Kick off your day the right way
Lately I’ve been waking up early…real early. I don’t exactly know why but my sleeping patterns have been really weird lately. I think it has something to do with the changing of the seasons, later sunrise, and possibly too much coffee combined with sitting in front of a computer has something to do with this.
Well whatever is making me wake up at 3:30 am I’m not sure, but I’ve been trying to make the most of my extra hours in the morning. Actually I find myself at the height of my productivity in these hours before the rest of the family wakes up. Yup it’s just me and our pet rabbit – Chocolate Chip.
When you listen to interviews with successful entrepreneurs, almost everyone will talk about their morning rituals. They get 8-9 hours of sleep. They drink a certain kind of tea or their favorite single origin coffee made in a french press. Then they meditate for hours in a sensory deprivation tank and then go to a Bikram Yoga class.
On the other hand many Americans wake up from a terrible nights sleep. They rush to get ready. They eat a garbage breakfast often times on their commute to work while sitting in stressful rush hour traffic.
So while for most of us the rituals of the Silicon Valley executives are unrealistic, we can still take some of what they do and implement into starting the most kick ass day ever!
Meditation and/or Breathing
Meditation has always conjured images of dirty, dirty, unemployable hippie guys that drop acid and chant for hours of the day.
Well the good news is that you don’t need to follow Phish and live out of a Volkswagen bus to meditate. Give this app called Headspace a try. It takes about 10 minutes a day and a guy with a killer British accent walks you through it. There are many different forms of meditation and I don’t know if one is better than another. Give this a try as a starting point and see how you like it.
If meditation isn’t your bag maybe you can just start by taking a minimum of 10 mindful breaths. Breaths…really Jake?
We take 20-30 thousand breaths a day so why would 10 mindful breaths make a difference? Well believe it or not but many people breathe wrong.
Yeah many of us are mouth breathers. We breathe in through the mouth and fill up our lungs with air and inadequately exhale carbon dioxide. Mouth breathing can cause many side effects.
- Poor posture
- Colds & Flu
- Bad Breath
- And many more
I plan to go into this subject more thoroughly in the near future so I’ll keep it brief and give you just a few of the “big benefits”. Nasal breathing stimulates production of Nitric Oxide which plays an important role in the sexual arousal process (Somehow it always comes back to sex). Snoring is also thought to be caused by Mouth Breathing. Learning to breathe through the nose throughout the day could help quiet a loud sleeper down. One more benefit to Nasal Breathing is that it helps to slow the rate of breath down and reduce stress and Hypertension.
Seriously try this. Lay down, close your eyes and mouth. Take a relaxed breath in through the nose for around 3 seconds and exhale for 5-6 seconds through the nose. It’s very simple but as you will notice it’s not an easy thing to do. You will probably find yourself a little short on breath. Keep practicing and counting your breaths. Before you know it all you will be thinking about is getting your breathing right. This clears your mind of all the negative thoughts and stressful things for at least a little while.
Nose breathing helps us get out of the “Fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system and helps us relax. Some of us that are really tense, uptight and have stressful jobs rarely get out of fight or flight, so this can be really amazing feeling.
Start your day with that clear mind and closed mouth. Practice becoming more mindful on how you breathe throughout the day.
Is breakfast the most important meal? In spite of what your mom has been telling you all these years, you probably don’t need a big meal to start your day. Actually some of us may not need any meal to start our day. Say what, no breakfast? Yup…well maybe.
So far there is no real credible evidence that shows eating in the morning to be beneficial to weight loss and health. They have not proven it to improve metabolism at all. If you’re someone that struggles with weight loss then maybe skipping their first meal wouldn’t be a bad thing to experiment with.
Man I looooovvvve breakfast! Like love it so much I would marry it. I mean I guess I could skip it but then I would have to make up for it later in the day by having bacon and eggs for lunch and dinner (actually that sounds like a brilliant idea!).
For the topic of nutrition, personal preference and body chemistry make us all fairly unique. Some people may do well fasting until noon while others would skip breakfast only to find themselves in the drive thru at McDonald’s by 10am.
Some do well eating small meals every few hours and others do not. Personally I find that if I train myself to eat every few hours then I HAVE to eat every few hours. This is fine if I happened to have packed a salad or a bunch of healthy snacks but when I run out of food I usually end up feeling like a junky needing a fix. Turns out even if eating frequently somehow stimulated metabolism it is totally offset by eating roller dogs and burritos from 7-11.
OK so skip breakfast or don’t, either way it’s not really about when you eat as it is what you eat. I like to think of breakfast as a meal that can only screw me up for the rest of the day. Start to pay attention to what you eat and how you feel throughout the day. Eating a bunch of carbs like cereal, pancakes, waffles and syrup might be delicious but they will not help you over the course of the day. Instead try eating more protein and fat. Even if it’s only this one meal, skip the cereal and skim milk! One caveat to this would be if you plan on doing some really intense cardio or highly metabolically demanding exercise before lunch, then some carbs would be appropriate.
Shoot for a good amount of protein, like somewhere around 20-30 grams. This would be like 3-4 Eggs and some bacon or a cup of Cottage Cheese. Or if you’re me, both. Also please skip the carbs and sweet drinks (I’m referring to juices and your lattes from Starbucks)!
Morning exercise can be one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your health. Most of the people that habitually exercise do it in the mornings. For many it’s easier to set your alarm an hour early than it is to find time after work. Things come up and if you want to create a habit and changes in your body you need to be very regular with your exercise.
Early morning exercise is one of those things that is a little painful to get started with but after you do it, it changes the way you feel the rest of your day.
There is however a few reason why you might not want to try and set any powerlifting world records in the morning. Did you know that you’re taller when you wake up than when you go to sleep? The discs in your spine have extra fluid in them when you wake up that give you extra cushion but can also make those discs more unstable and prone to injury.
This is just more of a reason to warm up properly and be very strict with your form when doing things that have potential to stress the spine. Take a few extra minutes to build extra body heat, foam roll, stretch and prepare those chronically tight areas (Ankles, Hips, and Shoulders).
Gameplan for an awesome day
- Wake up an hour early
- Start your coffee
- Turn oven onto 400 degrees and throw your bacon on a cookie sheet
- Lay down in a dark room and try the app Headspace to do some meditation and focus on breathing.
- Drink coffee obviously
- Get moving – Jumping jacks, walking, jump in a lake, side shuffle, rolling on the floor, foam rolling, etc…
- Check on bacon
- Cook 3 eggs, put on a plate with bacon and eat!
- Finish your warm up
- Still enough time for a quickie 30 minute workout that focus on the entire body. No time for isolation exercises!
- Pack a huge salad for lunch
- Dear god take a shower