Despite 9 months of barely getting out of our jimjams for zoom meetings, a lot of us are counting on the Christmas break to do more of the same thing… absolutely nothing.

And let’s not beat ourselves up about that. For most of us, this year has been a rollercoaster – lockdown parts one and deux in particular. Not just emotionally and mentally, but physically too.

Few of us have escaped the slide from “I’m going to use this time to get soooo fit” to “wow, 1,000 steps a day is hard” to finally “nothing fits except my joggers”. At the same time, we’ve been barraged by a constant steam of covid-driven information, disinformation, news, fake news and rumour. No wonder we’re exhausted.

So if a few days slobbing out on the couch (self-care slothing if you will) is top of your Christmas list, we’ve got you covered.

Below you’ll find some helpful tips for active slothing – maintaining your tone while chomping on your Terry’s chocolate orange and binging on the boxsets you’ve saved specially. You’ll also find some suggestions for posture-appropriate slothing form (if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, right?)

So in reverse order, let’s started with some Physio-approved wisdom (well, I’m a Physio, and I approve it) about as how to loaf successfully without the consequences of a crook neck and back afterwards.

First off, the majority of neck and back pain does come from maintaining prolonged positions, so the best advice I could give is to change up your position often. This will stop pressure building in joints and muscles from tensing up. Secondly, here are a couple of posture-friendly loafing tips:

Chest to the screen:

First top loafing tip: make sure your chest is facing the screen. By having your nose in line with your sternum, you avoid having your head turned or tilted one way for a prolonged period of time. This is the same for the lower back as well – if you can make sure your belly button is in line with your sternum, you’re not twisting your lower back either.

You may have to move the sofa to do that – but that counts as exercise. Win-win.

Keep the Spine Stacked:

A common example of poor slouching posture is lying on your side with your neck propped up on cushions against the arm of the couch, so your head ends up being at an angle to your spine. Instead, scoot yourself down a bit further along the sofa so the cushions are on the seat of the couch, your head is pretty much horizontal and your cervical spine (neck) lines up straight with the thoracic spine (back). This requires you to take up a little bit more of the couch, but it’s justifiable in the name of self-care, and you’ve earned it.

Back Supported & Legs Elevated:

Another common posture fail is sitting on the couch with your bottom right on the edge, so you’re slumped down into it. This is a killer for the lower back if you sit for any period of time. To avoid this, sit your bottom closer towards the back of the couch (if that’s too upright and uncomfortable for you, allow your bum to slightly slide forward, but place a cushion under your lower back so it’s supported). If you keep your feet on the ground, you might find your hip flexors will pull on the front of your spine and encourage your lower back to arch. To avoid this, bring your feet up onto a pouf/footstool or the coffee table. Your mum may not appreciate this, but your hip flexors and lower back will.

Now if you’re feeling just a teeny-weeny bit guilty about all the time you’re spending sprawled out in front of the TV but have minimal motivation to go out for some exercises, below are 5 easy exercises you can do from the couch. Think of it as loafercise.

The ‘Posh Spice’:

Made famous by Victoria B, this exercise screams style, grace and no small amount of exhibitionism. It also is a great way to stop your slightly weird uncle from sitting next to you.

Lying on your side, lift your top leg up as high as it will go without your hips tilting back (add a pointed toe, like Posh would) then slowly lower it. It won’t take long to feel your bum start to burn. Then change sides, to work the other leg and give your neck some relief.

If you’re feeling particularly energised, you can even add under-leg lifts – talk about efficiency!

The ‘Quality Street Crunches’:

Does anyone else hug that purple box tighter than your jeans hug your waistline after Christmas dinner? Or is that just me? Well for this one you’re going to need to loosen your grip on the box and place it either on the coffee table or down by your feet.

If you’re lazing back on the couch and the box is on the coffee table, engage your core muscles to sit up and forward to grab ONE (yep, just the one) chocolate. Do this a few times to (a) really work the abdominals and (b) get yourself a decent pile of chocolates on your lap.

If you’re lying on the couch, better still. Have the box at your feet and complete the same activity. Either way, move slowly and smoothly – no jerking – this is about muscles not momentum.

The ‘Supine Scissors’:

This is a great one to keep unwanted family members of kids from annoying you. This too can be done either lying down or sitting back up against the back of your sofa. Engage your lower abdominals as you lift your legs up off the couch, lengthen them out as you then begin to criss-cross them over themselves. Try to complete an ad’s worth before resting. Advanced loafercisers, go for the whole ad-break.

The ‘Wine Bottle Wings’:

The best thing about this one – you get to drink the wine after (or before, if you’re not quite ready for the full weight – no judgement here). Time to work those arms with something a little heavier than the remote. Grab a bottle (or a wine box for the experienced loaferciser) in each hand. If you only have the one, that’s terrible planning, but just do one side at a time. Starting with your arms by your sides, take your arms out to the side and up (like a snow angel). After a while those wine bottles are going to start to feel pretty heavy. You can do more than just flap your wings about too, try some bicep curls too – to maintain motivation, promise yourself that you’ll pop the cork for the last set so every time you lift the bottle, you can take a sip.

The ‘Binging Burpee’:

You see the word burpee and want to run for the hills? Same. But don’t worry this is less hardcore HiiT, and more like active lying down – sounds better already. So, every time the ads come on, stand up tall, roll down through your spine until your hands are on the floor (it’s fine to bend the knees slightly to get there) then walk your hands out into plank. Hold the plank for as long as you feel like (no pressure) and then lower, so you’re on your tummy on the floor. From there, push up onto your forearms into a cobra position (a great way to get some extension through your upper and lower back, helping undo the impact of any poor slobbing technique). Now either stay like that for the ad break or through the outro/intro for the next boxset episode, reversing the actions to get yourself back on the couch, or feel free to do a few reps if you’ve got the energy, or your flatmates/relatives/partner are watching.

OK, unless (or even if) you go at these exercises from dawn to dusk, it’s not what you’d consider an actual fitness routine. But it will wake a few muscles up and help keep any niggling neck or back issues at bay. And that’s something to feel good about  – after the year we’ve had, we could all use some more of that.

See you on the sofa.

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