Los Angeles Times health reporter Jeannine Stein spoke with Ken Alan on Nov. 29 in a live web chat to answer readers' questions about maintaining a fitness routine throughout the holidays. Read more below about his tips for getting back on track after eating all that pumpkin pie.

Ken Alan is a Los Angeles-based trainer as well as a lecturer in the kinesiology department at Cal State Fullerton. He's served on committees for and holds certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise, and was a member of the Reebok University development team that introduced step training to the fitness world. Alan is also a trainer for BeamFit and Nordic Walking and is a past IDEA fitness instructor of the year.

More chats: Ask the experts in our daily live health chats, moderated by some of the country's leading health journalists.

 Live Chat: Fitness tips for the holidays(11/29/2010) 
11:00
Jeannine Stein: 
Welcome to our chat with Ken Alan, fitness trainer and lecturer in kinesiology at Cal State Fullerton. He's here to answer your questions about fitness through the holidays--how to keep on track during this busy time of year.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:00 Jeannine Stein
11:01
Jeannine Stein: 
Let's start out by asking Ken this--We all know that motivation starts to flag this time of year as we start to get busy with holiday preparation and parties. What are your tips for staying enthusiastic about exercising?
Monday November 29, 2010 11:01 Jeannine Stein
11:04
Ken Alan: 
Enthusiasm starts with a feeling. If you think of how good you feel after you exercise or do some physical activity, that will inspire you to make a little time for yourself during busy times. Remember if it is not possible to do what you normally want to do, just doing a little will get you feeling better right away.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:04 Ken Alan
11:05
[Comment From BrittanyBrittany: ] 
Hi Mr. Alan, I am a fitness specialist at thomas jefferson university in philadelphia, pennsylvania, my suggetion to a few of my clients is tabata or circuit training, over the holiday, it's quick, and packs a punch, what are your thoughts?
Monday November 29, 2010 11:05 Brittany
11:07
Ken Alan: 
Hi Brittany,

Circuit training is one of the best choices to make because it is time-efficient. You can cover cardio and strength training depending on what exercise stations you do, and there is little wasted time. It does pack a punch and it a good choice.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:07 Ken Alan
11:09
Ken Alan: 
Can you tell me about tabata?
Monday November 29, 2010 11:09 Ken Alan
11:10
[Comment From TimothyTimothy: ] 
Since there will be a lot of "imbibing" over the Holidays, is there a recommended list of alcoholic beverages that keep calorie count lower?
Monday November 29, 2010 11:10 Timothy
11:12
[Comment From BrittanyBrittany: ] 
Hi Ken, Tabata is very similar to circuit training, I was reading in either a women's health or oxygen magazine article, but basically, it takes like 20 minutes, you sprint/fun for a few minutes, rest/recovery for 1 minute and continue on.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:12 Brittany
11:14
Ken Alan: 
Hi Timothy,

Caloric value varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and within brand lines, such as "light" beers and wines. I'm unable to give you caloric counts as I'm not a registered dietitian, but keep in mind that alcohol will affect a workout just as it affects the ability to drive. Moderation is always the key during the holidays and the rest of the year.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:14 Ken Alan
11:16
Jeannine Stein: 
Ken, can you let us know exactly how alcohol affects a workout? Is it just feeling sluggish in the morning, or is there more to it than that?
Monday November 29, 2010 11:16 Jeannine Stein
11:17
[Comment From BrittanyBrittany: ] 
I didn't see too much of a difference in tabata vs. circuit, because they seem like the same thing. I think the idea of limited recovery stages, explosive exercises with moderate to high intensity have really gotten into people. For example, the crossfit workouts which are mirrored after miltary training and traditional personal training basically see how many times you can efficiently complete a set of a series of exercises in a specified time alotment.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:17 Brittany
11:18
Jeannine Stein: 
Thanks very much for the explanation, Brittany.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:18 Jeannine Stein
11:20
Ken Alan: 
Alcohol affects the central nervous system causing changes in reaction time, muscular control, heart rate, and most of all, impairment in the ability to judge cohesively. This is why accidents are significantly higher when driving after drinking, and accidents are higher when exercising after drinking, which is something we don't always think about.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:20 Ken Alan
11:24
Ken Alan: 
Tabata is similar to interval training, alternating bouts of higher intensity work with lower intensity work so you can recover from the harder work you just did. It is an incredibly effective way to burn more calories, increase cardiovascular fitness level, improve running speed, and increase running endurance. As long as you have the discipline to push yourself during the hard cycles and you have a good base of fitness to start with, go for it!
Monday November 29, 2010 11:24 Ken Alan
11:24
Jeannine Stein: 
Ken, we had a question via email from Marcia Katz: "I'm bored at the gym and would like to spice up my workout routine on the equipment. I only like to work out for 30 minutes. Any suggestions?"

