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. In 2017 I picked “You Do Know Squat” (you can listen me talk about my decision in this episode of my podcast).
DAY 1: Legs on the Wall. I like to kick things off with a little Legs On The Wall because it’s effective but also relaxing (and bonus, you squat to get into and out of the position, so #stackyourlife). You can back your butt away from the wall if your hamstrings don’t allow much hip flexion—shoot for a neutral pelvis (one that isn’t tucked or untucked) and also put something underneath your head and shoulders if your ribs thrust a lot (use bolstering technique from #diastasisrecti and #MoveYourDNA). I’ve recently added arms over the head to this exercise to move my chest and shoulders. Feign some snow angels here (aka “floor angels”) to move more of you (#dontjustliethere). Do this a few times today, maybe 10 slow breaths each time, coming out of it as necessary. Oh, and try one smiling THE ENTIRE TIME, even when you get down into it. PUT A SMILE ON YOUR FACE. JUST LOOK AT THIS POSE, IT’S HILARIOUS.
Day 2: Let’s on the wall in daily life. Ok, so here’s how this #MovementPermaculture thing works, in part. You need to move and you also need to do non-movement things (although eventually, maybe the non-movement things will hold their original movement #stackyourlife). I get asked a ton about how I do “stationary things” like read and write. In short, I MOVE while I’m stationary. Many of the exercises we do can be paired with other activities, e.g. Add a book to LOTW and now you’re not just sitting there while reading. I’m not saying to add distracting tasks to your focused exercise time, but to infuse non-movement time with movement. Linked in my bio is a post on various reading/writing positions. Today’s task isn’t to only to LOTW as pictured here, but to take some sedentary time and put some of these moves to work!
Day 3: Incline ankle elevators. Squats require quite a bit of ankle mobility; the less you have the more you have to turn out your lower leg and then pronate your ankles (i.e. schmear; read #wholebodybarefoot for more) to get down. Keep doing your #CalfStretch (you can find it in all books and on my blog), but passive dorsiflexion is one part as is active use of the calves. Today’s exercise is inclined elevators. If you don’t have any incline, build some (as I did here) or just do them flat. Remember elevators go STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN, so watch your heels aren’t dropping outward or inward as you go up. Advanced NMers, get your knee-pits in place (if you can keep your feet down) to use and move more fibers. Do these often, and s.l.o.o.o.w.. Even if it’s when you’re standing around on flat ground. If you get bored, you can count the sand fly bites on my leg from earlier on our trip. Spoiler: there are 100 of them. Seriously.
Day 4: Incline Ankle Elevators are just uphill walking. You might have guessed it, but calf stretching and calf raise exercises are just elements of SLOW uphill walking. Because we mostly move solo, we’re much better at fast walking a single pace. What you might find is you’ve lost the balance and strengths necessary to go slow (just try walking realllly slow to see what I mean). Moving slowly uses different parts and same parts in different ways so “walking” needs to be done at varying speeds to hit everything. And, if you’ve only been walking fast (when you’re done with lots of sitting), you might be creating more tension and elastic (read: passive) action than if you’d cross trained for speed (and I don’t only mean the fast ones). #MovementEcology time: Moving with other people of varying walking speeds is a component of natural movement. And what a better time to try bringing a more speed-diverse group to your movement time than now? It’s #VitaminCommunity, yo, and your calves could use it. If you can’t get this done today, just take a 15 minute slow walk and start scouting for ramps and hills that will move you in this unique way.
Day 5: Kneeling with dorsiflexed ankles. Do this move, paying special attention to the tucked toes. If it’s too intense, you can lean forward onto your hands and work back upright slowly. Like over a couple months 😁. You can also put a towel or two or five beneath your knees which will reduce the movement at the toes. Have fun!
Day 6: Work kneeling with ankle dorsiflexion (which is necessary for squatting) into non-exercise time. Moving more/more of you can be as simple as doing a task YOU WERE ALREADY GOING TO DO differently. I’m mashing nuts in this photo, but if you’ve no interest, how about laundry? Got any of that? P.S. If you don’t, I want to know your secret. If you’re wrapping presents, playing cards, reading, writing notes–try it in this (bolstered, if necessary) position. My point is, movement is there for the taking, but it requires that you do the work to take it. Today, take this exercise into some non-exercise context. See what happens.
Day 7: POSITION-CYCLING. I’m hyper-keen on delineating between exercise and movement because there is a ton of non-exercise movement available to you by simply changing positions while you’re still “in place.” But first, try this cycling as an exercise. Go get a chair and cycle through these positions10 times (and add some different ones too!). Friends, understand you can work on your squatting WHILE YOU’RE JUST SITTING THERE, it just takes a bit of awareness and, of course, your work. P.S. One bonus of moving while you’re stationary: you won’t be taking so much chair-baggage with you when you do hit your workout! Read Move Your DNA and Don’t Just Sit There for more on this, and as always, HAVE FUN FRIENDS!
