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Start your day with a stretch

By Christie Melhorn, November 22 2016 —

You probably know someone who can pounce out of bed first thing in the morning and have a full-fledged conversation without a drop of coffee. Being a student with an unpredictable schedule can disorient our internal clocks and leave our state of wakefulness in a bizarre limbo. But by incorporating a time-efficient and mood-boosting stretch routine into your mornings, you can help shake off grogginess to become more alert and productive right away.

The following moves are borrowed from my time dancing at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks as well as advice from Prevention.com and Men’s Fitness. You can perform each move in order or any order of your choice. Reel back if you experience any uncomfortable twinges or pains. This routine is meant to help prevent injury and reduce stiffness — not create it!

Gentle Spine Rolls:

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Ensure your knees are slightly bent with a softness in your hips and ankles. Avoid locking your joints. Gently tilt your head forward and curl your spine down towards the floor. Let the bend in your knees deepen as your upper body approaches the floor.

When rising back up, reverse the roll by slightly arching your back. Try to let your spine unfold back into an upright position one vertebrae at a time starting with your tail bone. Let your legs lengthen as you rise but keep your knees and ankles soft. Take a count of eight seconds for both the lower and raise and repeat each at least four times.

Downward-facing Dog:

Start on all fours with your knees aligned with your hips and your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Splay your fingers and lift your knees off the mat. Raise your pelvis towards the ceiling and lengthen your legs, keeping your heels elevated off the ground. Maintain a slight bend in your knees and let your head hang loosely. Push your tailbone back and keep your shoulder blades flat. If possible, let your heels drop to maximize the stretch in your hamstrings and calves. Hold for at least 30 seconds to a minute.

Runner’s Stretch:

From all fours, place one of your feet in front of you so that it lines up with your fingers. Keep your knee stacked above your ankle and avoiding bending it over your foot. You should always be able to see your toes from this position. Extend your other leg back and prop your foot up onto your toes. Elevate your hips up and back towards the
ceiling, elongating both of your legs. Let your upper body stay low, keeping your chest parallel to your legs. If you can, relax your chest against your front leg. Hold the lunge and raised position for 30 seconds each and repeat three to five times on both legs.

Side Stretch:

Stand with your feet together and evenly planted on the floor. Roll your shoulder back and raise your arms above your head. Bring your hands together and interweave your fingers while keeping your index fingers pointed upright. Exhaling, slowly bend your upper body from side to side, opening the ribs to each side of the room. Try to keep your feet firmly planted and not to let the momentum of your arms carry your movement. Take 30 seconds on each side and repeat at least three to five times.

When you’re all done, your body should be prepared for the day ahead. Men’s Fitness promotes stretching as a way to achieve a generous energy-boost and also prevent injuries by gaining increased flexibility.

This routine has instantly gratifying benefits but can also diminish potential problems down the road and help make time spent studying more comfortable.

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