I envy (dislike, really) people who jump out of bed, nimble and quick, to start their day. Most mornings, my body's stiff, my joints ache and when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I think: Who is that stooped aberration?
Despite a weekly regime of yoga, Pilates and cardio, my muscles seem to contract and go into full-scale revolt when I sleep, leaving me an early morning bundle of kinks and creaks. "It's normal to feel a bit listless and stiff after hours in bed," says Dr. David Behm, a research professor in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University in St. John's.
The trick, Behm says, is to incorporate five minutes of stretching into the early part of your day. "You need to excite your systems in preparation for action." In other words, do it before you grab a coffee, and especially before you put your nose in your phone.
Behm recommends dynamic stretching (moving a body part through a full, or nearly full, range of motion) as the best way to wake up your muscles and joints. (Static stretching – where you hold a muscle in a lengthened position for 30 to 60 seconds – is often used postworkout and helps with flexibility).
Dynamic stretches don't have to be complicated. Simple moves such as a standing stretch where you reach to the sky with both arms, then reach higher with one arm, then the other. Think tall. Rise on your toes. A good leg stretch is front and side kicks – again, alternating legs. (Remember, this is not kick boxing.)
Arm circles – forward, then back – are great for the upper body. And if your neck is almost always stiff, stand tall, and gently look left, then right, down and up. Relax, breathe deeply.
"Since you're still sleepy, you don't want to go too intense right away," Behm says. "Stretching energizes the body to take on the world, or at least your corner of it."