Day 8: Position-cycling while you’re doing other stuff. Once you’ve practiced in a chair, you can take position cycling anywhere! Chores are a great place to add movement because everyone has them (and usually a floor). I have yet to solve how to not do laundry (besides just not doing it which forces my partner to), BUT ANYWAYS, enough of my life-strategies, here’s how to move more while you’re stressed because you can’t get away to exercise. Why stress? Just move instead. P.S. A bit different than fidgeting, position cycling is where you pre-select the move/form and then get into it. This keeps you targeting areas in a systematic way, which keeps you from regularly avoiding sedentary areas (which will all seem to do quite naturally). LAUNDRY UP, YO, FOR YOUR HEALTH.
Day 9: STANDING TO KNEELING TO STANDING. Going a bit “big exercise” today. From standing, you’ll lower yourself down to Day 5’s position and stand back up again. Do it however you can (when I first started this I had to use my arms a lot and was wobbly, but after all the advent exercises and doing it a dozen times, it’s so much smoother!). If your legs feel tight or week. place a stack of folded towels or a big blanket in front of you to land on–this will reduce the distance you travel and strength needed. I’m preparing to fly back to the US tonight, so if I can, I’ll try to get a video up. It might have to be once I’m back. We had lots of fun doing this as a family–my kids found their wobbly and love watching me fumble around. We tried it with our hands across our chests and behind our heads, so get creative! See how many you can do in a row without a significant loss of form or strain. Keep your knees together and eventually (could be in a month or two) your arms out of it.
Day 10: Now do that, while you’re doing stuff. You’ve been working on the floor (maybe) or doing exercises once you’re on the floor, but you can also move more/differently getting to the exercise part. That you can make getting to movement practice a practice in itself. Use Day 9’s move to get down and up from things you’re going to do on the floor. What you’ll find is the DISTRIBUTION of this move becomes wider–which is an element of load and adaptation.
Day 11: SUPPORTED DYNAMIC SQUAT. I love supported squatting because a lot of time the mobility is available before the strength to support the mobility is. With a couch or chair behind you, let your arms support you while you shift your weight side to side, front to back (and then side to side when you’re shifted forward. Get it?). Spend a couple minutes doing this a few times today (rest as necessary). We’ve got SQUATS in our head as a static position or something that has a single plane of motion, but squats in their natural habitat are pretty dynamic. I once watched my daughter squat-walk to pick up acorns for 10 minutes, and the complex motions in her ankles, knees, and hips to do this aren’t modeled in any of my “HUMAN” Anatomy and Physiology texts. Enjoy! P.S. YES, I even do this in the airport. It’s how I #travelwell.
Day 12: Supported Dynamic Squats IN REAL LIFE! I like to tune in to our ingrained habit of developing or buying movement-reducing technologies. A mop, for example, reduces the movement diversity necessary for cleaning the floor. I diversify by forgoing the tools to naturally facilitate ankle, knee, hip, spine, and shoulder use and P.S. I get all this while also checking something else (clean habitat) off my list. You also use these moves for picking stuff up, gardening, foraging.
Day 13: Step-ups! Find something to step up on that’s not too high and practice stepping up and lowering yourself back down slowly. In this case, we’re using the step as a tool for you to measure how well you can stabilize your shin (ie set its position beforehand and maintain it through the move). To strengthen your backside (so helpful in a squat), work towards keeping a vertical shin–watch out for forward shifting and inward dropping of the knee as you come up and down. Signs that your step is too high for you right now: needing to really lean forward to come up, knee shifting forward, lots of momentum/speed needed, lots of forward arm use. In this case find something lower, work there, and slowly you’ll be able to increase the height of your controlled, rear-driven stepping. STEP IT UP, FRIENDS!
Day 14: Step-ups…In Real Life. Friends, Step-ups are just going up a step, meaning every step you take is an opportunity to move yourself differently. If you’re working away from always using your quads and never your butt, work to stabilize your knee/shin per yesterday’s instructions. Also, you might need to push off more with your bsck foot (plantarflex!) to assist the hip extension of the front. Up or down ENJOY THE JOURNEY, folks.
Day 15: T-Spine Mobilize. So here’s the rub: Your upper body is part of your squat. If you’ve got a lot of shoulder or upper spine tension, you might lack the subtle shifts in head and vertebral adjustments that can balance you. When these are lacking it forces you to make major shifts in your ankles, hips, and knees instead. The more your spine acts like many parts (vs one) the more you can choose where to place it. This is a thoracic spine mobilizing exercise. You can lie back on a half foam roller or a full. They key is to KEEP YOUR RIBS DOWN (not to the floor, but to the front of your pelvis) while you lower a supported head over the other side. It’s OK to not actually get closer to the floor, but when you stabilize things, you keep the stress on many parts in the upper spine vs. just moving the entire ribcage. Scoot up the t-spine and down it, a few inches at a time so you’re loading between each vertebrae. YOUR UPPER BODY IS SQUATTING TOO, PEEPS, so get to it. The upper body, I mean.
