Keep your spirits high this holiday season by incorporating some joyful movement into your routine with our 12 days of fitmas exercises. We partnered with the physical therapists at the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center on some practical, yet challenging exercises that can be done from pretty much anywhere - including your in-laws’ home.
Each exercise can be modified for what feels and works best for your body. For beginners, start with five to 10 reps of each exercise and build up to three sets of 10 or 12 reps. There’s no naughty or nice list for these, so make it work for you and your fitness goals this season
1. Christmas Morning Stretches
Start everyday like its Christmas morning with these morning stretches. Begin with five big shoulder rolls, followed by gazing side to side with neck twists. Never force the neck beyond what is comfortable. Then drop the chin down and slowly look up. Next raise one arm and perform side stretches on each side. Return to center and bend over comfortably to stretch your back and release your neck so it hangs down freely. Slowly rise up with hands above your head to not get dizzy. Complete the Christmas morning stretches with 10 squats.
2. Santa Squats with Three Second Hold
Squats with a three second hold are an excellent lower body exercise especially as many of us plan to be getting back on the slopes soon. When performing a squat, you want to have your feet hip width apart and toes pointing straight ahead. Then sit back as if you are going to sit in a chair. Be mindful not to let your knees come in front of your toes and keep weight equally distributed throughout your foot. Complete 10-15 reps. Work your way up to three sets.
3. Come All Ye Clamshells
Clamshells are a wonderful exercise targeting the gluteus medius. This muscle is on the outside of our hip and helps us lift our leg out to the side. This muscle can tend to be weak if we do not incorporate a lot of lateral movements into our workouts or daily routines. Strengthening the glute med helps add stability to the pelvis. To perform a clamshell, you will lie on your side with your knees bent. Keeping your hips stacked and slightly rolled forward, leaving your ankles together, you will open your top knee and then close. Do not let your hips roll backward. You should feel this working in the back/side of your hip, not in the front. To make this more challenging, consider adding a loop resistance band above your knees or performing a side plank while performing clamshells.
4. Alpine Skier
Get your heart rate up with these alpine skier exercises. Place a piece of tape or small object on the ground to jump over safely. Set a timer for 30 seconds and hop lightly back and forth sideways for 30 seconds. For a more challenging workout, use a taller item to jump over. Work your way up to three sets of 30 seconds.
These nutcrackers are a great way to strengthen your core. Begin on your back with your knees bent and shoulders pressing down to the floor away from the ears. Lift legs up with knees bent, followed by arms raised to the ceiling. Alternate extending one arm and on leg. The object is to keep the ribs tucked, and back flat against the ground. Complete 10 on each side with a knee to chest hug in between sets. Work your way up to three sets.
6. Twinkle Star Balance
Feel the holiday burn and engage your lower body with these one leg star reaches. Begin by standing on one leg. Extend your leg and tap your foot into the five points of a star while holding two to three seconds at each point. Repeat on the opposite leg. Balance tip: Keep a chair nearby in case you need extra support while completing the twinkle star balance exercise. Complete three reps on each leg.
7. Polar Bear Crawls
Bear crawls are a great alternative to traditional core exercises and are a great total body exercise. To perform a bear crawl, you will begin on hands and knees. You will leave your knees bent at ~90 degrees and then push through your arms, your toes, and tighten through your core to hover your knees off the ground. To increase the stability challenge of this exercise, maintain this position while walking forward and backward or to the left and right while maintaining level hips and a flat back.
8. Prancer Toes
Romanian deadlift with heel kicks and medium weights are a great way to connect the lower and upper body in one smooth exercise. Begin by hinging at the hips with arms slightly forward in an active position and kick one leg behind you. Slowly hinge up while completing a bicep curl. If you're spending the holidays away from the gym, you can use cranberry cans instead of weights or disregard the weights completely. Complete 10 reps on each side. Work your way up to three sets.
9. Elf on the Shelf
Create full body movement with these lateral lunges that incorporate an overhead press. These "elf on the shelf" exercises are a great way to work your glutes and shoulders at the same time. Begin with medium to heavy weights in a shoulder press position. Move into a lateral lunge and move the hips back. Pop back into center position while keeping the lunge leg lifted at center. Push the opposite arm of the leg that is up into a shoulder press. Head back into the lateral lunge and move the shoulder press arm back down to shoulder position. Complete 10 reps on each side. Work your way up to three sets.
10. Reindeer Deadlifts
Staggered deadlifts target the glutes and hamstrings. These reindeer deadlifts might not feel intense in the moment, but the next day burn surprise you. Start by staggering the feet with most of the weight on the forward leg. Hinge at the hips and move forward until you feel a stretch. Tighten the glutes and drive the weight in the front foot into the ground by moving up and back. Follow through until the glutes squeeze and then release. Complete 10 on each side. Work your way up to three sets.
11. Mistle (Tip) Toe
Heel raises are good for calf strengthening and balance. These one leg heel raises can be done next to a chair with either a finger or hand placed for balance. While one leg is raised, rise to the toes comfortably 10-15 times slowly. Work your way up to three sets.
12. Cross Country Skier
These cross-country skier exercises provide a full body burn just like the sport it's named after. Start the cross-country skier exercise with a mini squat. Reach forward with weights followed by pulling back to a chest press position. End the sequence with a tricep elbow extension. Repeat the tricep elbow extension 10 times. Work your way up to three sets.
CU Medicine offers specialized therapies including physical therapy, sports performance training and surgeries.