Mornings. You either love them or you hate them. Regardless of your body's natural rhythm, as a busy professional, it can often feel like your mornings are not your own. As you grow in your career, it can become increasingly easy to start the day in your email or text inbox. While checking emails can be a fantastic way to boost your morning adrenaline and cortisol (AKA "stress"), starting your day on someone else's terms isn't the most beneficial practice for your physical or mental health.
Morning routines are a hot topic in the wellness world. Unfortunately, many people focus on the wrong aspects of this trend. Since many successful, healthy people are naturally early risers (and are very open about it), the morning routine message has commonly been distorted into "wake up at 4:30AM and you'll be great." Not only is this message fundamentally wrong, but it's completely beside the point. Not everyone is a naturally early riser, and if you're one of "those" people, choosing an ungodly hour of the morning to wake up (with little other guidance) is likely only going to make you feel worse. If you ARE a naturally early riser, waking up early without an understanding of the purpose of a solid routine isn't going to yield the best possible results for your health and productivity.
Adopting a morning routine is about developing the discipline to start the day on YOUR terms. Done correctly, a solid set of morning rituals can help to improve your physical wellness, prepare your brain for success, and help you improve your habits. It doesn't matter what time you choose to wake up, what matters is what you do with very first part of your day. Here are Pain-Free Fitness' tips for a successful morning routine:
1) Wake up with enough time to complete your routine without anxiety
My routine takes me about 45 minutes. I'm NOT a naturally early riser, but it's important to me to wake up about 90 minutes prior to any scheduled commitments so that I can complete my routine, get a bit of work done, eat, and commute. Do this math for yourself and figure out what YOU need to set yourself up for success.
2) Don't touch your phone until you're done
I used to look at my email inbox in the morning as a means of getting me out of bed faster. The anxiety of waking up to a bunch of looming tasks was oddly motivating. It was also stressful as hell and wired me for anxiety for the rest of the day. Morning routines should be empowering. Use discipline and resist the urge to start your day on anyone's terms but your own. Delay the phone!
3) Do something healthy for your body
This does NOT have to mean exercise - not everyone is a morning workout fan (I'm certainly not). This could be a multitude of things: contrast shower, stretch, foam roll, exercise, walk, make a green drink. Whatever it is, do something that you know is healthy for your body. I take a contrast shower (more on that later) and do a 10-minute stretch or triggerpoint session with a lacrosse ball. My Quick Fix course has several 10-minute routines that I use regularly. There's also a fun routine outlined in this article.
4) Do something healthy for your mind
Read, meditate, write, listen to a podcast, anything. Doesn't have to be extensive. Try 10-20 minutes to start. I read a book while I'm doing my morning stretches.
5) Do something that requires discipline
A HUGE part of self confidence and mental health is the ability to keep promises to yourself. The easiest way to do this is to pick a challenge and tackle it everyday. Make your bed, do the dishes, exercise, whatever. Just pick something, make the agreement with yourself, and follow through. I personally do two of these tasks, 1) contrast shower (I HATE being cold) - which doubles as a healthy ritual (cold therapy has some fun health benefits), and 2) make my bed.
6) Set up the rest of your day
Do something proactive. An easy way to accomplish this is to write down your to-do list. What will you do first? What do you need to accomplish for the day? Write a quick to-do list that helps you execute your day to the best of your ability.
Have a Pain-Free Day!