The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Spice Up Your Exercise Program This Holiday Season

Written by
Karyn Hughes, MEd
Posted in
Move more

Monday, Dec 17, 2012

Most of us know that to be “totally fit” we need a combination of strength, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility but many of us only focus only on the cardio part. We do our running, cycling, elliptical, or walking with little to no regard for resistance training or stretching. Perhaps we justify it because we just think we don’t have enough time to work in resistance training. And stretching is all too often an after-thought and only lightly regarded as important. But what are we compromising in the long run?  Think about this: what good is all that cardio if you throw your back out leaning over to get groceries out of your car? What good is all the cardio if you pull a hamstring or rupture your Achilles tendon? Have you had to cut back on cycling or inline skating because of a persistent injury that maybe could have been prevented with proper strengthening?

If you fall into the “cardio only” category like so many others, here are some ideas of how to incorporate additional exercises to round out your exercise routine.  If your plan is well organized, you really won’t spend a lot more time integrating resistance training and stretching.  And believe it or not, you may experience improved pedal power, running speed, etc. and thus burn more calories per cardio workout!

Options to Incorporate Strength and Flexibility

Par Course or Fit-Trail: Circuit Training in Parks/Trails

  • Equipment: Chinning bars, parallel bars, slant boards, stretching post
  • Each station along the trail challenges, strength, balance,  flexibility or agility
Tubing or Elastic Resistance Bands for “Fitness to Go”
  • Equipment: Resistance bands come in a progressive resistance/color coded
  • Place in back pack, bicycle pack, fanny pack or pocket
  • Anchor the band around a park bench, or by stepping on strap.  Perform exercises at half way point of workout. Could split into upper/lower body routine.
 Multi-joint exercises: Integrates multiple muscle groups in one exercise
  • Equipment: None, or dumbbells, resistance bands, stability ball, medicine balls or any small apparatus
  • Combine a squat w/overhead  dumbbell press, lunge w/dumbbell bicep curl, lying hip extension w/towel hamstring curl, wood chop (for core) w/squat
  • Burns more calories, reduces total number of exercises yet can target all major muscle groups
 Boot Camps/Circuit Training
  • Combines strength, cardio and flexibility training for groups
  • Equipment: none to dumbbells, mats, tires, ropes, bands, and more
  • Leader provides motivation, teaches exercises and safety, and group makes for socializing
 Small Group Personal Training
  • Meet with other friends/participants to share cost of personal training
  • Equipment: Trainer or club has machines and small apparatus
  • Reduces cost per person, promotes friendly competition, & socializing
Finding and Selecting Exercises

For many, their programs are lacking strength and flexibility exercises because they are just not aware of many exercises or are not sure how to do them properly. If you fall in this category, create a free account on  and check out our “exercises” section.  It contains videos and written descriptions on a number of strength and flexibility exercises including those with equipment, without, on machines, and in the water/pool. There are ample choices to get you started that cover all the major muscle groups and the joints they move like the shoulders, hips, knees, spine, and pelvis.

We encourage you to give strength and flexibility exercises a try. Even incorporating a few exercises here and there will provide you with tremendous benefits. And if it is not realistic for you to “spice” up your program now with Christmas right around the corner, create a plan and make it a goal to give them a shot in 2013!