This is a great question--I think everyone, me included, does get somewhat bored while working out, especially on cardio equipment. I find that watching television or listening to music helps, but there are some days when even that isn't enough.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:24 Jeannine Stein
11:30
Ken Alan: 
Hi Marcia,
Without knowing what you do in your workout routine, it's not possible to give you specific suggestions as I might recommend something you are already doing! Here's what you can consider trying though:
1. Change the order of your exercises. If you start with a lower body exercise, switch it up and begin with an upper body exercise. Sometimes just changing the sequence can be the boost you need.
2. Find another piece of equipment or exercise that targets the same muscle group so you're not doing the same old, same old...
Monday November 29, 2010 11:30 Ken Alan
11:34
Ken Alan: 
3. Get together with a qualified personal trainer at your gym in your area to tweek your program and provide you with new exercises or routines. If you're serious about your workouts, it's worth the investment for at least one or two sessions just to give you a boost. You can find qualified professionals and gyms in your area (or anywhereA) at: www.ideafitnessconnect.com.

Glad you're working out. Keep it up during the holidays, okay?!
Monday November 29, 2010 11:34 Ken Alan
11:34
[Comment From BrittanyBrittany: ] 
Ken, tabata only takes 4 minutes, my apologies, and it's 20 seconds of sprinting, followed by 10 seconds of rest and you repeat this 7 -8 times.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:34 Brittany
11:35
[Comment From MaryMary: ] 
Can you get a decent workout with the Wii fit? What do you think the pros and cons are?
Monday November 29, 2010 11:35 Mary
11:40
Ken Alan: 
Hi Mary,
You ask a good question. You can get a decent workout with Wiifit. However, it is dependent upon two things, the first is how fit you are to begin with. If you haven't been active, it can be a very good workout to start with because you can control the intensity or how hard you choose to work out. The second factor is how much effort you do decide to put into the task that you're doing. It can be easy to let yourself ease off and now put in a diligent effort when you're exercising by yourself. That is one of the cons about it. If you have the will-power to stay with it, and most of all, if you find it gets you up and active and it's fun and/or motivating for you, go for it.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:40 Ken Alan
11:42
Jeannine Stein: 
Ken, here's another emailed question from readers Alex and Cindy: Been doing ab training regularly every day for years and dont seem to be making progress. Thanksgiving didn't help much either. I'm able to do over 100 crunches in a row now, but i'm not getting any harder ab muscles. Same thing with my wife, she can beats me at 130 crunches without stopping but her waist/ab isnt tightening. What other exercises should we be doing?
Monday November 29, 2010 11:42 Jeannine Stein
11:49
Ken Alan: 
Alex and Cindy,

Thank-you for your question. Glad you've been exercising, especially the core muscles - important for healthy backs, and it helps you look good, too, which isn't a bad side benefit! You have become so strong now, that 100+ crunches in a row has become too easy for both of you. This is why your muscles are not changing or become harder. There is not enough resistance to challenge you.
Think of it like doing a biceps curl with a 3 pound weight. Eventually, your biceps will not get any stronger no matter how many times you curl the 3 pound weight.
Easiest way to make crunches more effective: slow down. And I mean slow - perform your curls slow enough so you cannot do over 20 in a row. Another option: use a stability ball or BOSU trainer for abdominal curls - it increases the range of motion giving you more bang for the buck compared to being on the floor. Hope this helps.
Monday November 29, 2010 11:49 Ken Alan
11:49
Jeannine Stein: 
Ken, we know that time is a big issue this time of year. Between shopping, cooking and family get-togethers, there's often little time left over for usual fitness routines. Any suggestions for slipping in some activity that will raise heart rates and tone muscles but doesn't require a gym or substantial equipment?
Monday November 29, 2010 11:49 Jeannine Stein
11:58
Ken Alan: 
Here's where you need to think "creativity" instead of "can't get my workout in frustration"! No you can't jog in place while hovering over the stove tossing vegetables. But, you can stand on one leg while stirring the soup. Take every other step when going up stairs for a quick rear-end booster. Put one hand on the sink, extend one leg back and stretch your calf when brushing your teeth. Switch legs half-way through your brushing. Don't even think about circling around the mall looking for a closer in parking spot. Park a few blocks away - it will save you frustration and you get a few minutes of brisk walking in. You'd spend the same amount of time trying to find a parking spot closer in anyway. Most of all, don't sweat it too much. After all, it is the holidays and you want to enjoy them. You have the rest of the year to return to your normal routine. You WILL return to your normal routine now, right?! :)
Monday November 29, 2010 11:58 Ken Alan
11:59
Jeannine Stein: 
Ken, thanks so much for joining us for this chat, and thanks to everyone who participated. I know I learned a great deal today!
Monday November 29, 2010 11:59 Jeannine Stein
12:02
Ken Alan: 
My pleasure. I'd like to thank-you everyone as well. Appreciate your questions and comments. Stay active, stay healthy, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. I can be contacted at: kalan@fullerton.edu, or www.kenfitness.com.
Happy holidays!
Monday November 29, 2010 12:02 Ken Alan
12:02
Jeannine Stein: 
We'll be doing chats every Monday about fitness and sports medicine, so please join us. Our Tribune sister papers also do daily chats, so check in often. Thanks again, everyone, and enjoy your holidays!
Monday November 29, 2010 12:02 Jeannine Stein
12:02