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Ten Things

10 Exercises to Start Your Day

By Marlis Gonzalez-Fernandez, Physiatrist
Marlis Gonzalez-Fernandez

We’ve all got that friend. The one who wakes up extra early to make a two-hour crossfit class. Then there’s the rest of us, trying to balance work, life, exercise, and everything else. “There never seems to be enough time,” says Johns Hopkins physiatrist Marlis Gonzalez-Fernandez. “So what are the basics that we should make a part of our life?”

Gonzalez-Fernandez has put together, with the help of Johns Hopkins physical therapist Ken Johnson, a set of exercises to start each day. The routine, inspired by Pressing Reset: Original Strength Reloaded, by Tim Anderson, gives a well-rounded workout that includes flexibility, aerobics, strength training, and balance.

Spend one to two minutes on each of exercises 1–9, and aim for 30 minutes of walking. For a bigger challenge and to improve stability, try doing exercises 1–7 with your eyes closed.

targeting breathing

1 / Targeted Breathing

Lie face down on a comfortable surface like a yoga mat, resting your head on your arms. Take deep, steady breaths, feeling your belly press against the floor each time you inhale. Focusing on this pattern for 10 breath cycles will help you relax and get in the zone. “It’s a way of saying: I’m going to take care of myself and I’m going to focus on this for a short amount of time,” Gonzalez-Fernandez says.

sphinx pose

2 / Sphinx Pose

Lift your head and stretch out your forearms so they are parallel to each other. With your elbows on the floor, push up on your forearms so your torso lifts from the floor to stretch your upper back. Nod your head up and down, first looking up at the ceiling, then putting chin to chest; next, tilt ear to shoulder on each side; then rotate to look right, then left. Relax, and then repeat the pose several times.

cross crawl

3 / Cross Crawl

Roll over onto your back, place your hands behind your head. Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet rest on the floor. Lift your shoulders and feet off the ground to crunch your abdominal muscles, then twist to rotate your right elbow toward your left knee, then your left elbow toward your right knee. Repeat, alternating from side to side.

rock and crawl

4 / Rock and Crawl

Move to your hands and knees and start rocking back and forth. Then channel your inner baby and crawl. (It’s great for the abs.)

the bird dog

5 / The Bird Dog

Come to stillness on all fours and extend your opposite arm and leg—so left arm, right leg; then right arm, left leg. With this move, Gonzalez-Fernandez says, “you’re mobilizing just about every joint in the arms and legs and getting a great stretch.”

the push-up

6 / Push-Up

A classic for a reason! With the right modifications, push-ups can be done by anyone, regardless of age or physical condition. Knees down for beginners. Everyone else, up on your toes. Start small and increase your reps as you get stronger.

single leg stand

7 / Single Leg Stand

Stand up and place your feet together. Raise one foot to balance on the standing leg. Repeat on the other side.

heel dips

8 / Heel Dips

Stand on the bottom step of a set of stairs. With your toes on the tread and your hand on the railing, lower and raise your heels. Repeat.

stair climb

9 / Stair Climb

After your heel dips, head up and down the stairs. When climbing, push up from your heel to emphasize your glutes. Climbing stairs is one of the best cardiovascular exercises around.


10 / Walk

Walking is a simple but effective way to get the blood pumping. Walk as much as you can throughout the day for a minimum of 30 minutes. If it’s cold outside, marching in place is a good substitute.

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