As a non-morning person, I am very aware that I miss out on some of the benefits of A.M. workouts. The biggest one for me? Morning exercisers claim that getting their blood pumping first thing energizes them for the rest of the day. I’ve experienced that magic the few times I’ve been able to drag myself out of bed and get to an early boxing class.
But since I know that making it to an early class regularly isn’t in the cards for me, I’ve started incorporating morning stretches into my routine as a substitute.
Getting up and moving doesn’t always have to mean doing a hard workout. It can simply mean stretching and getting your blood flowing in whatever way feels good to you. It’s still going to be beneficial.
“Stretching in the morning—particularly performing dynamic stretches—can serve as a perfect way to gradually warm and awaken the mind and body after a restful night’s sleep, preparing you for whatever the day might have in store,” Jessica Matthews, doctor of behavioral health, assistant professor of kinesiology at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, registered yoga teacher, and author of Stretching to Stay Young, tells SELF.
Quick refresher: Dynamic stretching means moving through a functional range of motion at a controlled speed. It’s different than static stretching, which is sinking into a stretch and holding it for a set amount of time. It’s that dynamic movement that’s ideal for warming up your body.
“Dynamic stretching serves as a ‘rehearsal’ opportunity in which the nervous system and muscles (known as the neuromuscular system) work together to effectively prepare for the activity to follow, whether that’s gearing up for a workout, or simply gearing up for the activities of the day ahead,” Matthews says via email. Stretching in the morning can also help improve your body awareness and reinforce healthy movement patterns, such as firing up your core and retracting your shoulder blades before completing overhead strength moves, Matthews adds, leading to effective, pain-free movement both in and out of the gym.
If you’re interested in starting your day with some morning stretches, try the stretching routine Matthews shares below. Do each movement for about 30 seconds, and then repeat the entire sequence a second time for a 4-minute routine. Certain areas of your body may feel particularly tight and stiff in the morning, so “allow time to gradually warm and listen to your body, working within a range of motion that feels right for you,” she says.
This quick morning stretching routine is a great way to loosen up your entire body and get you ready for your day—without requiring you to set an early alarm and get out the door by a certain time. You can also sip your coffee in between stretches if you want. That’s my idea of energizing morning exercise.
Demoing the moves below is Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City; Caitlyn Seitz, a New York-based group fitness instructor and singer/songwriter; Shanna Tyler, a New York City-based yoga instructor; Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records.