I love movement and I love celebrating, thus I always strive to create movement-rich celebrations. For years, I’ve done a movement advent calendar at the end of the year as a thank you to my readers, and as a way of inspiring people to move more in their daily lives. No fancy equipment, just us moving joyfully together during a busy time of year.
Check out the other exercise advents here:
EXERCISE ADVENT 2014: Gait
EXERCISE ADVENT 2015: Upper Body
EXERCISE ADVENT 2017: Squats
Day 1: Trapeze (aka Tree Climbing Prep). A big thwart to abdominal force production is stiffness in the low back (and also in the upper back and shoulders, but that's coming up later). I'll be giving you things to address pelvic mobility next, but for today, see what you got. Lie on your back holding a strap or belt as pictured in Step 1 (eventually you can lose the 3" advantage that index finger gives). Next, bring your legs to the strap. That might be where the exercise stops for you (i.e. Just work to bring your legs to the strap and notice if stiffness in your back is keeping your spine from flexing). Next, can you get your feet under the strap and to the other side? Do your knees have to splay? Neck arch up off the ground (add a pillow under your head)? Do it one leg at a time, and then both legs at the same time (can you keep your knees closer together?). Try 10-20 of these a few times today. For those with Diastasis Recti or anyone wanting modifications: Go slow, stopping if you're straining (Vasalva) and don't hold your breath. Master getting the legs to the strap with ease before going under. Add a small folded towel beneath your tailbone to help you be able to tuck your pelvis away from the floor.
Day 2: Legs on the wall, yo! For those that noticed that the tension in the legs and hips affect your movement at the spine (and thus your abdominal strength), this one's for you! It's not about how WIDE you go, but also how going wide changes how much you have to tuck your tailbone. Try to keep your pelvis level (top of the sacrum just off the floor, which may require you back away from the wall). I add my arms overhead because my arms are all too often just by my side and it helps me relax any tension in my abdomen.
Day 3: Counter Press-Ups! In order to engage the muscles in your trunk well, you have to be able to be able to engage your shoulders well, which means you have to be able to stabilize your elbows. If you can't stabilize your elbows (if they hyperextend when you put your weight on them, THIS IS WHERE YOU STOP. If this is you, I have an entire tutorial for you to follow here. (I also suggest my book Diastasis Recti for a foundational set of exercises and understanding for anyone at any level). If you can keep your elbows stable, pull your body up off of the floor, and then lift your hips up as high as you can--no momentum. Check your hands--how do you have to turn them to be able to use your shoulders? P.S. Think of this advent like the 12 Days of Christmas Song. Work through all exercises daily and see how your experience changes!
Day 4: Shoulder Release Over Ball. So yes, the goal is to get your arms over your head, but it's also to keep your ribcage down--doing both moves the mobility challenge to your shoulder joints. (And yes, #diastasisrecti peeps, you can do this, but #ribsdownribsdownribsdown is your focus!) If you don't have a ball, use the arm of your couch or do it off the end of your bed. Have fun!
Day 5: Rolling Like a (Snow) Ball. First, do it however you can, then you start reeling it in a bit, eliminating momentum. One key way to do that is to grip your hands beneath your legs and don't let them slip. Also, keep the range of motion small--mid back to balanced up on the pelvis. Can you turn yourself in a circle? Then, can you turn yourself the other way? Pulling up this old school video in case it helps! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL99Ih57qh0
Day 6: CLICK CLACK. Top pics: how to do it at first. Sit on a folded blanket or towel and put your arms behind you to hold your weight. Tilt your pelvis backwards and forwards using your legs (see video:https://www.facebook.com/NutritiousMovement/videos/vb.111576339578/10154215617674579/?type=2&theater). The key here is to not drive the movement with the muscles in the low back (you're not arching forward) or in the hips (you're not using your hip-flexors). Now move to the second level, doing it holding on to your shins--arms and chest not moving during the exercise. If you're having issues with the advent Day 1 or rolling like a ball, this can help!
Day 7: Roll over, roll back. On your back, arms over head. Roll over and roll back. How'd you initiate the roll? By lifting an arm or a leg? Try doing it by not lifting your leg to get started, but by pushing a leg into the ground. Twist the pelvis and twist the ribs (i.e. move your waist!). Starting on your back roll prone then in the same direction roll to supine, and then back again. Do that 10 times. Then, vacuum your floors.
Day 8: GET YOUR SOCKS OUT. Today's movement: stand on one leg (no touching down as possible) and put on your socks keeping your leg bones straight up and down (and not dropping your knee out to the side as pictured bottom left). Then take them off the same way. Try it 10x in a row, going back and forth. Then try putting them on/taking them off 10x on the same leg before switching. Then try lying down--watch that knee try to escape. Good news: you can do this one a couple times a day FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE and you'll not only reap the physical benefits of the movement but you'll also be getting dressed.
Day 9: Walk on something narrow. Walk the edge of a rug, a piece of tape on the floor, a two-by for, a fallen log, or a railing and see how your inner thighs participate. "Good balance" depends many different skills. The width, slipperiness, wobbliness (of you as well as the object upon what it rests on) are all stabilized through different motions and each variable can all be practiced independently. Let your inner thighs adjust to a mandatory narrowness (it's often more challenging than you think) and then we'll ramp up the variables coming up.
