Early morning stretch sessions are growing in popularity, but are they really worth dragging yourself out of bed for?
It depends on what you want from the session and what will realistically work in with your lifestyle. The key to it is forming a habit of stretching or moving regularly.
For me, personally, I’m a morning person so these days, I’ve committed to getting up 45-60 mins earlier to stretch before my toddler wakes up. This was never easy until I made the decision to commit to doing it. I’ve maintained that for over 2 weeks now (except on Sundays – if said toddler is still asleep, I stay comfortably tucked up in bed!) and am really enjoying the benefits.
Surprisingly, the benefits haven’t been limited to how much more comfortable my body feels after I stretch. Simply being up earlier in the morning means I’m more productive during the day and have more energy.
Playing the role of mum to an active toddler, working part-time, and with my husband working interstate on a roster where he’s away for 2 weeks at a time, any opportunity to stay on top of life is a welcome one!
While I am a morning person and have learned to love making extra time in the morning to stretch, my stretching isn’t as effective in the morning compared with the evening. It takes me a lot longer to settle into an ‘end position’ when I stretch in the morning compared with the afternoon or evening.
Mostly this is to do with warming up effectively first. Ideally, you’d go for a 5-10 min walk/bike/treadmill first to get the muscles moving and warm. Nothing too strenuous – you just want to get things moving a little.
If you’re like me and unable to physically get out of the house at that time of day, try a couple of ‘invisible chair’ style wall sits (imagine you’re sitting on a chair, like a squat against the wall) for 30 – 45 seconds at a time with a 30 second rest in between each one. I find 2-3 usually does the trick to get blood moving through the legs and then around the body much quicker. You could also try 10-20 lunges – walking or standing, whichever you prefer. An unintentional yet awesome benefit of this is toning up your legs and butt, too!
Then, pick an area that’s been bothering you – maybe your calves have been feeling tight or your hips and lower back have been feeling a bit stiff. Just pick 1 or 2 areas to work on and just do a couple of stretches or limbering exercises to relieve and ease it.
Too much in a session will leave you feeling overwhelmed and will be much more challenging commit to over the long-term.
For me, my nerves are quite tight, especially in the morning (yes, you can have tight nerves!), so I need to go extra gentle when stretching first thing in the morning. Ideally, I would focus my stretching sessions to be in to afternoon or evening as my body responds better to stretching later in the day, but I find that end of the day can get overrun by work or family commitments. Having said that, now that I know I can commit to earlier starts to fit a session in most days, I’m also committing to adding just a couple of evening sessions (we’re talking 10-15 mins per session).
I stick to more gentle, limbering, and mobilising work in the morning sessions and bigger, stronger stretches in the afternoons and evenings. This is just what my body seems to like and responds well to. You may find your body responds similar or completely different.
If you find you’re stiffer in the morning and 10-15 mins or so of stretching or moving alleviates it or makes you feel more comfortable, then try mornings. If you find you’re stiffer towards the end of the day, stretch in the evenings, before bed.
It’s not uncommon for me to be stretching or rolling around the floor at lunchtimes at the clinic to keep me comfortable and mobile on treating days. If you find you stiffen up gradually throughout the day too, make a commitment to moving at lunchtime. That could be a walk around the block or rolling out your own mat in your office for 10 mins.
You just need to test it out and explore what works well for you.
The most important thing is just to start. You’ll feel much better for it.