Article by Benna Crawford, Demand Media | Featured on Healthy Living
Pilates at the gym is a disciplined and dynamic way to start your day, but you can just as easily roll out of bed and onto a mat to enjoy the benefits of a few well-chosen morning moves. Stretching, toning and tightening will wake up stiff muscles, improve fitness and deliver enough emotional benefits to make it a good morning. Try morning Pilates to boost confidence, lower stress and increase a sense of well-being.
Pilates moves stretch and strengthen, but you don’t want to tackle a workout without a warm-up. Fortunately, the Pilates hundred gets everything moving safely as it raises your heart rate and rouses sleepy muscles. By coordinating your breathing, lifting your own body weight as you hold legs and upper torso in the air, and pumping your arms rhythmically, you set the stage for some serious stretching and strengthening. Follow the hundred with half rollbacks for abs and spine. Sit tall, knees bent, hands under thighs and inhale as you pull in the abs and round your spine into a “C.” Breathe and roll back up, elongating your spine. Repeat three to five times. Always use a cushioned mat or light padding to safeguard your spine and wear clothes that allow you to move freely — stretchy workout gear lets you see and adjust your alignment.
Mat(tress) Pilates Routine
Ease into the morning with a short but stimulating Pilates workout. The American Council on Exercise suggests a few exercises to flex torso and spine and work abs, hips, inner and outer thighs and hamstrings. For the roll like a ball exercise, balance on your sit bones, round your spine, and grab flexed knees with both hands, then rock back to your shoulder blades on an inhale and engage your core to come up on the exhale. For a single leg stretch, lie on your back, abs contracted, shoulders off the mat — or mattress — knees flexed, toes pointed. Pull one leg into your chest as you extend the other up and out. Then switch legs. Lie back for single leg circles — arms out to the sides, right leg to the ceiling, left leg extended flat. Point your right foot and trace circles on the ceiling. Do both sides. Then twist your spine awake with windshield wipers — knees bent, arms out, both legs dropped to the right, then up, over and dropped to the left. Repeat each move eight to 10 times.
Fuel and Hydration
Early-bird exercisers can down that essential cup of coffee first or sip a glass of water with or without a slice of lemon, but hold the cornflakes until the cooldown. It’s better to leave 45 minutes between a meal and a fitness session. Because you’ve been on an overnight fast, you may want to stabilize blood sugar levels with something light. Cathleen Murakami, author of “Morning Pilates Workouts,” suggests half a banana, half a cup of yogurt or part of a fruit smoothie that you will finish later. Exercise increases blood flow to your muscles, supplying them with oxygen they need to burn fat calories efficiently to fuel your workout. Digesting a big breakfast diverts blood to your digestive tract, making you feel sluggish instead of motivated.
If your bed is too soft, you won’t get enough traction to perform the moves correctly, so opt for a mat on the floor instead. Don’t skip the hundred — if you wake up late with no time for your routine, drop everything but the hundred and use it to boost your energy and warm muscles for that quick dash to the office. Take a few classes from a certified instructor to learn the fine points of adjusting your posture and working with Pilates breathing before you go solo in the a.m. Blast through brain fog with a DVD to demonstrate a routine when your motivation or memory fails. And, if you have back problems, check with your health care provider before attempting morning Pilates.
- ACE: Morning Exercises to Energize Your Day
- Morning Pilates Workouts; Kathleen Murakami
- American College of Sports Medicine: Fit Society
- Pilates Body in Motion; Alycea Ungaro
- MayoClinic.com: Stretching: Focus on Flexibility
- MayoClinic.com: Eating and Exercise
About the Author
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .