The Cooper Institute

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


Keep Up the Good Workouts!

Posted in
Live well

Thursday, Nov 26, 2015

Can you believe it is already here? The time of the year that I can’t seem to catch my breath. It seems that I am always on a quest for more time, but between my daughter’s birthday in November, friends’ birthdays in December, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year and all that goes along with each of them, more than ever, time is what I DO NOT have enough of (and therefore the reason that I cannot breathe!). Is it just me or do you feel the same way too?

Unfortunately, in the face of all of this, it is not uncommon for us to drop our physical activity pursuits, especially if we fall into “all or none” thinking. For example, “Have that holiday lunch today during my usual workout time. Oh well, I’ll skip today.” “It’s the kids’ Christmas play tonight which will mean I won’t be able to get my full workout in. Guess I just won’t do it at all.” Before we know it, physical activity falls completely off of our radar (and then, even more unfortunately, takes a while to come back on it). But ironically, the thing that we drop because we are stressed actually can help us manage and reduce that stress. The time we take to be active may take time away from getting our massive holiday to-do list done, but it often actually increases the “time” we have because we become more efficient from the mental and energy boosts that result. And of course, burning calories during a time that typically includes increased calorie consumption is a nice perk.

So what are we to do? Well it might be a challenge, but that is what problem-solving skills are for and now is a good time to put them into use. You have probably heard many suggestions on how to keep active during the holidays but the reality is that you have to sit down and make a plan that is going to work for you. Have you heard the expression, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Taking just a little bit of time to plan (yes, I know that takes even more time away from that to-do list) how to fit in your physical activity will make actually getting it in so much more of a reality. And keeping physical activity in your life means not having to go through the struggle of getting it back in. So here are those suggestions. Use them to jump-start your planning and to come up with the solutions that will work for you this holiday season. Each week sit down with your calendar and plan your activity:


  • If you are busy during your normal exercise time, go at a different time of the day.
  • Can’t get your full workout in? How about splitting it up or at least doing some of it.
  • If getting to the gym is too hard, create a workout that can be done in your house or in your neighborhood.
  • Even if you are tired or stressed, commit to even just 10 minutes of activity. Often you will find once you get started, you don’t want to stop!
  • Learn to say no. You don’t have to go to every function that you are invited to.
  • Scale back. Do you really have to cook 10 different dishes or wrap each present with a beautiful giant bow? (Yes--I am talking to myself here!)
  • Plan time with family and friends centered around physical activity. How does an ice skating adventure sound? Or, sign up for a race together.
  • During half-time of the game, join friends and family for a football game of your own. (flag—of course!)
  • Turn holiday shopping into a workout. Go a little early and do some laps around the mall and don’t forget to add in some stairs. You can check out the stores you want to visit and plan your attack.
  • Get some extra activity by purposely parking a good distance away and avoid the stress of finding a spot!
  • Take walks after holiday meals to enjoy the fall foliage or holiday home decorations.
  • Go to a holiday dance with friends. Or spread some holiday cheer by caroling through different neighborhoods.
  • Play in the snow. Sledding is a nice option because you have to walk up the hill in order to come down! Make your own path each time. The resistance of walking through untouched snow is quite a workout. Snowball fights, building a snowman, making snow angels are other great options.
  • Increase the intensity of the chores you are doing to get ready for your holiday guests.
  • While playing holiday music, stop what you are doing and dance around the house. The kids will get a kick out of it.
  • Do your own outside work like raking the leaves or shoveling the snow.

Don’t let yourself fall into that “all or none” thinking. Substitute with alternatives and be okay with your activity not looking exactly like it normally does. The most important thing is that you are keeping at it. Oh, and remember to breathe. January will be here before you know it!

To learn more about physical activity, healthy eating, and behavior modification, consider The Cooper Institute’s Personal Training Education and Coaching Healthy Behaviors workshops. You don’t need to be a fitness professional to take a course, the general public is welcome.