Brains and Brawn… Turn spare time into gains this holiday

Published 10:41 pm Monday, December 27, 2021

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There are so many good things that come with the Christmas and New Year season. We get to have fellowship with our loved ones at family gatherings, we enjoy giving and receiving gifts, and, of course, we get to eat delicious meals with those same loved ones.

Yet another benefit of this time of year is that many of us enjoy some time off work. This can represent some much needed and deserved rest, but it can also be a good opportunity for you to get in some extra time at the gym or to get in some extra workouts at home.

As was the case for Thanksgiving, extra workouts can help offset all the extra calories you will be taking in during those special meals. Better yet, the right workouts can turn all those calories into lean muscle. Also, working out during time off work can help you stay on a good sleep schedule. These and many other health benefits can be the outcome of using that time off wisely.

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There are a few ways to make the most of extra or “bonus” workouts. One question to consider is: What part of your physique needs the most improvement?

If you have a well developed lower body and not so well developed upper body, then the obvious choice for a bonus workout would be an upper body workout. If the opposite is true, then of course you should target the lower body with bonus workouts. If you have a well developed musculature but your cardiovascular fitness is poor, you should add some light cardio for a bonus workout.

If you are following a workout plan already, a good strategy for bonus workouts is to do a “speed” workout. This is a light weight workout for moderate reps with emphasis on moving the weight as fast as possible with good form.

As an example, let’s say you have decided to do an upper body bonus workout. If your current typical workout is a certain weight for 5 sets of 5 on the bench, you can reduce the weight by 25-50% and complete 10 sets of 5-8 reps with that emphasis on speed and form.

This should feel pretty easy if you choose the weight correctly.

Another way to change it up might be to hit a quick body weight workout at home. This might look like: 10 sets of 10-20 body weight squats (make sure your hips descend to the point your upper leg is parallel to the ground), 10 sets of 10-20 push-ups (you can adjust your hand position between each set to slightly change the tricep and shoulder emphasis), 10 sets of 10-20 sit-ups.

If you do just this simple workout a few times a week, your body will start feeling and looking different almost immediately.

For folks with less mobility due to joint issues, etc., you can modify these exercises.

For the body weight squat, you can use a chair of a certain height and sit into it and then stand. The higher the chair, the more you are modifying the exercise.

Similarly for the pushup, you can find a slightly elevated and sturdy location like a bench and push up on that instead of the floor. Again, the higher the bench the more you are modifying the exercise.

Finally, the sit up can be substituted with crunches to reduce the low-back stress.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year and can find a way to turn your spare time into gains towards your fitness goals!