Flexibility Exercises to Start Your Day Off Right!
Many of us wake up in the morning with our heads already swimming with our daily to-do list. It’s coffee and a quick breakfast (hopefully!), and then onward into the busy day ahead. It may not occur to you to take a moment for self-care, but if you want to be more productive throughout the day and feel a greater sense of physical and mental wellness while accomplishing your tasks, taking a moment for yourself first thing in the morning is the best thing you can do!
Do a quick morning stretching routine every day when you wake up to get your day off on the right foot. The benefits of stretching are physical, mental, and emotional. Keep reading to find out why stretching in the morning is beneficial, tips for maximizing your morning routine, and a quick yet effective sample morning stretching sequence everyone has time for.
Why Stretching Exercises First Thing in the Morning?
Morning stretches provide a gentle transition from a sleeping state to a wakeful state. Since you’ve been nestled under the covers all night, your muscles are slightly warmed, which allows for effective stretching. Stretching gently gets the blood flowing from the core of the body to the extremities.
If you’re like me, during sleep, your body may be in and out of some funky poses demonstrating less-than-optimal posture. If you stretch out the kinks first thing in the morning, you will help reset your muscles to their proper lengths, decreasing stiffness and easing tension.
Additionally, if you focus on deep diaphragmatic breathing during your morning stretching routine, you will receive the additional benefits of proper oxygenation, including heightened mental clarity and well-being.
Also, doing something for yourself first thing in the morning instead of rushing right into your day provides a much-needed psychological boost. Essentially, you’re sending your mind and body the message that you are worthy of care and that you care about and value yourself. You can then go about your day with a base of self-love which will in turn make you more loving and empathetic toward others.
Best Tips for Maximizing Your Morning Stretching Routine
- Key areas to stretch in the morning include your neck, upper back & lower back, glutes, hip flexors, front and back of your thighs, and calves.
- Focus on being gentle with your body. You have been fairly still all night and your body needs to ease back into a state of motion. Don’t bounce or push the stretches to the point of being painful.
- Breathe slowly and deeply into your belly, expanding your lungs to their full capacity.
- Think happy, loving thoughts about yourself and others. Think about what excites you about the day to come instead of focusing on the negative.
- Be consistent with your stretching routine. You’ll see more benefits from performing a short sequence each day than a longer sequence only once in a while.
- Invite your significant other and/or your kids to join you in your stretching routine! Doing something positive together first thing is good for intimate and family relationships.
- Drink a full glass of water immediately after your stretch. You lose a lot of water overnight while you sleep, and it’s important to replenish first thing in the morning. The importance of hydration can’t be overstated. Drink water first thing in the morning, and keep it up all day!
Best Flexibility Exercises: A Sample Head-to-Toe Morning Stretching Routine
Exercise 1. Neck: Neck Rolls
Drop your chin onto your chest and roll your head gently from side to side, bringing the ear toward the shoulder. Don’t tilt your head back, only go side to side. Perform 10 full rolls.
Exercise 2. Upper & Lower Back: Cat/Cow
To stretch the upper and lower back, we’ll take a pose from yoga. From a quadruped position (on hands and knees with a flat, neutral spine), inhale deeply, arching your back while tilting your head slightly backward. This is the “cow” position. Exhale while rounding your back and bringing your head toward the space between your arms. This is the “cat” position. Repeat slowly 10 times, following the natural rhythm of your deep breathing.
Exercise 3. Glutes: Lying Glute Stretch
Lay on your back with bent knees and feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle across the opposite knee. Reach through and grasp the thigh with both hands. Pull your legs toward yourself until you feel a good stretch in your buttocks. You can gently rock from side to side to feel more of a stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Exercise 4. Hip Flexors: Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneeling with your right foot on the floor in front of you and left shin on the floor behind you, reach your left arm overhead, pushing your palm toward the ceiling. Contract your abs and tilt your pelvis like you’re trying to turn your pants zipper toward your face. You should feel a stretch in the left hip flexor muscles, and possibly the latissimus dorsi as well. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Exercise 5. Hamstrings (back of thighs): Seated Forward Bend
Sit on the floor with both legs straightened in front of you. Slowly bend forward at the hips, pushing out with your palms. Keep your chest high and keep reaching forward with your hands. Hold for 30 seconds. No need to switch sides since this stretch works on both legs at the same time, as well as your lower back and calves.
Exercise 6. Quadriceps (front of thighs): Standing One-Leg Quad Stretch
Resume a standing position. Balancing on the right leg, take hold of the left ankle with the left hand and pull the foot up toward the glutes. Since you’re doing these stretches first thing in the morning, your balance may be a little off, so you may find it helpful to put one hand against the wall. Focus on maintaining optimal posture. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Exercise 7. Calves: Standing Calf Stretch
In a staggered stance, place your hands against the wall and lean forward while straightening your back leg. This targets the gastrocnemius, the large fleshy muscle on the back of the calf. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then bend the back leg and hold for another 20-30 seconds. This targets the soleus, the smaller calf muscle, which is important for your posture throughout the day. Switch sides and repeat the straight-leg phase for 20-30 seconds, then finish with the bent-leg phase for another 20-30 seconds.
You may want to run through the whole sequence from the beginning again if you have time. You’ll find that you can get deeper into the stretches the second time through.
Best Morning Stretching Routine Exercises for Men and Women: Final Thoughts
Be kind to your body and treat yourself to a daily stretch every morning. I think you will find your morning stretching routine a pleasant and effective way to ease into the day.