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Two Easy Exercises To Keep Up Your Fitness and Sanity Over The Holidays

by | Dec 13, 2021

We all get busy over the holidays in one way or another. Sometimes our minds get busy with negative thoughts when we are lonely, sad, or just plain overwhelmed. Exercise is truly medicine in this case. It helps calm the mind, releases unwanted stagnant energy in our cells from stress and emotions, and keeps our mind and body connected.

These Two go-to exercises will help you stay sane and fit over the next month.

First Tummy Vacuums

Figure 1 Tummy Vaccum
Figure 2 Shortstop Tummy Vaccum

This simple yet effective exercise will keep the core strong and engaged to support your back during high-stress times. Finish your set off with 10 cat-cows to lubricate the spine and relax the mind. Do this at least once a day and you will feel the shift in energy and the support in your low back.

Cues:

  1. Start on all fours with the knees under the hips and the hands under the shoulders, as in figure 1.
  2. Make sure that your arms are at a 90-degree angle to the torso and the hips are at a 90-degree angle. Your head should be in line with your shoulders and hips, as if you had a stick on your back, figure 1.
  3. Draw your belly button in just enough to slim your waistline slightly (do not round your back). Hold this position for 10 seconds and then relax for 10 seconds, without letting the low back sag.
  4. It is important that there is no change in your upper back as you perform this exercise.

Modifications:

  1. If you have difficulty holding a neutral spine, place a dowel rod (6’ x 1 3/8”) on your back as a cue for where your body alignment should be. The dowel rod should make 3-points of contact; head, mid-thoracic spine, and sacrum.
  2. If you have difficulty getting on your knees you can do this in a shortstop position, standing with hands on the thighs as in figure 2.

Variables:

       Reps:    10               

         Sets:    1-3             

   Tempo:    10 seconds on, 10 seconds off

Intensity:   -2 reps (stop when you can do 2 more reps with good form)                         

        Rest:    60-90 sec.

Benefits:

This is an excellent exercise to train the transversus abdominis (core stabilizers) while maintaining good posture. It can also create stability in the neck and shoulder joints.

Once you have completed your tummy vacuums, immediately perform 10-20 Cat-Cows.

Figure 3 Cat Pose
Figure 4 Cow Pose

Cat-Cow

Cues:

  1. Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position as in figure 1. Be sure your knees are directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows, and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Center your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor.
  2. As you exhale, round the back like a “cat” drawing your belly button in lightly, figure 3.
  3. As you inhale, lift your sit bones and chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink toward the floor slightly. Lift your head to look straight, figure 4.
  4. Move slowly in and out of the pose. If you feel any discomfort in the low back, bring the spine to neutral (tabletop figure 1 ) instead of the cow position.

Benefits:

  1. Pumps spinal fluid through the spine.
  2. Opens up the upper and lower back.
  3. Gentle massage to the internal organs.
  4. Calms the mind.

Precautions:

If you have a neck injury, keep the head in line with the torso.

If you cannot get on your knees, perform cat-cow in the shortstop position as in figure 2.

The second best exercise is….WALKING

Walking is an amazing exercise to increase health, decrease stress and improve muscle mass. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 5 days per week. The good news is, you don’t have to do 30 minutes consecutively for health benefits. So when you are grocery shopping, or Christmas shopping or just running errands, park far from the door and walk briskly. If you live in an area that is easy to walk in, take a quick 10-minute walk outside. Literally, just put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door 😊 You got this.

A Few Pointers:

1. Walk with your elbows bent 90 degrees and moving back and forth along your sides, don’t let your hands cross your body as this causes stress on the spine.

2. Don’t use hand weights, this really throws off your body’s balance and can cause more harm than good.

3. Wear shoes that support your feet and if you walk often, change your shoes every 3 months.

4. Drink plenty of water.

5. To the best of your ability lift your toes up to the sky and really engage the front of your shins.

6. Use poles if your balance is a little unsteady, everyone uses them nowadays and they can really help until you get stronger.

7. If you wear headphones, only cover one ear so you can hear cars or bikes approaching.

Walking 5 times a week will:

1. Improve cardiovascular health

2. Lower blood pressure

3. Lower bad cholesterol

4. Improve lung capacity

5. Improve muscle tone

6. Improve bone density

7. Help with diabetes if done at the same time every day (My Dad does this and he is doing amazing)

8. Clear your mind and allow positive thoughts

9. Increase energy

10. Improve sleep

As Nike says…Just Do It! Happy Holidays and Happy Walking

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