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 advents here:
EXERCISE ADVENT 2014: Walking
EXERCISE ADVENT 2016: Core Strength
EXERCISE ADVENT 2017: You DO Know Squat
EXERCISE ADVENT 2018: Get Heavy
EXERCISE ADVENT 2019: Dynamic Home Advent-ure
EXERCISE ADVENT 2020: With a Twist
EXERCISE ADVENT 2021: Take A Breather
EXERCISE ADVENT 2022: A BUTT For The Holidays
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!
Day 10: Forearm TLC. I call this one "better late than never". I call it that because it's been a long day!
Place the backs of the hands together, thumbs touching. Lower the hands toward elbow height without letting the hands come apart. If they do raise your hands up to where they were last fully touching. This makes for a great computer break and I also do it between hanging/swinging sessions.
Day 11: Jump and Reach. How do your vertical reaches compare? My right is longer and I always prefer reaching right. Today, find something you have to jump to reach. Maybe it's the ceiling, maybe it's the doorway. Jump and touch with your right and then try it with your left. How do they compare? Can you jump touch right and then jump touch left without a break? What about left then right? Can you do a few sets of these, then all the other advent exercises and then another set (if you have 30 minutes to spare)? Don't feel like jumping? Stand in front of a mirror with both arms reaching over head and see how your right and left reach compare. Reaching is not only an upper body motion; it involves your rib cage and waist too. When you add the jump, it's a whole-body phenomenon!
Day 12: Check Your Hands. Not so much a "to do" as it is a "to notice." When you're in a quadruped position (or a hand stand or using your hands to push into the floor), does your entire hand participate (right hand) or do you work around your hand tension, allowing your hands to cup the floor (left hand). A hand that doesn't sit on the floor is being pulled away by tension in the finger joints. Try a few of your "on the hands" poses to see how your hands measure up and take a crack or two at a flat-handed version!
Day 13: Hand-Finger-Forearm Stretch. Place your fingertips on a table or desk. Without letting any other part of your hands touch the table, press your palms forward to extend all the finger joints. Keep your elbows bent and pointing behind you. The two pics on the right are the cheats: straightening the elbows and putting the palms down (takes the load from the fingers and just slams the wrist and elbow joints) or keeping the fingers bent (similar to bending your knees on a forward bend. Let's you accomplish "the move" by taking the tension of the tight parts). Enjoy!
Day 14: 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 15: Interlaced Fingers Stretch. linking you hands and dropping them overhead is easier when you make tiny adjustments to your geometry, bypassing some of the tissues you though you were challenging. So, link your hands, but check if you have rounded hands (bottom left) or are stopping the load at the wrist joints (top left). See if you can maintain the rounded shape (I.e. Finger-joint extension) as you go over. And speaking of going over, keep your ribs down (bottom right) instead of letting them flare (top right), which is one way of getting the shoulders to the ground without actually using the shoulders. YOU'RE SO CLEVER! Try both versions and see how the loads change when you only allow the movements you want.
Day 16: The Chocolate Move. Use your HANDS to put some vanilla ghee (from @tavalifeorganic) on some fair trade, organic dark chocolate. Use your other hand to sprinkle a pinch of salt, and then eat the whole thing in one bite.
Day 17: Video
Day 18: Video
Day 19: Stack Some Wood. Today's upper body work includes stacking two cords of wood. I used to hate chores because they cut into the things I wanted to do. Once I reframed it though, and saw that the benefits to be found in hours of wood stacking (I.e. movement, family time, outdoor time, money saved), I realized I'd spent much of my life avoiding the very things I was struggling to find.
Day 21: Wrist Stretch. More wrist therapy for you keyboarders out there! Place the BACKS of the hands down on a table surface or floor--fingertips pointing towards you. Lower the wrists towards the floor but also bend the elbows so they point straight back. Don't straighten the elbows to let the hands all the way down and don't poke your elbows out to the right and left ("don'ts" pictured on the right!) Pay attention to your elbows!
Day 22: Video
Day 23: Platysma Stretch. Forgot to share this Upper Body Advent exercise yesterday: Platysma Stretch!
Stack two hands on your chest skin and gently press. Then traction the skin down toward the floor. Lift your chin upward (different than dropping your head back). To get even more of a stretch, press your bottom teeth up toward the ceiling so they pass your front teeth. Keep the head lifting up, not back. Enjoy!
Day 24: Behind-Your-Back Arm Reach. Upper Body Advent, Day 24: Reach your arm back behind you, aiming to get your wrist to align with your spine, bending your elbow as much as possible. Hang out there for a bit, THEN rotate your lower arm so that your palm faces your back (there's only one way you can rotate to do this; if you're unsure, try both ways). I'm fitting this move into my life--doing it while getting our community Christmas EVe brunch cooking. Group hike to follow brunch!