Top 5 Pilates Exercises to Start Your Day Fresh & Energized
Besides sporting a messy bedhead, we all tend to fall into a relationship with our snooze button every now and then. Cue reluctantly rolling out of bed.
The last thing I want to do on these kinds of days is hit the gym for a strenuous workout session. No thanks, I’ll pass. However, after adopting a new morning routine consisting of pilates exercises, I couldn’t believe how right it felt in the early A.M. hours.
It serves as my own natural stimulant, breathing new life into my days. Instead of gulping down several cups of coffee, Pilates sparks my momentum in the mornings – not only energizing my body but also recharging my mind.
What’s so great about it? Pilates provides a gentle, effective way to stretch your body after spending hours in bed – encouraging healthy circulation through your limbs, reanimating stiff muscles, and providing the impetus needed to start your day off on the right foot. More importantly, the stretching and toning mat exercises will transform your mindset, infusing you with confidence, motivation, and the positivity needed to make the most of your day.
Before You Start Exercising
Although these exercises are gentle in nature, I highly encourage you to be fully awake before getting started. If your eyes are half-open, your morning breath causes your dog to cringe & high-tail it outta there, or you essentially roll out of bed onto your mat, you won’t be exercising the level of mindfulness needed to perform the movements properly. When you first get out of bed, rehydrate your body with a glass of juice or water. Avoid eating a filling breakfast before you begin exercising – stick to a banana or small yogurt to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Warming Up for Your Morning Pilates Session
As with any exercise routine, you should always warm your body up before diving into your routine. With your Pilates mat in hand, pick a space - whether indoors or outdoors - that elicits a sense of comfort or tranquility. After laying out your mat, start moving your hands and feet, rotating your limbs in circles, and shaking them as if you're expelling excess water.
Arm circles, shoulder shrugs, hamstring stretches, and similar warm-up exercises are the perfect way to prep your body and promote blood circulation. The goal here is to make a conscious effort to relax your body. Breathe deeply and release tension as you perform your warm-up routine.
5 Pilates Exercises to Kick-Start Your Morning
#1. The Half Roll
Adequately stretches your back while working your abdominal muscles
How to Get Moving: Sit tall, as if someone is pulling your head upwards, bend your knees (making sure to keep your feet flat on the floor), and lightly place your hands behind your thighs. As you inhale, contract your abdominal muscles and roll back halfway, keeping your spine in a rounded, C-shaped position. Maintain this position as you take three deep breaths. After, roll back to your original seated position, always focusing on lengthening your spine.
Number of Reps: Perform 5 times.
#2. Rolling Like a Ball Prep
Targets your abdominal muscles while simultaneously massaging the spine
How to Get Moving: Sitting upright on your mat, bend your knees and round-out your spine as if you were mimicking the letter “C.” Place your hands lightly on top of your knees, take a deep breath, and roll your body backward until the bottom of your shoulder blades touches your mat. From there, exhale as you pull your navel towards your spine, and return to your balanced, sitting position.
Number of Reps: Perform 10 to 15 repetitions.
#3. Spinal Rotation
Works spine rotation and flexibility, as well as your torso.
How to Get Moving: Lying with your back flat on the mat, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle while keeping your arms extended out on each side. As you inhale, make sure you keep your shoulders relaxed and flush with the mat. On the exhale, drop your knees to one side of your body. This is where the name of the exercise is derived from - simply visualize the numbers on a clock -- one side represents 9 AM while the other is indicative of 3 PM. Those are the times your knees should be pointing towards. Take a nice, deep breath, slowly lift your legs, and rotate them to the other side of your body.
Number of Reps: Perform 10 repetitions on each side.
#4. Leg Circles
Targets the inner and outer thighs, hips, abdominals, and hamstrings
How to Get Moving: Lie down with your back flat on the mat and extend your left leg upwards toward the sky -- keep your right leg flat on the ground. Have tight hamstrings? No problem! Simply bend your knees approximately 90 degrees. While in position, be sure to engage your abs throughout this entire exercise. Point your left foot while rotating your leg. Think of it like this: as your inhale, envision yourself drawing a small circle on the ceiling with your toe. To make this impactful, you’ll want to rotate your entire leg from the hip socket (picture your leg as a spoon, scraping the sides of a mixing bowl - a.k.a. your hip socket).
Number of Reps: Perform 10 to 15 circles on each leg.
#5. Single-Leg Stretch
Works your abdominal muscles
How to Get Moving: With your back flush against your Pilates mat, bend your knees and tuck them into your chest (keep your toes pointed here). Begin engaging your abdominal muscles so that your shoulders and head naturally lift off the floor. Make sure your neck is relaxed; the goal is to hold yourself up using the strength of your abs and midsection of your back. Keep your eyes locked on your knees while performing this exercise. As you inhale, gently pull your right knee towards your chest while extending your left leg outwards, so it’s about 45 degrees above the floor.
Number of Reps: Perform 10 repetitions on each side.
What are your favorite morning workout exercises? Share with me in the comments below.
PS – New to Pilates and looking for some beginner videos? Check out my Pilates for Beginners program here! This online program is perfect for those looking to start their Pilates journey at home and make sure you are using correct form!
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