Day 10: Throw something. Really. Go outside and throw a pile of rocks one at a time. Try to throw them far. Move a stack of wood by tossing each piece or give something heavy the heave ho once or twice! You'll likely need to go outside for this one or you can check out this video to see how I do a modified version of this (I don't actually let go) with a kid.
Day 11: Active twist. You can sit on the floor in various positions or squat (as pictured). Lift something from the ground and twist it around and place it down on your other side. Then pick that up and twist to place it back where you originally got it. Do this 10-20 times, or for how ever long you can squat. Then how about doing 10 "rolling like a ball", then can you roll up into a squat and begin again? Watch your ribs (Drop them!) and mind how much you allow your knees to drop inward while twisting (try to minimize).
Day 12: Crawl (on something narrow). So crawling uses the core regardless, but when you challenge yourself to crawling on something narrow (the edge of a carpet, a piece of tape on the floor, a balance beam, or a log) it ups the ante! Knees up (as pictured) or down...both are beneficial!
Day 13: The Sit and Shift! Start sitting on folded knees (modify as needed). Let your weight shift (without rising your seat) until your hips rest to the right of your heels. Then use your waist to pull yourself back to your starting position and lower yourself to the left of your heels. An intermediate step: Stack towels to raise the height of the floor (and thus reduce the work in the waist) and use your arms to help generate momentum at first).
Day 14: Book Stack Press Up! First you have to nail step 1, which is to be able to press up using arm strength (requiring you keep your shoulders down). Play with the height of your stack to see how it changes things. Once you have that, scoot your hips back until your trunk is carrying more of your weight (and then if you can, lift one or both legs up)! Also, little helpers make for strange images sometimes.#randomzebracameo #MoveYourDNA #itswarmhereinCalifornia
Day 15: Counter Knee-ups. Watch your elbows, peeps. If the only stable (meaning "unmoving") angle you have is "hyperextending" then practice holding your body (no knee-ups yet) with a slightly bent elbow. And for those that don't hyperextend but can only stabilize at full extension, practice this at different degrees of elbow flexion. Then add the knee-up part because #corestrengthadvent, yo. P.S. If you don't have a counter set-up like this, it also works where two counters come together.
Day 16: Pole hold. This one has lots of levels, each beneficial. If you don't have a pole handy, Move #1 and #2 is easily done in a doorjamb! P.S. My kids in the background are cracking me up.
Day 17: Hanging w/Ribs Down. The pre-requisites to this move are contained in videos in this post on hyper-mobility. Once your elbows and scapulas can be held where you want them, see what you can do about your ribs. If you've been thrusting, adding #ribsdown to hanging will ramp the activity in the core musculature. If you're working through my book#DiastasisRecti, add this element to your hanging if you haven't been.
Day 18: Knee-Ups. Once you can hang with #ribsdown (Day 17), add this knee-up!
Day 19: Rectus Femoris Stretch. Before you assume the typical quad stretch form (big picture), place a rolled towel beneath your A.S.I.S. (bony top points of your pelvis aka the anterior superior iliac spines) and lower your pubic symphysis to the ground. This will bring in the oft-circumvented RF muscle, which can be chronically tilting your pelvis (thus affecting core strength).
Day 20. Quad stretch with forward bend. Grab an ankle (vs foot) like you're doing a quad stretch. Then, to see how the connective tissue is relating some parts to others, bend forward at the hips to touch the floor (keep that back leg lifting and your pelvis from twisting). Start by doing this to the seat of a chair and go farther as you can. Keep standing leg straight!
Day 21: Sit better. Do you want an EASY way to use your trunk more, that can fit right into the non-exercising time of your day (which is most of it?): STOP OUTSOURCING YOUR BODY'S WORK TO YOUR FURNITURE.
Day 22: Thoracic Stretch. Use a counter, a wall, tree, or pole and extend your shoulders and spine (minimize the rib-thrust though).
Day 23: Machete Chops. Ok, it's not really like using machete, but this is an exercise to use your "twisting muscles" actively. I like spinal twists on the ground but those don't train these muscles to generate that much force. This active twist gives you some action. The key is to find an object of the right weight. Too light and you won't naturally engage much muscle. Too heavy and the weight of the object can create the motion passively via momentum. It's also good to actually hit something to absorb some of the twist (I've a got a ton of wild berry vines to whack at). However you do it, this move is a great way to add an additional plane of movement. Actively "chop" both directions and make sure to change hand position! Oh, and ribs down!
Day 24: LAUGH. Laughter is a fantastic, natural movement that not only brings back all sorts of unique movement, it also brings you JOY--taking it beyond exercise. There is, after all, more to movement than exercise.
Below you'll find a link to a bonus outtake reel from the recording sessions of my audiobooks. Yes, on each of my audiobooks Move Your DNA, Whole Body Barefoot, and Movement Matters (which should release any day now) I've added the best of the outtakes for that book (and at 30 recording hours for each book there are TONS). I love bloopers, and I hope you do too. I hope you get some super-deep core movement, and have a wonderful wintery season.
Much love, KAB.