Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Santa's Exercise Plan
avatar
Rich Weil, MEd, CDE posted:
Hi Everyone.

Last January, right after Christmas, one of Santa's elves went on WebMD and found the Fitness and Exercise Community. Santa has connections and so the elf got my contact information and called to tell me that Santa was very sore and complained of lack of strength while delivering toys last Christmas. The elf told me that this is the first Christmas that Santa had a hard time. I was asked if I would set the big guy up with a training program so that this coming Christmas he'd have a better time of it. Of course I agreed to help. I mean really, how can you say no to Santa? So here's the plan I developed.

I used the specificity of training principle. That is, I analyzed the movements that Santa performs on Christmas Eve. Basically, I looked at his long night as a sporting event and developed a sport-specific training plan.

Here's the plan:
Aerobic exercise (with oxygen). He needs endurance since he has to be in tip-top shape to stay up all night, plus all that ho-ho-hoeing can be draining on the diaphragm and the other breathing muscles (i.e., intercostal muscles between the ribs). I set up a gradual aerobic exercise plan (cardio) that included walking and rowing. Walking for weight-bearing exercise to keep his legs toned and to keep his general energy and his mood up (can't have an unhappy Santa); rowing because he sits in the sleigh and he needs back and arm muscles to control the reins and keep Rudolph on track. I started him with 15-20 minutes (since he'd been sedentary most of the year), 4-5 days a week, alternating walking and rowing (he could walk and row on the same day if he liked). The progression was adding 2-3 minutes every week until he got to 40 minutes (5 minute warm-up, 30 minute workout, 5 minute cool-down), and he was to keep his heart rate between 130 and 140 beats per minute. I wanted to calculate his target heart rate using his age, but given his age you could see the problems with that. So 130-140 bpm seemed reasonable. He had a heart rate monitor left over from gifts that weren't delivered the previous year, so he used that.

Anaerobic Exercise (without oxygen). Anaerobic training is activity like sprinting. It means you get out of breath within a couple minutes. It's important for Santa to be anaerobically fit for those moments of adrenaline rush when he has to avoid a flying comet or he has to hustle back up the chimney because a child is coming downstairs early to look for gifts. I chose intervals on the bike for this training. I didn't want weight-bearing exercise such as jogging because Santa's BMI is kind of high and I didn't want to risk injury from the pounding (you hit the ground with 3-4 times your body weight when you jog). I figured the bike would give him the best anaerobic workout and it would be easy on his joints.

Resistance Exercise. For all the resistance exercises, I started him out with weight that he could lift 12-15 reps to fatigue, 2-3 sets, 3 days a week, with a day of rest in between. I had the elves spot him to make sure his form was good, and I asked Mrs. Claus to make sure he got out of bed for his morning workout.

Here are the sport-specific resistance exercises I selected.

Dead-lift. Nothing mimics Santa bending over to put toys beneath the tree than the motion of a dead-lift. Bicycles and wagons can be heavy, so Santa needs to be ready. Thus dead-lifts are a must.

Side Bends and Torso Rotations. He needs these exercises because he has to carry the toy bag and throw it over his shoulder. We got him a cable cross-over machine (for Xmas) and I suggested he set it up with the pulley about half way up and stand perpendicular to the machine, and then with one handle in his hand, reach over his head and bend sideways. Then for the rotations he keeps the handle chest high and rotates his torso across his body. He repeats for each arm.
Reply
 
avatar
Rich Weil, MEd, CDE responded:
Squats, Sit-Stands, and Calf raises. I'm guessing Santa stands up and sits back down in the sleigh at least 100 million times in 12 hours. That's a lot of up and down! To train for that I decided on squats and sit-stands to work his quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. For squats I told him to keep the bar behind his head to mimic carrying the bag. For sit-stands he was to sit on a bench (or the sleigh if it's available) and stand up and down with the bar behind his head on his shoulders. I also asked him to on occasion load the toy bag with medicine balls and do his squats with that. That's as sports-specific as you can get. Calves are part of the chain of muscles that help you sit to stand so calf raises were a natural.

Leg Press. Santa has some unique challenges. He's got to shimmy down and up a chimney a 100 million times in one night. I figured to do it he has to lean against one side of the chimney and support his weight by pressing his legs against the other side. The leg press machine seemed perfect.

Seated Rows. Since he's got to sit in the sleigh and pull on the reins to stop the reindeer he needed to build his biceps, poster deltoids (back of the shoulders), lats, rhomboids and traps. Seated rowing does the trick.

Lateral and Side Raises. He's got to hold those reins all night so his arms will be elevated. That's his shoulders doing that, so lateral and side raises make sense. He could do both exercises in one workout, or alternate each session.

Biceps Curls. A must if he wants to lift the toy bag over his shoulder, and of course, pulling up on the reins.

Triceps Press Downs (at the cable crossover high pulley). Although he won't need lots of triceps, I added the for arm symmetry. If he only works biceps then there will be imbalance between biceps and triceps. I prefer straps with handles instead of a bar so that you self-select the joint angles throughout the movement. When you use a bar your arms and shoulders are locked into position because the bar is stiff, and if the movement doesn't match your anatomy, then there could be risk of injury. Plus the straps are similar to the reins. I didn't want to be known as the guy who injured Santa.

Abs. Of course abs are central to keeping him in good posture throughout the night. If he slumps because of weak abs then his back and neck are going to ache and he'll get grumpy. We can't have that. Crunches are all he'll need, but he needs to do them slowly, and hold for 5 seconds at the top to work them isometrically (contraction but no motion) since in the sleigh there will be isometric ab work to stabilize him through the twists and turns and ups and downs.

Pushups for good measure. I threw them in because they work so many muscles. Plus, I wanted to measure his progress. When he started last January he could only do 3 full pushups! The elf told me that since he started training 12 months ago he can now do 50. Way to go Santa!

Hydration and Energy Fuel. He'll have to stay hydrated and he'll need some energy to get him through the night. I recommended 8-10 ounces of water every 20-30 minutes, and he was allowed to snack on Xmas cookies, but to go easy on the cookies so that he didn't get sluggish. Remember, he's already had Xmas dinner. I also recommended hot chocolate. It will keep him warm (it's cold up there), and chocolate milk helps with recovery! (http://oakbrooksc.com/docs/stager_chocmilk_study.pdf)

So there it is. Santa's training plan. We'll see after Christmas how he did. The elves are instructed to report in, and maybe I'll have a chance to speak with Santa too (:->).

Happy, Healthy, and Fit Holidays to Everyone!
 
avatar
rohvannyn replied to Rich Weil, MEd, CDE's response:
That is seriously cute. I love the effort put into it and the detail. Great tips!
 
avatar
Rich Weil, MEd, CDE replied to rohvannyn's response:
I'm glad you liked it. It was fun to do!


Featuring Experts

Rich is an exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator. He is director of the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program at St. Lu...More

Helpful Tips

Change your workout
A lack of motivation may mean that your workout is too tedious. For example, if your doing lots of mind-numbing slow cardio, you could ... More
Was this Helpful?
12 of 13 found this helpful

Related Drug Reviews

  • Drug Name User Reviews

Report Problems to the
Food and Drug Administration

FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.