Photo by Jim BlaylockThe explanation for the strength-conditioning and cardio workouts comes quickly.
"You don't think all those bags of toys are going to carry themselves down the chimneys, do you?"
Much smaller in person without his bulky jacket, Santa Claus shows off the famous smile. It turns to a determined grimace as he pumps up his biceps with dumbbell curls, and soon switches to free weights for a series of bench presses. The cheerful glow of his cheeks never fades, thanks to the flush from daily workouts.
"Most people probably think all I do all year is eat cookies and pie and play a little touch football with the elves," Santa says while resting after a quick 50 miles on a treadmill.
Barely breaking a sweat, Santa winks as he pulls up his shirt to show off a surprisingly flat stomach.
"Abs of gingerbread," he laughs.
"I have to be pretty disciplined about eating, but it's incredible how many calories you can burn carrying bags of toys down chimneys to millions of children," Santa says while strolling over to an elliptical workout station.
"All the goodies kids leave for me on Christmas don't interfere with my diet. In fact, all that carb-loading from cookies really helps keep me going, though I'd sure like to find a banana or apple every now and then instead of just sweets."
Eggnog, too, gets a little heavy for the thirsty traveler.
"I really like the stuff, and milk. But it would be nice if more kids would leave a glass of water, or some juice, or maybe PowerAde," Santa says.
Comfortably carrying a body weight of 220 pounds, Santa says even with all the on-the-go eating he will lose nearly 20 pounds on a typical Christmas night - even more if it weren't for all the kids' help with hydration.
Strength and endurance conditioning becomes especially important as his one work night of the year approaches.
"There is no way, absolutely no way, I could do this job without keeping fit the rest of the year," Santa says. "I couldn't be a 'weekend warrior,' getting fat and lazy all year and then running over rooftops one night. I'd never make it through the later time zones, and a lot of children would be disappointed."
Instead, Santa follows a brutal workout regimen, hitting the gym for four hours every morning and taking a brisk after-dinner walk in the evening. As the big night gets closer, those workouts increase daily - with only Christmas Eve to rest up, and a one-week vacation after Christmas.
"I really have to keep up my upper-body strength, but endurance is most important," Santa says. "It's tougher than running 1,000 marathons in one night. Even though toys have gotten lighter - especially bicycles - there are more and more children being born every year. And they're all counting on me."
Hitting his 100th mile on the stationary bicycle without breathing hard, Santa winks and says, "Remember: Good boys and girls eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise."
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