Swans A-Swimming and Other Moves to Get You Through the Holidays

By Vicky Hallett
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The shopping, wrapping, trimming, stringing and even baking are all done. So that leaves you with those other joyous holiday traditions of gorging, snoozing and, perhaps after a wee bit too much time with the family, bickering. For our final installment of the 12 Days of Doing Something, we have three livelier ideas to see you through to the new year.

Play Broomball

You know what pairs well with eggnog? Sibling rivalry! Instead of letting tensions take the merry out of your Christmas, put the competition on ice with a friendly broomball match. The game "is a lot like hockey in tennis shoes," says Racqel Self, marketing manager at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, which usually turns its rink over to broomball players on Saturdays from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.

Instead of a hockey stick, you use something that looks more like a broom (no bristles, though). Instead of a puck, there's a ball. But the key thing is that you don't need to know how to skate -- just how to keep your balance running around on the ice. A $10 fee covers the necessary equipment, which includes a helmet.

Most important, there's extra broomball time scheduled for the next few days to help you work off some of those latkes. (Hey, I'm Jewish, and it was time for a Hanukkah reference.) Take over the rink this Friday (8:30-9:30 p.m.) or Saturday (8:45-9:45 p.m.). If you're looking for a bargain, wait for New Year's Eve: It's $5 on Dec. 31 (6:30 -7:45 p.m.).


My people are known for an important ritual this time of year. Well, right, there's the menorah lighting and the dreidel playing and the moo goo gai pan eating. But the D.C. Jewish Community Center (http://www.washingtondcjcc.org) also organizes the December 25th Day of Service, which attracts loads of people looking to help out in the community by throwing parties for hospital patients, delivering meals, painting homeless shelters and more.

The tasks can involve serious calorie burn. "We're walking around, preparing food, carrying large boxes," says Erica Steen, who directs the JCC's Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service. "Is it exercise? No. But is it physical? Yes."

Try it for yourself: They're looking for about 1,000 folks to staff about 80 projects across the region. Registration closes tomorrow at noon; in previous years, it has filled up.

The "12 Days" Workout

In early November, the first strains of "Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart)" got you giddy. By now, they make you want to rip your own heart out. Instead, channel that energy into our wrapping-it-all-up "12 Days of Christmas" Workout. We forced Graham King, owner of Balance Gym in Kalorama, to come up with moves based on the carol's lyrics.

Let's brush up, shall we? On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords a-leaping, 9 ladies dancing, 8 maids a-milking, 7 swans a-swimming, 6 geese a-laying, 5 golden rings, 4 calling birds, 3 French hens, 2 turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree!

There's a whole lot of poultry in the lineup, so some of these are going to be a bit of a stretch. But we'll start with the partridge. King wants you to do (or attempt) one pull-up; it's like you're getting yourself up in that tree. Then the dove: Flap your wings twice. That means a lateral raise, holding a weighted object (such as a dumbbell) in each hand and lifting your arms out to the side.

French hens? King reasons that "roosters scratch their feet on the ground, and that looks like a 'mountain climber.' " So you're on the hook for three of them. Get down in push-up position, bend one knee to bring your foot between your hands, tap, and then switch legs. It'll help prepare you for the next move, which is guaranteed to get you calling it (or maybe crying) the burpee. Begin in a standing position. Squat, put your hands on the ground, hop your feet back so your legs are straight and do a push-up. Then hop your feet back to your hands and jump in the air. Four times, people.

Find a piece of chalk and draw five golden rings on the floor, in a row, sort of like a hopscotch board. Stand next to them, and then jump sideways into each one in turn. For an extra challenge, jump to the front and back of each circle. Keep some energy in your legs, though, because to get yourself a-laying, King wants you to do six squats, "making sure you're getting deep, with feet wide and butt low."

Flop forward, because for swimming like a swan, you'll need to be on your belly. Stretch your arms straight in front of you, then slightly lift arms and legs off the ground and pretend to propel yourself through water for seven strokes. Now it's off to the fridge to grab two gallon-size jugs of milk. In the spirit of a true milkmaid, use a "farmer's carry" (one in each hand, arms straight down) and tote them for eight yards, eight times.

Ready to dance? Go retro with nine running mans. If you missed the '80s, that looks like jerkily running in place. Step one foot in front of the other, then slide it back while bringing the other foot forward in a hop motion, and pump your arms.

The leaping lord is easy: 10 squat jumps. But to be a piper piping, you're going to need to track down a pipe or similarly shaped object (like a mop or a broomball stick). Hold it behind the base of your neck, using both hands, then hinge at the waist until your torso is parallel with the ground. This is called a "good morning." And by number 11, it certainly will be, because all you'll have left are those 12 drummers drumming. For that, King suggests: "Take a ball or sandbag and slam it to the ground: It makes a nice boom noise."

Do your dozen, and you're done. And so are we. Howard and I had fun making this list. We hope you've checked it -- at least twice -- to find out how to avoid naughty and stick with nice. Happy holidays, and we'll see you in 2009.

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