Health & Fitness

A feel-good gift: Great exercises to squeeze into your holiday schedule

Dumbell thrusters, extension. Jason Wanlass, with Champion Fitness Training, has some tips on how to stay active during the holidays and a quick total body strength & conditioning circuit to get you the most bang for your buck.
Dumbell thrusters, extension. Jason Wanlass, with Champion Fitness Training, has some tips on how to stay active during the holidays and a quick total body strength & conditioning circuit to get you the most bang for your buck.

After more than 15 years in the fitness industry, I am still amazed how often people stop or put off their workout program until “next year.”

If you are currently in this boat, consider this: Research by the National Institutes of Health has shown that Americans gain an average of 1 pound over the holiday season (sometimes up to 5 pounds) and never lose it. Over the years, that 1 pound adds up. Wonder where those extra 20 pounds came from over the years? Could be cumulative holiday treats.

Now, before you say anything about how busy the holidays are and about all those temptations — I completely get it. I agree you should be able to indulge, but within reason.

And I realize the time crunch of the holidays is a legitimate challenge. Chances are you aren’t able to knock out hourlong workouts five times a week. But as many of you already know, my philosophy is that workouts are non-negotiable. With a little creativity, two to three full-body strength and conditioning sessions a week can help weather the holiday storm and give you plenty of bang for your buck.

Full-body exercises are great because they place an emphasis on multiple areas of the body during one exercise, which makes them more efficient and allows us to cut down on workout time and frequency. Also, full-body exercises increase the metabolic demand on the body, which will lead to a higher calorie expenditure per workout and add more challenge to your cardiovascular system as well. And if we add some cardio drills into the mix, we get the best of both worlds.

So for an early Christmas present, I’m going to give you one of my favorites. Outlined below are my top six strength and conditioning exercises thrown into one circuit.

This circuit includes three strength exercises with three cardio exercises in between, for a well-rounded mix.

▪  Begin with a 10- to 15-minute dynamic warm-up.

▪  The workout should consist of 3-5 rounds.

▪  Do 10-15 reps for each strength exercise.

▪  Perform each cardio exercise for 30-60 seconds.

▪  Rest 15-30 seconds between exercises.

▪  Recover for 1 to 1.5 minutes between rounds.

Dumbbell Thrusters

Begin in standing position, holding a pair of dumbbells at shoulder level just outside of your body with your elbows bent. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you return to the starting position, press the weight overhead by fully extending your arms in unison with the extension of your legs and repeat the movement.

Mountain Climbers

Begin in a pushup position keeping your body straight. Step your left leg in towards your hands keeping the hip, knee, and foot in a straight line. Simultaneously, extend your left leg back to the starting position while stepping your right leg towards your hands and continue to alternate the movement with your legs similar to a running motion. Keep your body straight throughout the entire set, performing the exercise as quickly as possible while maintaining form while continuing the movement.

Split Squat/ Dumbbell Row Combo

Begin in a split-stance position with your right leg back while holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Hinge at your hips so your upper body is at an approximately 45-degree angle. Descend into a split squat, stopping just before your back knee touches the ground. Return to an upright position by extending your front leg while simultaneously rowing the dumbbell and repeat.

Jack Squats

Taking a narrow stance, begin in a squat position with your arms hanging naturally at your sides. Jump into a wide stance while swinging your arms back overhead, just like you would with a regular jumping jack. Immediately return to the starting position and repeat the movement.


Stand facing the anchor point with your arms fully extended at chest level. Your body should be angled approximately 45 to 60 degrees relative to the floor, and your arms should be shoulder-width apart. Maintaining alignment and control, pull your body toward your hands until the handles are even with your chest and your arms bent at 90 degrees.

Note: For more challenge, angle your body closer to the floor.


Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Descend into a squat and place both hands on the floor shoulder-width apart. Hop or walk your feet back into a plank position while descending into a pushup until your chest touches the ground. Push or roll up into a plank position, hop your feet forward, and jump reaching your arms overhead towards the ceiling and repeat.

Modifications: Use steps in place of hops if you have knee issues.

Top three holiday survival tips

▪  Find a workout partner: Using the buddy system works wonders for staying consistent. It creates a sense of accountability by both parties. Plus, there is always the tendency to push a little harder when you have a partner involved. Just make sure you find a partner who is reliable.

▪  Fill up on healthy food before the party: There will always be guilty pleasures at all times around the holiday season. Filling up on healthy food and some water prior to a holiday party really will lead to less calorie consumption during social engagements. Plus, you’ll be able to savor the treats you do indulge in.

▪  Eat to mild fullness: We’ve all experienced it — eating our holiday feast to the point to where we feel like we’re the stuffed turkey. This year, try eating smaller portions instead of piling as much food as possible on your plate. There will always be plenty of leftovers. On a scale of 10, shoot for a 5 to 6 in fullness. Your waistline — and digestive system — will thank you for it.