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.
Day 1: Doorway Walk-throughs. You have TWENTY-FOUR DAYS to whip your upper body into some healthy shape. This is not only for better arm/shoulder/core strength and aesthetics (although you'll see an improvement) but for better forces driving your immune system. Today's exercise, the Doorway Walk-Through is no stranger. But let's be ultra-consistent. For the next 24 days, you're going to let the doorways you walk through TRAIN YOU. Get those arms overhead (or if you can't reach, check out the pic on the left and reach one arm at a time, as high as you're able to), pause and hang out a couple seconds, and work to DROP YOUR RIBS while your arms are up. Friends with lax joints, YOU CAN PLAY TOO, just read through this primer and mind your joints. Ready. Set. Let's GO!!!
Day 2: Counter Press-ups. CLEARLY you don't even need clean counters for this one. Place your hands on a counter or desk, rise up to your toes, and lean forward on your arms as you pull your lower body away from the ground (bonus: core work!). Keep your elbows slightly bent if you're hypermobile in the elbows and EVERYONE, keep your elbows squeezing against your sides the entire time! Play with this move. Try coming up fast and coming up slow. Try holding the up position for 20 seconds and also doing lots of quick ones (holding 1-2 seconds) in a row. As you can see, I've got a lot of kitchen clean up to do, and also a lot of computer work. I'll be doing this and Doorway Walk-Throughs throughout the day. You don't need equipment or a gym, your house and your body will do.
Day 3: Towel Swoops: Towel Swoops are a great way to use come of the lesser-utilized motions of the glenohumeral joints (aka shoulder). Try not to bend your elbows, thrust your ribs, or leaning to the right and the left. Do a lot of swoops. Go both directions. Stack towels to make it heavier (not necessarily more difficult; the weight creates some momentum). Also, something light, like a silk square, can require more work. Don't have a towel handy, use your jacket. Teaching a yoga class tonight? Have them use their mats (folded). Do it to some rocking music. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!
Day 4: Nobody Puts Katy-baby in the Corner.
Equipment: A corner, and your body. Lean back into a corner and bring your arms out to the sides. Keeping your body straight (don't thrust your hips or ribs to help you come forward), press your arms back into the wall to bring you away from the corner and then let them come forward to control yourself back into the corner. The farther your feet are from the walk, the more challenging. Sound effects help.
Day 5: Hang From a Branch: If you're not strong enough to support your weight with your arms (or, without hyperextending your elbows), keep your feet on the ground to help support your weight. The point here is to cross-train your SKIN. The difference between a bar and a branch is TEXTURE. Using only bars will leave your hand-skin under-nourished and you'll end up capping your upper body strength/motion because your skin won't be strong enough to handle what the rest of you could do. Also, read this post on hand skin.
Day 6: Carry Something Heavy For a Mile. Carry something heavy in both arms, for a mile. We've gotten really good at loading the main axis of our body via technologies (baby-wraps, backpacks) and meanwhile our arms (and hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders) go unused. Also, endurance. Flipping something heavy 12 or 20 times in a row and then standing to take a break before you begin that exercise again is different then you needing to accomplish a task that requires you to keep moving forward even when you're tired. I had to go pick up some of our (frozen) cow from a neighbor's freezer and these bags were almost too heavy for me to carry long distance. So, I broke up my geometry to work my arms in different ways and that was my break. Today, load up some bags--heavy, almost more than you can handle--and take a walk. And deal with it. Keep your ribs down (that will allow your core to help). Watch that your elbows aren't hyperextending. If you normally carry your baby, that's awesome, but give that baby to someone else to carry for their advent and you do something NOVEL to balance what you already do, dig?
Day 7: Floor Angels. These are old school (if you've been following me for awhile) but they're SO GOOD! Lie down with a pillow, bolster, or sleeping back underneath your head neck and shoulders. Reach your arms up (palms up, slight bend to the elbows if you're lax there). Lift the pinkies and let the thumbs touch the ground. Start working your arms overhead while trying to keep the thump touching the ground. Make some (10-20??) snow-angel motions, going s.l.o.w. In the office and feeling like these aren't an option? A similar motion (only not as relaxing because you don't use gravity in the same way) can be done standing against a wall. Enjoy!
Day 8: Balanced Crawl. In this pic I'm crawling down a 2x4 (seriously, a great training tool to invest $5.00 in). You can also create a similarly-sized line with duct tape. The key here is when you crawl on something narrow, you use different muscles to keep you stabilized. Try it both ways--just crawling 12 feet and then crawling 12 feet on something narrow. I stack my 2x4 on yoga bricks so it's even more clear when I lose it (i.e. am unable to stabilize my body). FANTASTIC upper body work, even without the addition of a 35lb, wobbly passenger. YOU SHOULD TOTALLY PUT "2x4 on your holiday wish list. Guaranteed someone will be like, "Seriously? I get to go to Home Depot and buy you a five dollar piece of wood and you're going to be thrilled?" Make someone's holiday wishes come true, won't you?
Day 9: Activate Your Intercostals. You have a group of muscles in between each rib; the use of these muscles is a "part" of your respiratory, expectorating (coughing), and immune systems. Tie a pair of tights or pantyhose (what are pantyhose???), tights, elastic tubing around the lower portion of your rib cage. Breathe in deeply, trying to stretch the elastic (make sure you're using something stretchy--NOT a yoga strap). Then breathe out, trying to pull your rib cage in and away from the elastic. Exhalation muscles are not only the intercostal muscles, but your abdominal muscles as well. (BONUS CORE STRENGTH! You're welcome.) Movement of these muscles and joints is super-important to the optimal function of many systems SO MOVE THEM ALREADY!
Since you now have this set of nine exercises, make a circuit and run through it 2-4 times every day. It should fit into those extra 20-30 minute windows that pop up now and then. Have fun!!!