All I want for Christmas is to touch my toes…
It’s crunch time! No, not like “8 Minute Abs”. I’m also not referring to the approaching holiday season, and the inevitable sensation of hours simply vaporizing as you frantically rush to purchase gifts for everyone on your Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa list… although that definitely feeds into it. What I’m writing about is the lack of time we have during this part of the year for taking care of our bodies.
With company holiday parties, school and church plays, cookie baking get-togethers, and family traveling into town or you traveling to them, the amount of time we normally allot for fitness is compressed and at other times, completely eliminated. And if you’re like me, in my younger (read: dumber) years, the first thing I jettisoned when workout time was limited were my warm-ups, cool-downs, and mobility.
Those aren’t really necessary, are they? You can just do a few burpees and air-squats and you’re good to go, right? MAYBE if you’re 21. Not so much for anyone over the age over 30 or for those of us who have been working out for more than just a few years (and have the cranky knees, back, shoulders to prove it). We will likely live to regret bailing on what can sometimes seem arbitrary, like mobility and stretching. So, how in the heck do we work in a warm-up, the workout itself AND mobility into an already super tight schedule? Read on! I’ve got tips!
Focus On One Or Two Key Elements Of Your Training
First, be okay focusing on just ONE element of training in a given session. If you’re not a professional athlete, and my guess is that most of you reading the article have yet to make a single penny for your fitness efforts. It’s perfectly okay to not get your gymnastics, weightlifting, powerlifting, intervals, sport specific work, AND 3 metcons into every training day during the holiday season. I SWEAR TO KRIS KRINGLE you WILL NOT lose all your gainzzzzz because you didn’t get 2-3 hours of working out in during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. In fact, some of you might actually find that you feel AMAZING and make more progress with less training because you’ve been hammering a little too hard for too long and you’re under-recovered. Focus on one or two elements a day when time is short. Think QUALITY over QUANTITY. Call it “Minimalist Training”. Talk to all the “kids” at the gym about how CrossFit was back in 2008. Embrace it. Then, when time is in abundance you can go back to the more is more training, IF you still want to.
Make Sure To Warm-Up
Second, budget in the warm-up! If you’ve got a total of 20 minutes of training time, reserve at least 5 of those minutes for a short but efficient warm-up. If you’ve never injured yourself because of a lackadaisical or completely absent warm-up, consider yourself lucky. It’s only a matter of time before you visit Snap City. When you do, I promise it’s A) zero percent fun to have an injury and B) feels really fantastically idiotic. Take the 5 stinking minutes to prep your body instead of having to deal with weeks, months or possibly even years of pain and limited movement. Just consider it a non-negotiable part of your routine like brushing your teeth at night. If you’re going to work-out, you’re going to warm-up.
Make Time For Stretching & Mobility
Third, sneak in mobility wherever you can! There are opportunities to work in stretching and mobility work EVERYWHERE. The easiest place to sneak in pigeon and saddle poses are in-between weightlifting sets. Instead of scrolling through your Instagram feed, do a set of squats, cleans or snatches then, during your rest, hit a favorite stretch or mobility piece. If you don’t know what stretches to include, think about what muscles you’re working and stretch those OR prioritize problem areas. But, focus on short periods of stretching or: 15 or less NOT the long static stretches found in popular mobility programs and yin based yoga. If you’re doing a cardio or metcon session, instead of keeling over in a heap at the end and just lying there panting and making sweat angels, roll over and spend a few minutes catching your breath while you sit in child’s pose or in a lying hamstring or hip stretch.
You can also work mini-mobility sessions in during your day whenever you have a few minutes or even seconds to spare. I honestly used to (ok, I still do this…) tease my husband for being “weird” and dropping down into a squat in the middle of the produce section of the grocery store or for stretching his hip flexors while we wait in line, BUT honestly, if you can work in some stretching here and there, it can add up and leave you feeling less tight and achy with basically no extra time required. Yep, you might look a little strange to some, but who cares if your low back hurts less, right?!
Other less conspicuous ways to sneak in mobility is to stretch at your desk or in your office when you start to feel tight or fatigued. Set a timer on your phone and every 30-60 minutes get up and stretch. You’ll probably find that you feel less tired if you do this too. Sitting at a computer all day can leave our necks, upper backs and chest tight and thereby making you feel tense, anxious, fatigued and might even give you a headache. Stretching throughout the day can help prevent that!
Be Active During The Downtime
I’ve also found that family time spent watching TV or movies during the holidays is a great time to get on the floor and stretch my hamstrings, low back and quads while still being totally engaged with those around me. Again, your family might think you’re a little kooky BUT again, who cares if you feel better for it and prevent injuries. Plus, you’re setting a great example and you might even get some of them to join you! So throw on Elf, get into a seated straddle, and enjoy!
So, there you have it. No excuses to skip your warm-ups or your mobility sessions during the holidays and honestly, it’s not worth it. Remember if you work-out, you warm-up. You can stretch in-between sets or right after your workout (every little bit helps), and you can sneak in stretching throughout your day any time you have a few spare minutes or seconds! We’d love to see how you guys work in mobility during the holidays! Take a pic of you getting it in and tag us on social media!