Programming for the Holidays: Ideas for not Becoming the Stuffed Turkey

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This is the time of year when exercise starts to be put on the back burner, while the holiday’s take over. Many people want to know what they can do to balance out the increased calorie intake, with decreased time and availability to work out, and for athletes, this can be a break from working out and competition. Should you take a break during the holidays? Not if you can help it. When you have lay-offs from working out and an increase in calorie consumption, this is usually not a good formula for success, no matter your goals. Whether you are stuck at home, or feel like there is no time in your schedule to meet your exercise needs, there is a basic solution. All you need is a few pieces of equipment: jump rope, medicine ball, dumbbells and mat.


If you have read any of my articles, or watched my videos, you know that I talk a lot about form and function. Good posture is imperative to the success of any athlete or fitness enthusiast. When there are some unavoidable breaks in your training, there are things you can do that will compliment and improve your existing program. If you have ever watched someone jump rope successfully, you were without even knowing it watching a combination of good posture, good reaction time, stress to the musculoskeletal system and a decent plyometric workout. If you have ever witnessed or been a participant to unsuccessful rope jumping, than you also saw what poor form and technique can do. That statement does not mean that if you can’t jump rope like a heavyweight-boxing champion that you shouldn’t try. Jumping rope is what is referred to as a ‘self-limiting’ exercise. Meaning that you only limit your self on what you are not willing to try. One thing to consider before you dismiss jumping rope is that because it involves greater coordination therefore incorporating more muscles, it takes less training time jumping rope than running for the same benefit.

The first thing you should do when you get a jump rope is make sure it is the correct length. Stand on the jump rope with one foot in the middle of your body. Pull the rope up to your armpit. The rope should not go above your shoulder.


Start with a very basic routine:
* Mini-jumps without the rope to get the feeling of jumping continuously.
* Mini-jumps with the rope at your side to get the feeling off jumping and turning at the same time
* Practice turning the rope back and forth over the head without jumping
* Two feet together with a double jump
* Two feet together with a single jump
* Progress to single leg jumps, scissor jumps, skier jumps


Medicine balls have been in use for many, many years. The name ‘medicine ball’ actually comes from the fact that they were originally used in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Although there popularity dropped for many years, there has been a reemergence of their use over the past few years. Medicine balls are used for general warm-ups, strength and power training and sport specific movement training. They are safe to use, portable and a relatively inexpensive training modality. One aspect that I really like about medicine balls is how it targets the core of the body. I believe that strengthening your core is essential for proper strength and power development. Medicine balls allow the body to train in all planes of motion extensively. You can use very controlled motions and very explosive motions. Medicine balls come in weights from 2 to 30 lbs, and can be utilized in circuits to develop metabolic demands, neuromuscular demands and muscular actions.

When using a medicine ball, start moderately with 1 or 2 sets and progress to 3 sets. Repetitions can also vary and keep in mind with a heavier ball, the reps should be less. Vary your rhythm and your speed, make your muscles start and stop each action.


Some ideas to get you started:
* Torso circles: ball overhead with a wide stance, arms extended. Move the ball in large circles clockwise and counterclockwise
* Side bends: Wide stance, knees flexed, arms overhead, alternate side bends from right to left
* Good mornings: Wide stance, knees flexed, ball behind head. Bend at the waist and the knees as you bend forward
* Russian twist: Wide stance, knees flexed, ball held out in front of chest. Alternate twisting to the right and to the left
* Squats: With the ball squat up and down, feet shoulder width, keep heels down as you squat
* Lunges
* Push-ups with one hand on the ball, one hand on the floor.


Dumbbells are some of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can purchase. Their applications are endless. You can work any part of your body with them, and apply any form of application: stabilization, strength, power and flexibility. I like compound movements, meaning multiple movements using multiple body parts. For example:
* Squat, curl, press
* Lunge, curl, press(multiple directions)
* Single leg squat to press
* Chops, lifts, rotations


With these simple pieces of equipment, you can utilize them to meet any demands of your workout. These will definitely provide the most “Bang for the Buck” if you are also looking for some low cost ways to get in shape. can show you how to make the most of your time and equipment. And using them when you have off time, or no time to get out of the house for a workout is a great way to improve or maintain your strength, flexibility, intensity levels and metabolic demands. Use your imagination when it comes to putting these two pieces together. Use different combinations and movements together to challenge yourself. In a matter of 10-20 minutes you could easily earn that extra piece of chocolate pie or whatever you want.


Take time to look at the workout programs we have on and you will see many examples of how to use them. The Boy Howdy series, the exercise manual, the leg circuit series all show challenging ways to incorporate these simple to use modalities.