Casey’s look at staying in shape during the holidays

The holiday season is upon us. The food, oh the food: sweets, starches, proteins, dairy and alcohol, the vices of the 21st century. As we edge closer to finals week and a much-needed winter break, dread and concern set in over how to not gain weight and how to stay in shape in the season of excess, second helpings, four-course meals and Christmas beers.

Here are some tips to avoid bumping up a weight class or to ensure you don’t return to school huffing and puffing after two flights of stairs.

How does one stay in reasonably good shape, in Oregon, in the winter? The answer lies within. It is hard to stay active in December and January when the average temperature is 40 degrees and it rains most of the time, but it is not impossible. Three simple steps can be taken to avoid the huffing and puffing of inactivity.

First, the cardinal rule of being in shape is to never get out of shape. This seems simple enough, but it is actually the hardest part of fitness. Once someone stops going to the gym, stops running or stops walking around campus, a complacency takes over the body.

Every day that goes by, it becomes harder and harder to get back to the gym, to get outside and walk or just to do something active. So don’t stop your activities just because school is over. The Peter Stott Center is still open over the holidays, so there is no excuse to not use it. The Stott Center is open Monday-Friday, 6:30-8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.

Also at this time of year, gyms all over the area give discounts for the holidays because they know people like us are eating more and doing less. Last year alone, 600 million pounds of turkey were consumed on Thanksgiving; that’s two pounds of turkey per person for the whole country!

If you don’t want to spend money on a gym or you’re going home for the holidays, visit a sporting goods store and buy yourself some weights and a jump rope. Just 20 to 30 minutes a day will make all the difference in the world.

Second, with three weeks off before winter quarter begins, why not try something you have never done. Sometimes the best way to stay active is to be excited about a new hobby.

Indoor rock climbing is one way to maintain fitness while simultaneously having a good time. It is not too expensive to indoor rock climb, especially in Portland, where there are many indoor rock climbing gyms, some for as little as $20 a day.

Because this might be a new activity for you, the excitement of it will drive you, and that drive is what marks the difference between someone who stays in shape and someone who doesn’t.

If you have ever indoor rock climbed, you know it is one of the best, most enjoyable exercises around. You can challenge yourself as much as you want and there are no size, weight or athletic requirements, just a willingness on your part to do something fun.

Third, get your lazy butts outside! The whole point of staying in shape is so you’re healthy. Healthy for what? Healthy for activities outdoors. Staying in shape is great, but the big picture is to use that health to enjoy the great outdoors, otherwise what is the point? Now you may be wondering, what the heck is there to do in the winter? In one word the answer is: Plenty.

The first and simplest thing to do is go on a hike. Even if it’s raining, a nice stroll in the woods is good for you. The Columbia Gorge has some great hikes that are close and all the waterfalls are going full bore.

You can try skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Hood, just two hours away. You can look for wild edible mushrooms (with the help of a mushroom identification book, of course).

On the Oregon coast, there are tons of active things to do. A popular activity is razor clam digging on the beach, as well as crabbing in the bays (that’s crab fishing).

You can try your luck fishing for Chinook salmon and steelhead on virtually every river on the coast, as well as taking a nice hike along the beach if the weather permits.

Be adventurous and explore Oregon, it’s only rain. If you are the traveling type, many national parks are within a day’s drive of Oregon, including desert parks that have hundreds of miles of backpacking trails with lots of sunshine.

The final thing to think about this winter break is food.

If you gorge yourself silly (the busiest day for paramedics is the day after Thanksgiving, because some diabetics eat too much), then make sure it is just for that day. Also, if you have the time, go for a walk after dinner. For every day of stuffing yourself, allow at least two days of really healthy eating, with no saturated fats, no heavy fried starches and lots and lots of fruits and vegetables.

How you spend your holidays is up to you, but what you do for the holidays will affect you in the weeks and months that follow. Stay in shape, eat well but wisely, and for gosh sakes get outside and get the adrenaline pumping. Your body and soul will thank you for it.