Day 16: T-Spine Mobilize in Daily Life. It was hard to find a non-exercise place for thoracic extension until I recalled a question I got at an event last month. “My upper back and shoulders are so tight, I’m nursing throughout the night–what can I do?” My response was to ask if they were sleeping in a bed. If we free body diagrammed you in a bed, the CUSH of a bed is what allows you to not have to change position. You get to take your all day position with you in part. The 8 hours of the day we sleep is not considered in movement science because there’s no calories to attach to it (movement science is currently biased to linking caloric expenditure to the definition of movement). So–if you want to address your tight neck, shoulders, spine, start playing with those eight hours a bit. In my next book (at least another year away, don’t get excited) I’ll break this down more, including a long-term transition plan, but for now, how about lying down on the floor for a 15-20 minute nap or reading session? If you just want to take yourself through 3-4 sleeping positions as an exercise to experience the lack of reduced pressure you’re used to–you’ll be moving this area more. P.S. If you’re working on substantial rib thrust, you might want to add a folded towel or blanket beneath your head and shoulders. Roll gently to the right and left (as maybe you did on the roller yesterday) and see if you can decrease the height of the blanket. For more on rib thrust, read Diastasis Recti and do the psoas release (from Move Your DNA) also clutch!
Day 17: To and from the floor squats. What if I said that you could train to rise from the floor without needing to put your hands down? And that what you needed to be able to do this was a BOLSTER (pillows, blankets, whatever) stacked to the perfect height for you. This could mean a washcloth or something as tall as a chair. Either way, I want you to spend some time finding the height of your hips that allow you to rise and lower yourself fairly smoothly. At first you can lean forward and use your arms, let your knees slide forward and drop in toward each other (see other advent posts for more), but I wanting you to take note that these are movements that contribute to your upward motion by standing in for a lack of strength or mobility in your legs, hips torso. If you want, you can bolster to the point that these go away as well (or just work to eliminate them from a lower height, you pick). If you’re working on organ prolapse or hernia, make sure that you’re not bearing down to stand up. Bolster until the forces you create when standing are working for you (an invisible alignment point! You’re welcome!). Do a bunch of these, throughout the day, minding your form as you get up and down. Eventually, your bolster height can be lowered. I HOPE YOU LOVE THIS ONE AS MUCH AS I DO. It’s a great way to train to improve your sit and rise score!
Day 18: To and from the floor squats in daily life. When you want to include stand to floor squats into your every day life, but you need a bolster, then here’s the thing: You need to make bolsters part of your every day life. The reason I went “furniture free” is for this reason, and not because being counter-culture is my goal. I want to use my body more and as long as the furniture around me pressures me into a shape I’d like to change, the less I can move in the way that I want. Start keeping your exercise bolsters out to promote non-exercise floor-squat transitions, and here’s a tip. The more your bolsters look like you’ve come to expect furniture to look, the more likely you keep it out and use it, and the more likely your squat starts to feel like home. P.S. I bought mine locally, and they’re no longer available. You can google “floor pillows” to see what comes up or get a pattern (a sewing machines and some skillz) and DIY. I’m also loving what Venn Design is doing–they’ve got beautiful floor cushions that are great for this exercise as well as the exercise of creating a movement-rich environment. Not an affiliate, just love high quality, local/US made stuff.
Day 19: Hip Slide and Glide! This is one of my favorites from #diastasisrecti. It really helps move parts between the pelvis and thighs (comes in handy for squats) plus it’s entirely portable! Also, find a video on how to do it here.
Day 20: Hip Slide and Glide in Daily Life! Your assignment is to put on your HIP-EST song and get DOWN, using as many hip moves as you can.
Day 21: Cross-legged stretch. Use your new squat skills to get down to the floor and cross your legs in front of you (place a pillow or two under your hips as needed). Bring your body forward by tipping your pelvis forward and relax your head and neck. After being here for a bit, add small reaching, leaning, and twisting movements. Switch and repeat sides! P.S. Don’t use the movement solely for the exercise of it–give yourself permission to relax your entire body and take a much needed pause in the bustle of a day!
Day 22: Cross-legged stretch while doing something else. At a book signing a few months ago, a woman came up to say one way she applied #stackyourlife to her goldener clients was to not give them this hip mobilizing exercises, she’d give them the “exercise” of giving themselves a foot massage for 10 minutes each night. In the end, they got more hip movement than before but also foot care/a practical reason for hip mobility. A gift to give yourself today: take 5 minutes for each foot, sit in the exercise given in Day 21’s advent, but in addition, give yourself a foot massage (oil or lotion? Just add socks afterward), spreading and stretching each toe for even more movement!
Day 23: SQUAT GAMES! I don’t love this song, but I thought I’d repurpose it as the best/worst personal trainer of all time. CUE UP (or sing) the 12 Days of Christmas, and GET DOWN. And, back up again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Day 24: PLAY, on the ground.