Alarm. Snooze. Roll over. Repeat.
Sound familiar? Some days it feels like the alarm is mocking you. Like it knows you just got comfortable but low and behold, it’s time to get up!
Imagine starting your day, not in an annoyed fog, but energized. I’m not saying sign up for that predawn sadists-only CrossFit class but set aside a few minutes for some easy stretches. The benefits will be immediate and last longer than the caffeine high from your first cup of coffee.
At the gym, you stretch before your workout because you are increasing your activity level, going from sedentary to active. There you take the time to stretch your muscles to prevent injury. Flexible muscles are stronger and there is less risk of cramping from the increase in blood flow. In the morning you are once again changing your activity level, going from immobile to mobile.
Think of these stretches as your own personal warm-up for the day. Integrate it into your routine as a little self-care time before reaching for your phone or jumping out of bed in a flurry. Each stretch focuses on a different major muscle group. Try to hold each one for 30 seconds to a minute but no need to use a stopwatch. Listen to your body and breathe deeply. Go longer when you need or cut it short if there is any pain. For an added bonus and to kick-start your metabolism as well as your mind, drink a glass of room temperature water with a quarter of a lemon squeezed in it.
1. Full body stretch
This will be your favorite stretch. Don’t get out of bed yet. While laying on your back, start bringing movement back into your fingers and toes. Wiggle them and take a few deep breaths. On an inhale bring your arms over your head and stretch towards your pillows while stretching your toes in the opposite direction. Reach and lengthen your core, legs, and arms. As you exhale make that weird crackly wake-up noise that everyone doing this stretch has made for all of time. No judgement. Finish by bringing your knees to your chest and hugging it out for a few extra breaths. You can start waking up your neck by rounding your shoulders to bring your forehead closer to your knees.
2. Seated figure four
Great news, this stretch can be done in bed too. Scoot yourself to the edge of your bed, Sit up straight and place your feet hip-width apart. Bring your right leg up and cross your ankle over your left thigh. Flex your right foot and keep it flexed the entire time to protect your knee. Slowly lean your torso down while working to keep your crossed leg parallel to the bed. You will feel this in your hip joint almost immediately. Take your time and lean a little farther down with each exhale but don’t go too far. Remember your muscles are still waking up. Repeat on the other side.
3. Seated side bend
While sitting on the edge of the bed, lift one arm over your head and gaze up towards your outstretched fingers. Pretend you are scraping the ceiling with your fingers while bending at your side. Brace your arm on your thigh or mattress, whatever feels more comfortable. Breathe deeply into your side while stretching your ribs and obliques. Slowly return to the center and repeat on the other side.
4. Neck stretch
Remain in the same seated position of the previous two stretches. Start loosening up the neck by doing some slow, easy neck rotations. Go side to side and be sure to go the opposite direction as whatever you started in. Now slowly lower your right ear to your right shoulder. Reach up with your right hand and let it rest on your head. Do not pull sharply but allow gravity and the weight of your hand to release your neck. At the same time, walk out your left hand to intensify the stretch. With your hand guide your head back to the center and repeat on the other side. Finish with a few shoulder rotations.
5. Cat/ Cow stretch
Feel free to do this in or out of bed. If you decide you aren’t ready to get out of bed, the good news is the unsteady texture of your mattress needs more core activation to keep your balance. Get into a tabletop position with your wrists directly under your shoulders and fingers spread wide. Line up your hips with your knees. On an inhale, drop your stomach down towards the floor like a string is pulling your belly button. Lift your chin and chest while gazing up towards the ceiling. Feel the stretch down your neck but be sure to keep your shoulders broad and away from your ears.
On an exhale, press your hands into the ground or mattress and start rounding your spine and pressing it towards the ceiling while keeping your core engaged. Your chin should reach gently towards your chest. You should resemble a scared, hissing cat. Take a few breaths while you feel your spine opening and stretching.
Rotate between the poses taking a few breaths in each position.