One last thought about the holidays. It's December, and that means we're in the full throes of the holiday season. In the summer when it's hotter than heck outside, I long for December's cold weather when I can curl up by the fire, cozy up in a fuzzy sweater and jeans, and just watch it snow. My summertime nostalgia for winter makes me think my only worry at this time of year is whether I'll burn my tongue on my made-from-scratch hot cocoa. Oh, I long for this time. In fact, I crave it year-round.

Unfortunately, this winter wonderland bliss rarely exists. If you've ever seen the movie, “A Christmas Story,” you know exactly what I mean. Each year, I plan for the Normal Rockwell version of the holidays, and each year, I end up reenacting the scene where Ralphie mutters “fudge,” which we all know is really the “f-dash-dash-dash” word because I've burnt the turkey, forgotten Aunt Alma's gift or I'm running late to one of a dozen holiday parties because my car door is frozen shut due to the subarctic temperatures of a typical Midwestern winter.

It's no wonder health club usage is down this time of year. When it's 20 degrees and a wintry mix is falling from the sky, even I, a self-proclaimed gym worshipper, don't want to go to the club. I know, I know. The holidays are a time to relax, enjoy your family and spend time with those you love. Blah, blah, blah. The reality is that the holidays are a lot of work. They require planning, spending money, preparing not-so-healthy dishes and having little time to yourself — including time to work out. And I'm a fitness professional. Imagine what your non-addicted-to-fitness members are going through. Is it really a surprise that your cardio room has as much energy as Ralphie does when he tries on the pink bunny suit his aunt makes him for Christmas?

Don't be afraid to let your members know they aren't alone. Most of them have probably blown off their healthy eating habits in exchange for fudge, holiday cookies and the other countless treats we all consume in the name of “the holidays.” While this may mean more business for you come the New Year when all the newbies flock to your facility hoping to drop that holiday weight gain, it's not really in the best interest of those you aim to serve.

My advice for surviving the holiday season is to send a newsletter or e-mail message to members that getting any sort of activity (at the gym or not) is a big stress reliever, that moderation is key (and their family probably won't be able to tell the difference if they make their mashed potatoes with skim milk or chicken broth instead of heavy cream), and that you'll be right there waiting for them to rededicate themselves to fitness and health on New Year's Day (or anytime for that matter) if they slip up and fall off the fitness wagon.

Be sure to make good use of the time, too. Use the lull at your club to reassess your business, your offerings and your club's décor. Plan for 2007 by setting your club's goals and thinking of ways to reach them.

Oh, and one more quick thing; don't shoot your eye out, kid.