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This Santa's abs should be on your holiday wish list

October 29, 2009 | 11:12 am

This is the time of year when children delight in festive decorations, kitchens bustle with preparations for tempting meals, and people flock to the Beverly Center to see the new Hunky Santa.

Hunkysanta2009 Hunky Santa is a 9-year-old Beverly Center tradition of featuring a brawny, not blimpy, Santa Claus in weekend shows that also include performers executing daring acrobatic moves (Hunky Santa is there from Nov. 27 through Dec. 24, and regular Santa appears during the week). Wearing an open, faux fur-trimmed red vest, Hunky Santa proudly shows off his buffness, and his abs are on many people's wish list. That makes him something of an ambassador for healthful living, especially for kids, since most know Santa only has a jolly old fat guy.

The 2009 edition is actor and model James Ellis, who sports a 10-pack and some wicked pecs, which probably come in handy while climbing up and down the chimney. Since a chisled physique doesn't happen by magic, we asked Ellis to tell us about his workout regimen. Like the Hunky Santas before him, Ellis has a long athletic history and is ultra-disciplined about his diet and workouts.

As a child, he was motivated by older sisters who ran and a father who lifted weights. His athlete-ography includes track and field, wrestling, basketball and, most recently, body building. Although he works out about seven days a week, Ellis insists that's not the only important aspect of training. "It's getting your rest and making sure you eat right," he says. "You're not going to put on muscle if you don’t eat right. Also, people don't get enough rest, and that's when you build muscle." On the nutrition side, he favors lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and indulges every now and then in pizza.

He works out almost every day -- sometimes even twice a day, breaking up strength training routines so that muscle groups aren't overtrained. For cardio, he runs, does in-line skating, snow skis and rock climbs.

"My goal is to help people in any way I can so they can have a healthy lifestyle," Ellis says. "Being Hunky Santa is all about making people happy and having a great time, but it's great if you can also be a role model for the kids."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo: James Ellis. Credit: David Myrick

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