Putting in long hours at the office is not as bright as you may think.

New York - Sticking to a fitness routine is not always easy, but holiday feasting, drinking and family can make it even harder.

Experts advise that you don’t bend your fitness routine too much.

“Consider the holidays a time to maintain fitness, not a time to set new goals or be ambitious,” says fitness expert Shirley Archer, author of Fitness 9 to 5 and Weight Training for Dummies.

Most people gain weight each year during the holiday season, Archer says, but you can avoid it by being active when time allows.

“Research tells us that you can get an effective strength training routine in as little as 15 minutes,” she says. “This is not ideal to build strength over time, but is sufficient to keep what you have during the holidays.”

A bare-bones cardio workout can be accomplished by fitting short, 10-minute bouts of activity into your holiday plans.

Danielle Hopkins, a New York-based fitness manager and instructor, tells her clients to try to sweat at least 20 minutes a day.

“I stress the importance of keeping to your routine. The main thing is putting it on your calendar,” says Hopkins, adding that drinking too much makes it harder to get to the gym. “Always make room. It’s pretty easy to do. If you’re travelling, bring your running shoes, or a jump rope, or look for a gym.”

And rest assured that one night of over-indulgence won’t derail a year of work. “Everyone’s diet has a bit of wiggle room,” she says. “I think it’s good to imbibe a little, but be strategic about what you’ll allow. Have a little bit.”

Constantly avoiding holiday temptation is tiring and in the end unsustainable, according to sports psychologist Gregory Chertok.

When navigating holiday stresses, from family to poor food choices, Chertok says a simple change in attitude can yield results.

“Embrace challenge rather than avoid temptation,” he says. “Avoidance over time can be pretty exhausting. Just like our physical muscles, our mental muscles can get exhausted. Willpower requires replenishment.”

He says studies show that when people try too feverishly to control themselves, their willpower wanes.

“There are ways to keep your willpower at a strong level, such as staying away from overly restrictive diets, planning the occasional indulgence and eating small frequent meals,” he adds.

Surrounding yourself with people of similar health and wellness inclinations can also facilitate positive choices.

“We’re influenced very powerfully by others’ behaviour,” Chertok says.

He encourages his clients to allow for the occasional slip-up. Being self-forgiving and self-compassionate leads to greater success.

“People who set strict goals will self-chastise, self-criticise,” he says. “That doesn’t allow for high performance or self-esteem. As human beings, we take care of ourselves when we feel worthy of self-care.”

Trainer Tracy Anderson, whose fitness DVDs include Metamorphosis and Mini-Trampoline Workout, stresses consistency. “The most important thing is to become a consistent exerciser, where you go and have 30 minutes to one hour daily of focused work,” she says.

But her advice for people fretting about the holiday season is to feed their souls. “I say eliminate the word diet from your vocabulary for three days before and after a holiday.”

Archer echoes the sentiment. “All too soon, your routine will return and you can hit your fitness programme with renewed commitment and enthusiasm,” she adds. – Reuters