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40 Days of Fitness

Long before the turkey (and stuffing, and potatoes, and pie) hit the table yesterday, I had a decision to make. It was not an easy one.

I'd just flown in to Colorado to visit family for the holidays. My wife and I had arrived on a late flight Wednesday, and with the time change and higher elevation, we were feeling pretty wiped out when the sun came up on Thanksgiving. Plus we were coming off of a busy week that was tall on work and short on sleep. So I didn't know what to say that morning when my aunt asked me a simple question:

"Do you want to go run the rock?"

"The rock" is a short-but-steep mountain trail near their house outside Denver, and my first reaction was to say, "uh, not really." I'd been away from the gym for almost a month, and totally off of my once-religious running schedule. With a recent move, work, and a new house tying up pretty much all of my time lately, I'm pretty sure that I'm more out of shape right now than at any other time in recent memory. In fact I just got winded typing that sentence. Whew.

But here's the thing: Without change, things will only get worse. Why? Because it's the holidays –when everyone's fitness gets worse.

After all, studies show that the average American gains about a pound to a pound-and-a-half during the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's. With parties and family events tying up our time, keeping us out of the gym and often in front of cookie trays, we tend to eat more--and move less--during this time of year than at any other period.

Worse yet: Most of us never lose that extra weight. It accumulates over time. Multiply that pound-and-a-half a year by 20 years and you're 30 pounds overweight.

I thought of this as a mulled over my answer to Aunt Kim. I also thought of how nice it'd be to hit the couch, relax with my family, and maybe catch the pregame show for the Lions-Texans game. And then I decided: I'm going.

I won't lie to you. The run wasn't pretty. Three loops of a mile-and-half long path that climbs 370 feet, for a total of 4.5 miles and about 1,100 feet of climbing. The thin mountain air had my lungs working even harder than I'd expected. I stopped to walk on more than one occasion. But I made it. And after I finished, I felt better than I had in weeks.

So now I want to keep this going, and I'd like to invite you to join me. Thanksgiving marked 40 days left in 2012, and I want to make them 40 Days of Fitness. Rather than fall apart in the home stretch like most people, we can fight back. How?

By making one healthy choice every day.

That choice could be to work out, or it could be to stand by the veggie tray instead of the cookie tray at a holiday party. Maybe you'll be able to get in a long run, ride, or gym session, or maybe all you have time for is Dr. Oz's 7-minute workout. Or perhaps your healthy choice will be to relax with a massage or gentle yoga routine to de-stress from holiday shopping madness. What you do will change from day-to-day. But throughout these 40 Days of Fitness, we'll commit to making our own health a priority -no matter how hectic things get.

Beginning today through New Year's Eve, I'll be writing about my experiences trying to get fit (and stay fit) during the holidays on the LIVESTRONG.com blogs, and also posting daily updates on Twitter (where I'm @briandsabin). I'd love it if you'd join me on this journey. Tell me what you're doing to stay in shape in the comments of these blog posts, or by sending updates on Twitter with the hashtag #40DaysOfFitness.

If you need help along the way, please don't hesitate to hurl a question my way. I'll see if I can get it answered by one of our LIVESTRONG.com experts. And remember that the site has lots of tools that might help as we go - the MyPlate Calorie Tracker, our Loops route planner, and loads of fitness videos, to name a few.

Together, we can close out this year stronger than ever before.

Brian D. Sabin is a writer and editor for LIVESTRONG.com. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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