This piece is part of Bustle’s All Levels Welcome, a column about making fitness culture as accessible and inclusive as possible.
Even if you have the fanciest workout equipment you can buy online, actually getting up to exercise can be... rough. You know moving your body around will probably help your mind feel better, but the stress of the pandemic can make it hard to want to leave the safety of the covers. But you can still
exercise even if you don't want to get out of bed.
If you're getting down on yourself for not having the emotional or physical energy to have a heavy sweat session, meet yourself where you're at. "Try not to become overwhelmed by what you are not doing or can’t do — instead, focus on what you can do," says
Mecayla Froerer, a certified personal trainer and director of at-home personal training community iFit Training. "Once you feel like you can take on small exercise tasks, you can slowly begin to add on." In other words, letting yourself stay curled up in bed while moving around a bit is a valid way to ease into working out.
"In the beginning it will be challenging, but over time, with repetition, it will become a habit and something you look forward to," says
Austin Martinez, a certified athletic trainer and director of education for one-on-one stretching studio franchise StretchLab.
A little can go a long way, says
Debra Strougo, certified personal trainer and founder of boutique fitness concept Row House. Once you start moving, "blood will be pumping a bit, you’ll feel more mobile, and maybe you will want to stand up and do some squats," she tells Bustle. Whether or not you dive into squat territory, you can start your day with these 15 exercises you can do in bed to help yourself feel that much more ready to take on the day — and maybe even get yourself to the couch.
Lying on your back, straighten your legs. Use your big toe as a laser pointer to create as big of a circle as you can by moving your ankle in a counterclockwise "O." Trace the circle for 20 seconds, then go back the other way. Switch feet and repeat.
While these circles might not seem like "exercise," Froerer explains that working out is not just about breathing hard. "When individuals become inactive,
joints begin to stiffen, resulting in pain and discomfort," she says. "You can think of range of motion exercises as a great way to 'add oil to the joints' and keep them healthy and fluid in everyday movement."
Bend your knees to about a 90 degree angle. Imagine the laser pointer is on your kneecaps this time, and draw circles toward the ceiling with your knees. Brace your palms on your knees for stability and let your hands help you move through counterclockwise, then clockwise, movements. Spend 20 seconds on each direction.
Stretch your arms out to the sides and trace circles with your index fingers. Make the circles as big or as small as you're comfortable with, experimenting to find what feels good. Move through one direction for 20 seconds, and make sure you even it out by tracing circles in the other direction.
Shimmy down so your head is on the mattress. Tuck your shoulders up toward your ears, then squeeze your shoulder blades together so your shoulders roll back down into the bed. Press them down toward your hips, then roll them back up toward the ceiling and again toward your ears. Complete about five or six of these circles, then reverse the motion for another five or six reps.
This exercise sure feels silly, but it's more challenging than it seems. Fully extend your legs. Raise them slightly, tracing the alphabet with your big toes. Rest your legs and do the same with your arms out to the sides.
"It’s harder than you'd think," says Strougo. "This is great for your fine motor skills, for your smaller muscles, for your mobility, and of course for your concentration." Bringing your complete focus to what you're doing right now (as opposed to this week's anxieties) may be exactly what you need to start your day.
I think of them as "alivebugs" because I'm an insect-loving nerd, but whatever you call the move, it'll wake up your entire body. According to Froerer, this is the best way to go through the exercise:
"Start by lying on your back with both knees directly above your hips and thighs. Reach both arms up overhead making sure to maintain a straight line from shoulders to fingertips. While keeping your core engaged, straighten and lower your left leg to slightly above the bed while keeping your right leg bent. Simultaneously, lower your right arm up and over your head. Perform this move slowly and with precision. Hold for a moment or two before returning to the starting position. From there, move onto the opposite arm and leg and alternate back and forth."
Keep your arms beside you. Bend your knees with your feet pressed flat down. Squeeze your glutes and push the bed away with your feet, raising your hips as high as you feel comfortable with.
