at Park Tavern, Atlanta's largest open-air rink, Skate Atlantic Station, and Winter Wonderland Marietta on the Square. 
  7. Play Santa: Remember how grown-up you felt as a kid, dressing up for a holiday party? Those fancy clothes may have even have encouraged you to act accordingly. Why not try the same trick with some new workout clothes for yourself. Deals abound this time of year, so there's no better time to treat yourself and up your motivation at the same time.
  8. Gym hop: Speaking of deals, the holidays are an ideal time to sample promotions from different gyms and exercise studios. Among the popular spots offering free workouts are Orangetheory fitness, the Metro Atlanta YMCA and Gravity Fitness Studio.
  9. Make it a family affair: With folks coming in from near and far, family gatherings run the risk of being little more than TV time together after a big meal. Depending on how adventurous your crew is, plan an activity together. Head to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for an easy stroll through the Garden Lights.  Or visit Stone Mountain Park for Snow Mountain tubing or the 2-mile roundtrip hike up the mountain trail. Pro-tip: the next full moon visible from the top of Stone Mountain will start at 6:55 p.m. on December 4.                                                             
  10. Finish strong: Once you have committed to an activity, take it one step further and give yourself a goal to meet before the year ends. Can you work up to 50 pushups at a time? Master the pigeon pose in yoga? Whatever the goal, you have six weeks to master it through consistency.

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