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10+ Ways To Move More And Stress Less Over The Holidays
Too often, the holidays aren’t actually much of a holiday at all. They end up being jam packed with parties, errands and family time – which can make it feel impossible to get any kind of exercise or self care or even just rest. It’s hard to move more when you’re super busy!
Well, my friend, I feel you. I love seeing family but I don’t love how I feel after too many days of sitting in chairs and being tempted by cheese and wine. These days, I have a huge arsenal of strategies I use to move more so my holidays stay more body-friendly! Some of them need NO EXTRA TIME at all. Others are ways you can move more with your friends and family so you can replace time spent in front of the TV with some super fun movement (and build some memories). And some of them are my favourite ways to give myself a movement treat, for those times when you actually CAN manage to sneak away.
How To Move More With Your People
Your tribe is gathered for the holidays anyway. Be the change you want to see in the world and create some movement-focused activities to make a change from the endless round of eating and laying about. Here are some ideas to help you move more with your friends and family.
#1 Get Them Out Into Nature
The holidays are the perfect time to plan outdoor activities. Whether you want to spend more time with your family or get away from them, getting outside is the perfect way move more! Skip the board-games and movies. Instead, plan a hike! Or if you’re lucky enough to have snow, try a snowshoeing trip, cross-country skiing or some tobogganing. I like to bring hot tea or cocoa as a warming treat, and a snack for afterwards.
This takes a little more work than some of my other ideas, but it’s first because it’s my favourite. It’s such a treat to enjoy the outdoors and there’s so much evidence that it’s amazing for your health. You’ll end up feeling great, making amazing memories, and bonding with your people. I highly recommend doing the work to make this happen!
#2 Invite Your Humans For A Walk
A walk is fabulous. But a walk with someone else is even better. It’s way more fun to walk when you have company. And it fills both your need for movement and your need for spending time with your family and friends. Such a simple thing but so powerful!
Plan walking dates with friends, or grab your partner and kids when you head to the store to pick up last-minute groceries. Getting groceries gives you bonus points because then you get to carry them home! If you have to do a run to get gifts, try skipping the strip mall and find a place where you can go for a walk as well as getting your shopping done.
Also, a walk is perfect after a big meal, and will help you digest better and sleep better. One of my favourite memories of this season was a walk that Chris and I took after dinner one night. Snow was falling heavily and everything was peaceful in a blanket of white. The snowflakes were giant and super fluffy and they glowed in the streetlights. It was completely magical…
#3 Create An Indoor Obstacle Course
If you can’t get outside, an indoor obstacle course can be a seriously fun way to move more indoors! It’s amazing how challenging it can be to try to walk or crawl around a route made out of ordinary things like your couch and a few half-domes. I don’t have kids but this makes me feel like one!
Tips for an awesome obstacle course:
Step One: Clear away all your breakable stuff from near your planned route. Also watch for small debris – you definitely don’t want to land on a lego by accident!
Step Two: Find an assortment of obstacles. Here are some ideas:
From the studio: Exercise equipment like Bosu balls, yoga blocks, swiss balls, half domes, bolsters, boxes, or benches – basically anything that’s sturdy enough for you to step on it, hang on it, crawl under it, or balance on it.
From the garage: 2x4s, poles, ladders, sturdy boxes, or even tires. Use these to create balance beams, crawling pathways, and obstacles to go over or under. You can set your 2x4 up on the ground, or raise one or both ends to add some height and instability. Try setting one end on a cushion for real excitement!
From the living room: sturdy coffee tables and chairs make great things to crawl over or under. An old sofa is super fun to scramble on. Floor cushions and blankets create fun, uneven surfaces.
What other items make for great obstacles? Let me know in the comments below!
Step Three: Create your route – perhaps in consultation with your team. Try to make obstacles that you must go over, and under. Add some balance and stability challenges.
Step Four: Now it’s time to play! Walking it is a good way to start. Then advance by trying some crawling – here are some good crawling options you can try. If that goes well, try it again while you carry something (and yes, that includes crawling). Pretend that your floor is entirely covered in poison ivy and do your best to avoid touching it at all times. Unless of course you have an obstacle where you need to move over the floor! Once everyone’s nailed your route, you can rearrange your obstacles to make an entirely new challenge.
