By Agnes Maloney, BioFables
Have you read any of those articles nagging you to become a morning person? Those of us who have reached a certain, um, vintage, probably wouldn’t (couldn’t!) manage headstands and icy showers in those first hours after awakening (or anytime, for that matter). Instead, I offer you a handful of “age-appropriate” morning routines to invigorate your day. Hmm. Now that I think about it, they seem to be appropriate for nearly any age. What do you think of these suggestions? Please let me know C/O my author and publisher: [email protected].
Be Grateful for Waking Up!
Lots of people don’t (wake up, that is). It’s another day that you’ve been given. Galileo and Newton rephrased: it takes less energy to maintain momentum than it is to change direction. In other words, launching your day with a positive outlook is easier than trying to reverse negative thoughts.
Before You Get Out of Bed
Stretch like your pet dog or cat, then, lying on your back, gently bring your knees as close to your chest as you are able. Feel that stretch in your lower back? Good for the spine, too. Rock gently from side to side to keep your spine & back muscles supple. If you’re feeling especially ambitious after stretching your lower back and have no hip or other issues, lie on your back and straighten both your legs. Next, bring just one leg up to your chest and then unbend it as you rotate your hips and stretch you leg straight out 90 degrees over your other leg, toward the opposite side. Repeat with other leg. Just don’t fall out of bed!
Before Getting Dressed
It’s been a tradition in Japan to stimulate circulation in the morning by rubbing your arms and upper body with a dry wash towel. (Instead of showering in the morning, Japanese tradition is to lather up and rinse off outside the tub, followed by a long, soothing soak in a hot bath at night) The 30” long by 13” wide towels are about right for a quick rub-down, but you can use whatever you have on hand, or you can just cut an old towel to whatever dimensions you prefer. Your legs and feet will enjoy the same attention.
Improve the Condition of Your Dry Skin
Extend the circulation benefits of your morning rub-down by applying your favorite skin lotion with the same vigor. Your skin will absorb the lotion more quickly (especially since dead skin cells are removed by the dry towel). Your healthy glow will last even longer with the double rub-down. Okay, you can get dressed now.
Rolling Pin Reflexology
Well, let’s call it pretend-reflexology. Sit on a chair with your rolling pin on the floor in front of you. No rolling pin? A round glass jar or even a Voss glass water bottle will work just as well. Roll your foot (or both feet if there’s room) over your rolling pin or its substitute. Did you find any sore spots? It’s likely you did. Gently move your foot (or feet) around your roller to apply a small amount of extra pressure to the sore spots. Do you really need to know the areas of your body corresponding to those sore points? Not really. That’s why I call it pretend-reflexology. You can think of this routine as a feel-good foot massage. If you choose to stand, think of your roller as a small log. Easy to fall off if you’re standing on it with both feet. By the way, even if you’ve got perfect balance, your arches won’t be happy supporting your full body weight.
Count Your Steps
As soon as you’re dressed, fire up your Fit Bit, phone or pedometer, according to your preference. This simple motion re-sets your good exercise intentions as soon as you start your active day. This should short-circuit any tendency to shuffle lethargically through your morning routine (Newton’s First Law of Motion).
Make Your Bed THIS Way
You’ve read about the value of making your bed (your first finished task of the day) and about the drawbacks of making your bed (dust mites thrive on moist, dark conditions). So, why not make your bed by pulling UP the sheets and blankets and then turn them DOWN to aerate the bed? A small extra step (or two, which also counts toward your daily step goal).
Recount Your Successes
What did you accomplish yesterday, last week, last month that did you proud? Stand up and take a bow. A deep bow, if you can, from your hip joints instead of just your waist. Helps keep those hinges lubricated.
Concoct a Plan to Complete Yesterday’s (This Week’s? This Month’s?) Unfinished Business
Unfinished tasks can wear you out even before you start your work day. If they’re hanging like an albatross around your neck, decide to a) tackle at least a small portion, b) delegate some or all of them, if you’re able, or c) scratch some off your to-do list because it’s/they’re simply not worth your time (in other words, “just say no”).
Roll Your Eyes
No, not in exasperation (at least not this time). Just as with the other muscles in your body, it’s a “use it or lose it” issue. Keep your eye muscles flexible so you can to shift from reading, computer work or glancing at your car’s speedometer to peering off into the distance. Are you sitting? You don’t want to lose your balance. Look up, look down, look left, look right. Okay, try it one more time.
Do Finger Jumping Jacks
Okay, maybe that description requires a stretch of imagination. Anyway, here’s how these really low-impact jumping jacks work. Hold both hands out in front of you, palms down. Stretch your thumb and little finger on each hand away from each other and separate the other three fingers on each hand from each other as well. Bring all five finger tips together, and separate them again. Now, one at a time, move each finger straight up and down, one at a time from thumb to pinkie. Repeat a couple of times and then rotate your wrists, first one way and then the opposite. This exercise is especially good if you work a computer or piano keyboard, or even use your hands a lot during your day.
Did you know that slumping in your chair or slouching while you walk can decrease your perceived height by nearly three inches, compress your spine, and create or aggravate certain health problems? Look at yourself in the mirror as you comb your hair. Now, straighten up, shoulders back (and down, not raised). Look again. Do you think you look more confident? How do you feel? Prepared to tackle the day? Echoes of your Mom: “Stand up straight!”
Please see the Introduction for background on these bioblog posts.
Thanks to everyone who commented on this post. Here are additional pointers, by Category (above).
Before You Get Out of Bed
JF writes: stretch your single leg both ways: first, as mentioned, at a 90 deg. angle over your other leg; then, make an arc with the same leg and swing it 90 deg. to the other side. Do the same with both legs.
WD writes: an elderly friend also rides an “air bicycle” by propping her hips and raising both legs to pump the pedals of an imaginary bicycle in the air. She reports that this was once a common practice among dancers who wanted shapely legs.
Before Getting Dressed
Several people wrote to say that the 30″ towel isn’t nearly long enough to give yourself a good rubdown. The concensus is that 40″ or so is much better. With the extra length, you can hold the towel lengthwise to give your legs and back a “shoeshine” rubdown.
CK writes that spashing COLD water on her face several times after washing up is super-invigorating without the extreme jolt of a cold shower to her system.
I forgot to mention: you can multitask while giving yourself a rubdown by pulling in your tummy at the same time to work your abdominals.
Rolling Pin Reflexology
A friend suggested that when you find a sore spot, stop rolling and simply press down on the area that’s sore. It’s similar to shiatsu, the Japanese form of acupressure (using the hands instead of a rolling pin). Try it.