The holidays have collapsed into a sea of shredded wrapping paper, giving way to the surest evidence of regret that marks the end of the season.

No, I’m not talking about the length of the return lines where we discreetly divest ourselves of all the touching gifts that illustrate the love of family and friends (though not perhaps their taste.) It’s that Haley’s comet of the advertising world that reveals our blight – the return of the work out ads.

As soon as the bells of New Year’s celebrations fade, they’ll be back. Madison Avenue knows that we’ve indulged in that second piece of pie, that sparkling libation, that bit of chocolate delight. The solution: endless advertisements for home gyms, local fitness centers, diet plans, home-delivered miniature food and miracle underwear that shaves off the pound. (But there is no Santa Claus; the miracle season has ceased.)

Our inner Martha Stewart, creating memories and taste sensations through the season, is replaced with an Amazon in rib-crushing tights taunting us to make it burn. I think she means calories, though perhaps burning the exercise DVDs would be mores satisfying.

While I was surfing the Web recently (and surfing burns a lot of calories, right?) an article in the health section of The New York Times caught my eye. “Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?”

Now that is a question for the ages. According to the article, a study showed that rats which swam intensely in short intervals followed by a period of rest were just as in shape as the poor slobs who were made to work out for six hours a day. This is the kind of break through reporting that can really put a spring into a girl’s step.

It was the intervals that got me. The idea that intense dashes could equal a real run lit a candle in the dark room that is my workout routine; because every woman I know lives the life of a rat in interval training.

Consider a day in the life of your average American list juggler: I get up and put on my work out clothes. They nag me visually about that big work out I’m really going to do today (the best laid plans of rats and men?) and I head for coffee.

Standing in the kitchen, I remember that it’s trash day. I run to get the garbage to the curb, which reminds me that I need to spray some crab grass in the yard. I head toward the garage to grab the spray, walking past a sprinkler my husband almost drowned fixing last year, reminding me that I need to get the water bill in the mail.

I dash off a few bills and toss them near my purse and errand pile … a pair of my son’s shoes that need fixing, a grocery list and empty print cartridge I need to replace before my daughter’s home work project can be finished.

Seeing the print cartridge reminds me that I need to get to my home office. Ah the wonder of working from home. You can feel guilty about not working enough while you feel guilty about the fact that your laundry pile now consumes the guest room. Halfway through the day I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, still in workout clothes, but their blackmailing ability is fading.

Miracle underwear is looking good.

But I resist the powerful urge to call an 800 number to order that shiny work out contraption that fits under my bed or in some mythical unused corner. My husband has a theory that on the island of misfit toys exists a vast wasteland of abandoned gym equipment waiting to be loved. I decide to put my hopes in the rodents … and to cut every out every other dessert, after this one.

For the many women for whom life-imposed ADHD is not a condition but an asset, we can take comfort in the fact that somewhere in the middle of all the things we are running to get done, the inner-mammal in us has exercised.

I just hope that translates into a smaller jeans size.

Kristi Stone Hamrick is a media consultant, wife of one, mother of four, master of two dogs and jack of all trades. She admits to owning a treadmill.