Pro tip: One thing I love to do is to set up an obstacle course in my studio (you can do this in any room that doesn’t get regular traffic) and leave it there. Then when I need a movement break, I just go and do a couple of quick circuits.
#4 Enjoy Your Christmas Movies On The Floor
Chris and I almost never watch TV. Except at Christmas, when we seem to indulge in our annual TV show or movies. A few years ago it was Sherlock (soooooo great!) and last year I only wanted to watch movies about food and wine (my favorite was one called Somm about becoming a master sommelier). This year, I’m inclining towards The Crown…
When it’s time for movie night, we do a quick rearrangement to get set up. I pull out some yoga mats and bolsters from the studio, grab a few half domes and some YTU balls, and then we’re off to the races! My favourite go-to movie-watching moves are exercises that let me see the screen (duh!). My favourite floor moves are:
Or, just practice sitting on the floor in a neutral pelvis, which will naturally help you stretch out your hips.
Ways You Can Move More – No Extra Time Required
You’ve got stuff to do. That means you might not have extra time to have a dedicated exercise session. So here are some ideas for how you can move more while you’re the other stuff you have to do.
#5 Change How You Move In The Kitchen
Try squatting to cut up your veggies. This is a super simple way to amp up your movement while you’re doing things that need to be done anyway.
Set up a workstation on a large tray that you can carry back and forth from the counter to the ground. I always grab a cutting board, a knife, a bowl for peelings, and a bowl to put my veggies into. I find that I can’t do this for very long – but not to worry, because everything’s on a tray and you can just stand up again when your body starts to complain.
If a full squat isn’t right for your body, prop up your heels with a half dome or a rolled yoga mat.
For bonus points, try doing this outside. It’s great to get the fresh air and a chance to look at the horizon.
#6 Pick ONE No-Extra Time Required Exercise And Do It Daily
Finding extra time to exercise is so hard for most of us! Although I’m a big fan of exercise time, you can get a LOT more movement into your life when you work exercises into your daily activities. Fortunately there are lots and lots of really great and super nutritious exercises you can do this with. I recommend starting by picking one that you think you can do no problem and commit to doing it every day over the holidays. Here are some ideas:
#1 Do this calf stretch while you wash your dishes.
#2 Try Doorway Walkthroughs. Pick a door. Every time you walk through it, grab the top of the doorframe (or the sides, if you’re my height). Reach your arms up and stretch for about 20 seconds (making sure to keep your ribs down).
#3 Pelvic list when you’re brushing your teeth.
#4 Stand on one leg to put on your shoes and try not to grab the wall or lean while you put them on.
#5 Practice this squat each time you get up out of a chair. Use a mirror at first so you can watch what your knee is up to.
#6 Try a few Counter Top Press Ups from Katy Bowman’s Core Strength Advent each time you make a meal.
#7 Take a few breaths using your rib cage – use your hands or your bra strap to help you know you’re getting into the right muscles.
Treat Yourself – Take 20-30 Minutes Just For You
If you’re lucky enough to have time to make yourself and your movement a priority, here are some of the best things you can do to move more in under 30 minutes.
#7 Read A Great Book About Movement
Ok, so reading isn’t itself a way to move more, but I’m putting this in here anyway because, hey, we’re talking about the holidays! Resting is pretty fantastic self-care and I figure that if you’re reading a book about movement you should get some points. If you pick the right book, it can be a great inspiration to move more, too.
Want to move more while you read? I grab a few bolsters and half domes and shift around a lot. Plus I take a break every half hour or so to look at far away things and give my eyes a rest.
There’s something I love about reading that I just don’t get from TV. It always feels both indulgent and worthwhile – which is exactly how I prefer my self-care. And there are some fabulous new books out this year that I can highly recommend.
