Alleviate your holiday stress in 10 minutes or less
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Updated Jan 18, 2017
’Tis the season for jammed parking lots, sold-out merchandise, and malls so busy they make you claustrophobic. Bah humbug, right?
Give your inner Grinch the heave-ho-ho-ho with a quick Christmas workout that's fun and simple.
Yes, visiting, hosting, shopping, and just plain being inundated with holiday messaging can leave you feeling tense, overwhelmed, and exhausted. The last thing you want to do is drag your backside into a gym. I get it.
But get this: your muscle tension, racing mind, and smoking-hot credit card all need a break and an outlet to release, and you can either enhance your chance of getting a stocking full of coal by releasing it on others while inching along in a traffic jam or set aside 10 minutes in your day and release some stress in your own workshop.
In fact, exercise has been shown to have a buffering effect on our brain’s ability to cope with a stressful stimulus. With exercise, it takes greater exposure to stressful stimulus to elicit a stress response. That’s right! With an investment of as little as 10 minutes per day, you can put up with more toy snatching, wine spilling, and kid whining than ever before!
Try two rounds of these five fun and festive exercises to de-stress, re-energize, and maybe even create a little room for more eggnog and sugar cookies.
Reindeer Push-ups (8 to 10 repetitions)
Target: chest, front shoulders, core, quadriceps
Depending on your current level of upper body strength, this exercise can be performed either from your knees (beginner) or toes (more advanced).
Begin in a push-up starting position.
Pull your hips up toward the ceiling, shift your weight back toward your heels, push your chest toward the floor, and straighten your arms, bringing you into what is known as Downward Facing Dog position in yoga.
From here, push your hips toward the floor (keeping them off the ground), shifting your weight forward into your hands, as you bring your chest up. At the same time, bend your elbows and sink down into a push-up position, so that your chest comes within 2 in (5 cm) of the ground, allowing your upper body to rock forward, in between your hands.
Once at the bottom of this position, reverse the movement by pulling your hips back up toward the ceiling, shifting your weight from your hands back into your heels, pushing yourself away from the floor, and dropping your chest back toward the floor, ending up in starting position.
Kwanzaa Cutbacks (8 to 12 repetitions)
Target: glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, core
Stand on your left foot only, with knee bent, and your right knee bent with the foot in the air behind you.
Deepen your left knee bend a little further as you shift your arms across your body and to the left side.
Once your position is “loaded,” leap as far as you can to your right, landing on your right foot and absorbing the impact.
Perform the same motion on the right side, and leap to your left.
Note: If a leap aggravates any knee or back issues you may have, change the leap to as large a side-step as you can muster, minimizing impact.
Lie face down on the ground, with your arms extended in front of you and legs extended behind you.
Keeping your chin down in a neutral position, raise your arms, chest, and legs off the floor, as high as you can, as if trying to balance on your hips.
Once you’ve reached the highest possible position, fan your arms out to your sides, eventually bringing your hands down beside your pockets while keeping your arms as straight as possible.
At the same time, part your legs as wide as possible, keeping them straight. Once you have achieved this upside down “Y” shape with your body, return your arms and legs to starting position, and lower your arms, legs, and torso to the ground.
Santa’s Broken Sleigh-Pulls (20 repetitions)
Target: abdominals, shoulders, triceps
Begin on all fours, in a push-up starting position, with hands and feet both wider than shoulder width.
Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, bring your right knee forward to touch your right elbow (or as close to it as you can).
Return your right foot to starting position (maintaining feet width), and then complete the same with the other leg.
Less intense: Perform this exercise from your knees, rather than your feet.
More intense: Increase the pace of your knee drives.
Begin in a push-up starting position (on hands and toes) with feet touching and hands together, so that you have a narrow base.
Step your left foot as far forward as you can beside your left hand. Once you feel stable, raise your arms to chest height out in front of you or above your head if you are feeling especially balanced. Pause for a count of 3 seconds, and then lower your hands and arms to starting position. Step your left foot back beside your right, and then complete the same motion with your left leg.
Less intense: Beginners may want to do this exercise first from their hands and knees.
Give yourself some stress-busters
A rum and eggnog isn’t the only other way to de-stress over the holidays! To support your stress-busting workout, try
getting a holiday massage
taking some time to relax in a sauna or steam room
going for a yoga session or two
stepping outside for a short walk
adding a midday stretch to your workday to loosen some stiff and achy muscles
getting much-needed sleep
Remember, as much as our body is an extension of our stress levels, our stress levels take their cue from our body as well. A relaxed body can help create a relaxed mind.
Supplements to “sleigh” the stress
You may also want to consider oral and olfactory supplementation, which have all been shown to combat the effects of stress and enhance your calm.
Teas: camomile, peppermint, and green
Ingestibles: magnesium and zinc
Scents: lavender and nutmeg (you may want to sneak this one into your baking!)
Visit your local health food store and ask a professional about the safe and effective supplements that can help de-stress your life.
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, specializes in functional movement and athletic training in Vancouver, where he strives to bring healthy lifestyle choices to every household.