• Sara McDonnell

Exercises to keep you moving over the festive period.



This year, Christmas is going to look a little different. At time of writing we are not really too sure what things will look like and how we might be able to meet up with friends and family. Usually a time of over indulgence, we can certainly use this time to keep moving over the festive time period and continue to build some strengthening exercises into our time out.


It is easy to get restless from the hours of sitting watching Christmas films, doing jigsaw puzzles, playing board games or eating and drinking; especially, if we are at home a bit more than we might usually be at this time of year. I have curated below a series of exercises that we can do for just half an hour each day (or as frequently as you would like) to help build your core strength.


Why not move off some of that restless energy? I have included 10 of my favourite exercises to help you move and get some blood pumping around your body, try them on their own or combine them to make a short workout. As with any workout, it’s important to warm up and start with some mobility, to increase the fluid in the joints and help us move.


Try my 5 minutes of mobility and stretches to get started.

This is one of my favourite exercises. 3 roll downs, start by standing tall breath in to prepare and then roll down one vertebrae at a time until you are hanging your upper body loose and upside down, breath into prepare and then slowly rebuild the spine until you are back standing tall. Each roll down should take about 60 seconds.


Next move onto 30 seconds of leg swings, don’t forget to do the same amount on each leg. Hold on to something or someone for balance and then swing the leg from the hip taking the swing higher and higher as your hamstring loosens off.


Finish up with 3x sets of 30 seconds of shoulder rolls forward and 30 seconds of shoulder rolls backwards.


Starting our strengthening exercises:

You can modify all these moves to reduce the impact on knees and other injuries as necessary. Please do get in touch if you aren’t sure how to modify them and would like some guidance.


1. Leg strengthening exercises - combining lunges with squats. Try a reverse lunge on the right leg, step in and squat, and then reverse lunge on the left leg, step in and squat. Repeat for 2 sets of 3 minutes.


2. Moving on to 2 minutes of arm sculpting overhead presses. We can alternate overhead presses with dumbbells, a bottle of water or a bottle of your favourite festive tipple.


3. Full body moves are next, try 4 inchworms. These start by walking our arms out to a full arm plank and push back through hands back to standing. Try to keep your legs as straight as your hamstrings will allow without locking out knees.


4. Continuing with full body moves, do 2-minutes of standing core moves. Starting with 1 minute of standing opposite elbow to knee marches and 30 seconds of side crunches on the right, and on the left. Bring the elbow to the knee on the same side and repeat.


5. Not everyone’s favourite but now move onto 10 Burpees. If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll see I’m starting to become a convert after completing 2,000 of them in November for the bone cancer research trust and raising £250 for this great cause. It was great to complete them along with thousands of others around the UK. My sponsorship page is on Facebook if you would like to sponsor me. A burpee is a squat thrust followed by a standing jump.


6. Follow with press ups, these can be done standing pressing on a wall or down on the floor on your knees or toes. Don’t be worried about regressing these tricky moves as it’s important to get the technique right before you progress on to a harder version. The key points are to engage your core and keep your spine in line as you press the wall or the floor away, it’s so easy to drop your head toward where you are travelling to and this moves our spine out of alignment.


7. We start to bring the heart rate up now, by adding a bit more dynamic movement into our workout, a good way to start is to add a jump into a nice basic move like a squat. You can add a jump into every third squat, or every other squat or every single one for an added challenge. Try 30 seconds to start with and progressing up to a minute.


8. We can keep our heart rate elevated with 1- 2 minutes of box steps. These lend themselves well to a favour Christmas song as it’s easy to fall in to a fun rhythm with the music. A box step is two steps wide and two jumps back.


9. Keep the music playing to do 1 minute of can-cans. A can-can is a brilliant standing core exercise - it’s an opposite elbow to knee squeeze and same side fingers to toes squeeze through the abdominals and repeat on the other side over and over for 1 – 2 minutes.


10. Finishing off with the final challenge with 10 tuck jumps. A proper finisher move that builds power in the legs and core.



I hope you enjoy these exercises and please remember to cool down and to stretch out after exercising to reduce the risk of injury or next day stiffness.


If you would like to learn more about my individual 1:1 training sessions or my January 5-day challenge, please do get in touch.




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