Handle The Holidays With Movement Snacks

Handle The Holidays With Movement Snacks

By Kati Terray, Master Instructor

Thanksgiving is just moments away, and the holidays are in full swing! Hopefully you’re enjoying some tasty meals with family and friends. Just like healthy foods nourish us and provide us with energy, movement is another vital “fuel” that we need to stay healthy. So let’s say you train at the gym 4 days a week for an hour or so at a time – that’s enough activity, right? It’s probably enough training for most people’s goals, but it’s definitely not enough movement.  Have no fear, I’ve got lots of ideas for you on how to move more throughout your day, as well as some info on why you should. But let’s talk first about moving better.

Like many things in life, movement is an area where quality really matters. Your body has optimal ways that your joints should move and muscles should function. Spending time checking in with how well your body is moving, and taking a look a limitations and asymmetries is key to moving safely and avoiding injuries.  But if you aren’t feeling any pain, and you don’t really perceive any major roadblocks in how you move, why should you care about this stuff?  After all, self-massage and joint mobility practices aren’t nearly as sexy as deadlifts and military presses, and they certainly won’t get as many likes on social media. Here are a couple hypothetical scenarios to consider:

Susie’s fitness goal is to burn fat and show better muscle tone. Her right hip and ankle aren’t moving as well as they should, but they don’t really bother her on a daily basis, so she’s not worried about it.  She wants to hit it hard in the gym 5 days a week because she really wants to look awesome at her high school reunion coming up in a couple of months.

Susie’s husband Jimmy also wants to look good at Susie’s high school reunion.  Her high school boyfriend was a beefcake football player, and Jimmy wants to add some size and strength to show her ex who’s the beefcake now.  His thoracic spine and shoulders are so tight he can’t reach behind him to scratch his back, but he read an article that said back squats are one of the best ways to add mass quickly, and he wants in.

Why should Susie and Jimmy dedicate time to working on their movement issues?  If they just start training harder and more often, won’t that be enough? Well, let’s say your car has one tire that’s leaking air. You might be able to drive around for quite a while before you notice the leak.  And you might be able to sneak in a few more trips around town before you take it in to have the tire repaired.  Even if you get lucky and the tire doesn’t deflate all the way and leave you stranded on the side of the road, you’ve probably noticed the car driving funny now and the alignment feeling off… OK, it’s obvious I’m no mechanic, and you get the idea, so I’ll get back to talking about human movement instead.

If Susie’s hip and ankle are moving better obviously she not only reduces her risk of injury, but her training sessions are going to be more effective, and she will get more out of them. If she can move through more full ranges of motion and have better muscle activation, of course she is going to be able to burn more fat and build more muscle than if she is limited in her mobility.  The same goes for Jimmy – if he can get better movement in his upper body, we can get his shoulders in a better position to load weight on his back squat to help with his mass building goals.

It makes sense when you think about it, and it doesn’t take too much effort to pay attention and really tune in to how your body is moving when you are doing your warm up (we call this Prime and Prep here at ProBar) for your workout. Unfortunately it’s pretty common to rush through parts of a mobility practice, or skip it all together if you are in a hurry.  It’s even more common to completely forget about your mobility practice outside the gym.  Wait… am I suggesting that it’s going to take more than 30 seconds of shoulder mobility practice 3 times a week in your training sessions at the gym to see progress with your mobility?!  Well, yes. Now it’s time to talk about moving more – not necessarily training more, but moving more outside of training by incorporating “movement snacks”.

Hopefully reduced risk of injury, better performance during your training sessions, greater ability to burn fat, increased ability to build muscle, and general moving and feeling better are good enough reasons to convince you that quality matters when it comes to movement. It turns out there are also some pretty scary reasons to move more throughout your day.  There is quite a lot of research that links long periods of sitting to heart disease, dementia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain, increased anxiety, diabetes, certain types of cancers, and even premature death. Yikes! Not to mention, sitting for long stretches creates a huge amount of stress on your spine and can contribute to back and neck pain even if you sit with good posture.

The reality of our modern world is that we spend a significant portion of our time seated.  We work jobs that have us behind desks for the entire day.  We commute for long periods of time in vehicles wherever we need to go.  We spend our leisure time on the couch. Let’s say your 24 hours is broken down as follows: 8 hours at your desk at work, 8 hours sleeping, 1 hour commuting in the car, 2 hours on the couch watching TV, 1 hour seated eating meals, 1 hour at the gym, 3 hours for everything else like getting dressed and running errands etc.  Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad day – lots of us work way more than 8 hours, sleep way fewer than 8 hours and spend way more time than 1 hour in the car.  But even in this scenario, this is still 83% of the day spent on your bum or your back.  And that 1 hour at the gym is nowhere close to enough to offset all the damage done by sitting.

Our best hope of combatting the problems associated with sitting is to move more and sit less, but it can seem pretty impossible given the lifestyle described above.  Fortunately this is where “movement snacks” come in, and I’ve got a few ideas to help you:

  • If you work at a desk, take a break at least once an hour for 10 minutes.  You may not be able to do a joint mobility practice in your office  (if you can, you should), but there is probably something you can do.  Can you stand to take your next phone call? Take a walk to go refill your water bottle? If you need to brainstorm with a co-worker, maybe you could walk and talk at the same time? Can you take a quick walk while you go get lunch?  Any new practice can be challenging at first, so be patient with yourself as you find the ways that work for you.  You may have to set a timer to remind you to get up and move, but you will likely find you not only feel better, but are also more productive and less stressed out during your workday.
  • If you have long commutes, can you park a little farther away so you have a bit of a walk to your destination?  Can you do a quick five minutes of stretching before you have to sit again? Is there an errand you can walk to instead of drive to?
  • When you come home at the end of the day, what if you recharged your batteries with a 10 minute “movement snack” before watching TV? Or while watching TV, could you try standing and doing some joint mobility or stretching?

It’s no big deal to take a few days off from the gym if you are relaxing at home, or vacationing over the holidays. If you make the time for a few minutes of mobility every day, you will feel better not just in the moment, but when you return to your regular workouts again.  Here is a quick ProBar mobility practice to use for inspiration:

Tall Kneeling T-Spine Twist

Half Shoulder 360

Overhead Squat

Side Squat with Twist

Single Leg Hip Hinge

Enjoy for 5 – 10 reps each and repeat for 3 to 5 rounds

 

If you want to make improvements to your nutrition, you need to make a meal plan and purposefully take a look at how you are eating.  The same goes for movement.  We need to purposefully and proactively review both the quality and quantity of our movement, rather than just hoping we are moving enough. Find the time for a few “movement snacks” throughout your day, and you’ll be amazed at how great you start to feel – both in and out of the gym!

Strength, love—and happy snacking!