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Health & Exercise Forum


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Mar 11, 2024

PEOPLE OFTEN ASK ME, “IS THERE SUCH A THING AS AN EXERCISE RUT?”. THEY WANT TO KNOW WHY THEY DO NOT SEEM TO BE IMPROVING WITH THEIR EXERCISE PROGRAM. They exercise 3-4 times a week for 30 to 45 minutes and they feel frustrated and STUCK in a rut.

The purpose of this column is to offer suggestions to improve or get more out of a “stale” exercise program. Last week’s column offered tips to improve a stale cardiovascular and strength program. We will discuss flexibility and functional training tips, including the components necessary for a healthy mind, body and spirit connection.


Flexibility training involves the careful stretching of the muscles, tendons and joints to improve range of motion in order to safely perform daily activities and sports without injuring or tearing soft tissues. It is probably the most neglected part of the fitness program. However, while the amount of inherent flexibility varies for each person, a minimal range is necessary as it relates to daily activities and sports. For example, as you age it is important to have enough flexibility in your back, hips and knees to wash your feet, put shoes and socks on. After a warm –up activity, perform flexibility exercises slowly and gently. There are two types of flexibility exercises; dynamic and static. Perform dynamic stretching with movement such as pushing the ankle up and down like a gas pedal. Complete passive stretching using an outside force, such as a towel to pull the ankle up to stretch the calf. Dynamic should be performed before an activity (before running or playing tennis) and static performed after the activity is over in order to increase range of motion for future activities.

Improving a Flexibility Training Program:

  • Use Functional Dynamic Stretches: Functional dynamic stretches are those motions used throughout the day. For example; sitting/standing gas pedals for the ankles/calf muscles; sitting/standing marches for the hip;  ¼ lunges for buttocks, hips, knees, ankles; clap hands overhead, arms behind head and arms behind back for the upper body.
  • Multitask and Perform Static Stretches: Hold static stretches for a few minutes. Therefore, you can do use your electronic device to read or watch a podcast while you stretch. For example; while lying on your back, stretch your hamstrings on a wall in a doorway and read. Stretch your lower back while propping up on your elbows and read. Stretch your calf muscles while leaning into a countertop and read.
Hamstring Wall Stretch
½ Cobra Lower Back Stretch
  • Vary the Stretching Time and Alternate the Body Parts
  • Incorporate Complimentary Activities to Stretching Such as: Meditation, Yoga

STEP TWO: Mind, Body, Spirit; Nutrition; Core Fitness; Functional/Sports Specific Training; Leisure Sports and Activities

In order to prevent an exercise program from getting stale, one must incorporate all aspects of wellness…a healthy mind, body and spirit!

  • Mind Body and Spirit – consider massage, meditation, and yoga.
  • Nutrition – eat a well-balanced diet; little and often… proper nutrition requires that an individual has a diet with the proper amounts of carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and nutrients, which can vary with personal goals, age, and activity level. Consult a nutritionist and consider using nutrition apps such as “Lose It” or “Calorie Counter.”  
  • Leisure Sports and Activities – Too often fitness enthusiasts are so involved in their exercise routines, that they forget to get outside and have fun! Incorporate sport and game into your exercise routines. Instead of walking on a treadmill for an hour at the gym, walk 9 holes while playing golf (3 ½ miles) or kayak on a lake for an hour (283 calories) more than biking (227 calories), but less than running (454 calories). Use fitness apps such as “Fitbit” or “Endomondo” to track sports and daily activities.
  • Core and Functional/Sports Specific Training – an essential and often overlooked part of a complete fitness program. Core exercise concentrate on the abdominal, trunk and spine muscles working in unison to create a “muscular corset” in order to protect the spine and provide a stable foundation for the extremities to work effectively. Core exercises can be incorporated into any program very easily. For example, performing bicep curls while sitting on an exercise ball or standing on a “Bosu” ball will simultaneously work the core muscles and biceps. Remember, a solid core will improve your ability to play tennis, throw a ball, or play golf.
  •  Functional exercises focus on training and strengthening the body in preparation for specific activities of daily living and sports. For example, lunges are a functional exercise which will improve the ability to bend and pick up objects from the floor. They are also sports specific for skiing, tennis and many other sports.


It is easy for fitness enthusiasts to get so focused on maintaining a routine that they allow their program to become stale and ineffective. It is essential to reassess and update your program to prevent stagnation.

Make sure the routine has all three fundamental components of a well-balanced exercise program; cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. Moreover, to be truly healthy, one must work toward a “Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit. Therefore, in addition to traditional exercise one must incorporate the following: nutrition; meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, core fitness; functional/sports specific training; leisure sports and activities

In order to prevent an exercise program from getting stale, one must incorporate all aspects of wellness…a healthy mind, body and spirit!

While each component offers its own specific benefit, the combination of all three cooperatively provides unique value. Too often, fitness enthusiasts concentrate on the exercises they LIKE or are good at more than the ones they NEED.

Sources: National Institutes of Health; American Council on Exercise

Model: Lily Smith, Physical Therapy Student, University of Scranton, PT aide, Mackarey Physical Therapy

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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!