Start to "march." Raise one foot, bringing your knee toward your chest. March that foot back down and switch, so you're taking another "stride" with your opposite leg. Breathe and perform about 10 marches with each leg.
Start in the same position as your marches. Draw your thighs into your navel, bringing bring both of your bent legs toward your chest. Slowly raise your legs as high as you're comfortable with, peeling your glutes off the mattress if possible. Keeping your knees bent, lower your feet back down. Repeat the crunch when your toes tap down. Try for 10 or 15 steady reps.
Repeat the motion of your reverse crunches, but with straight legs. Put your hands under your glutes to keep your body stable. Make sure you're breathing, and keep your head resting easy. Try for 10 to 15 reps, but you can lower the number if these are tough.
Roll onto your stomach, reveling in the fact that you're working out while surrounded by your favorite blankets. Stretch your arms in front of you, parallel to the mattress, with your upper arms by your ears.
Squeeze your glutes and quads (the fronts of your thighs). Raise your arms and legs toward the ceiling at the same time so you look like you're flying. Slowly come down, then repeat. Try for 15 to 20 repetitions. "This will slightly stretch your ab muscles and strengthen your lower back," Strougo tells Bustle. It will also open up your chest, she says, which is especially important when you're at your computer all day.
When depression is getting you down, it can be helpful to tap into your inner child and show them some love. Lying on your back, lift your feet toward the ceiling. Bend your knees as generously as you need to so that you can reach up and hold your feet with your hands. Find whatever feels most comfortable for you, whether that's grasping your ankles or your insteps.
Play with your feet like you did when you were a little one, experimenting with straightening your legs toward the ceiling while still holding your feet. Chill here for as long as you'd like, or count 10 long, even breaths if you prefer to keep track.
Thread-the-Needle Hip Stretch
Staying on your back, cross your left ankle over right knee (as if you were sitting). Thread your hands between your left leg and right leg, so that you're hugging your right thigh to you. This should increase the stretch in your left hip, which will start undoing a lot of the
damage from sitting all day. Pulse gently in and out of the hug, or hold your right leg close to your body for a slow 15 to 30 second count. Make sure you even it out on both sides.
Why are you incorporating this kind of stretching as a "workout"? For the same reason as you need to integrate joint mobility into your routine, says Froerer. "By incorporating
joint mobility exercises along with stretches to help lengthen the muscles, posture will improve, pain will subside, and optimal health can be achieved."
Roll to your left side. Stack your feet on top of each other with your right foot stacked on top of your left. If this feels too unstable, you can place your top foot out in front of your bottom foot. Form a pillow with your arm (or use your actual pillow) and slowly raise your top leg toward the ceiling. Imagine squeezing your upper thigh in toward your rib cage to engage your core in the movement. Try 10 or 15 lateral leg raises per side.
Sure, you'll have to lift your body somewhat off the mattress, but your forearms will still be cozy against your comforter. Roll onto your stomach and plant your toes. Bring your forearms to rest on the mattress underneath you. Definitely keep your knees lowered if you want or need to. If it feels right, you can straighten your legs and send your hips back up and behind you, holding yourself up with your forearms and feet. Hold this position for as long as feels good, or 30 seconds if you like to count.
Crossover Chest and Arm Stretch
If you can start sitting up, scoot to the edge of your bed. Let your legs swing down and sit up tall. Exhale, stretching your arms out to the sides. Pull your hands and elbows back like they're trying to meet each other behind you. Lift your chest up, and when you're ready, reach your right arm across your chest. Use your left arm to hug your right to you. Breathe and hold for another five or six breaths, then switch sides. You'll have your blood flowing in no time, without having to leave the bed — though perhaps now you'll feel more able to get up and go.
Experts: Mecayla Froerer, certified personal trainer, director of iFit Training Austin Martinez, certified athletic trainer, director of education, StretchLab Debra Strougo, certified personal trainer, founder of Row House