Movement Matters – Katy’s new book is a fascinating, thought-provoking and engaging exploration of the ways in which our individual movement impacts the world around us. She offers practical suggestions for strategies that can allow you to be healthier as you create positive impacts on your community and on the natural environment. It’s inspiring, thought-provoking and fun – I highly recommend it.
Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well – My awesome friends Roland and Galina wrote this book that’s literally packed with simple ways to help you live healthier. I think I’m pretty good at being healthy, but I still found lots of ideas I can work on. Each chapter offers a simple strategy to help you move more, eat (and drink) better, or create moments of peace and self-care. And it’s fun to read, interesting and accessible. Each short chapter is totally fast, so if you don’t have lots of time, it’s still really easy to get lots of value out of it.
#8 Release Your Psoas Muscles
Your psoas muscles are a HUGE deal! They are part of your deep core muscular system, and they actually connect directly between your spine and your legs. So when they’re unhappy, you’re probably going to be unhappy too.
Taking 5-15 minutes to lay down in a quiet spot and indulge in a gentle psoas release can be just what the doctor ordered, especially if you’ve been feeling stressed or you have back pain or hip issues. This exercise is super relaxing and helps your access your parasympathetic nervous system (aka your ‘rest and digest’ mode – which many of us miss out on due to our modern lives). It’s especially great to do right before you head off on a walk.
Want more details on the psoas release? This one is on video in the Deeply Relaxing Holidays Mini Workout download at the bottom of this post.
#9 Relax With Some Self-Massage
I am a HUGE fan of Yoga Tune Up therapy balls. Rolling on balls lets you make lots of funny jokes and it feels fantastic. Rolling can help you activate your parasympathetic nervous system – also known as your ‘rest & digest’ state. If you already have a set of balls (haha! See? Lots of jokes) then you probably already know that rolling before bedtime is a perfect way to take some ‘me-time’ and help ensure a great night’s sleep.
If you don’t have any balls yet, now is the perfect time to get some. Ask Santa, if that’s the way you roll, or treat yourself to a gift that will keep on giving all year long. I highly recommend getting the full set of sizes – they’re all super useful and fantastic. Jill Miller’s excellent book, The Roll Model, is packed with ways to use the balls. And I’ve put together a little Relaxing Holidays Mini Workout for you to grab at the bottom of this post that includes a couple of my all-time favourite rolling techniques. Super fun!
#10 Take A Restorative Exercise Class
The holidays are the perfect time to try some Restorative Exercise! Online classes are awesome because you can do them at exactly the time that suits you the best, which can really help you move more!
If you’ve never tried the Alignment Snack series, I highly recommend them as a place to start your movement journey. Also, they’re only $5.00. Which ones to try? All of them are going to be good for your body and help take your mind off your least-favourite uncle. But to help you pick, here are some of the ones that stand out for me:
‘Walk This Way, Stand This Way’ – A great one for beginners. Katy goes over standing alignment and the exercises will help you become a better walker.
‘Everybody Needs A Little Shoulder Bolster’ – Everybody really does need a little bolstering! This gentle class feels great and will help get some much-needed length into your chest and shoulder muscles.
‘All Around The Thighs We Go’ – This one is intense! As someone who loves intense things, it was made for me (and I think it was actually the second Snack I ever did – it totally won me over).
‘A Real Pain In The Neck’ – As someone with loads of neck and shoulder tightness thanks to my tongue tie, this Snack has a special place in my heart. It will help your neck feel incredible – and it’s nice and relaxing, too, so it’s perfect for the season!
A Little Gift For You This Holiday Season….
I’m hoping that this post has given you lots of ideas about how you can move more over the holidays. Each time you move, your cells will thank you!
In the spirit of the season, I’ve made a mini-workout for you to download – just click the link below. This one is all about relaxing and feeling great, so don’t expect to sweat. Instead, you’ll get a delicious lower back massage, less tension, and a few minutes of pure and luscious self-care. Plus it’s short, so you can fit it in even if you don’t have much time. I hope you love it!
Wishing you and yours all the best for the holidays!
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Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body – and she’s always happy to chat about it. When she’s not teaching, you’ll probably find her hanging out on a set of monkey bars.