A morning routine that puts you in a position for success
The elements of my weekday morning routine are simple, but may not seem easy (At first). If you can begin implementing them — I can nearly guarantee that you’ll find your days become more productive, and you’ll feel more successful.
The key elements:
- Get up early
- Do exercise or some kind of movement practice
- Eat a good meal
- Practice gratitude
- Review your plan — and get after it.
Get up early
There is much written about the positive effects of a morning routine which includes waking early. Aside from the influence of awesome people like Jocko Willink and Cory Gregory — for me getting up early has been a keystone to the process that has allowed me to take control of my busy life. Some of the benefits of getting up at 4:20am most weekdays include:
- Discipline: getting up early, no snooze, is a powerful way to build your self-discipline.
- Priorities: getting up early allows me to act on my priorities. Without it — the whole thing will begin to fall apart. Getting up early is a demonstration of the priority I’ve assigned to my health and to my family. I get up at 4:20am and workout when the gym opens at 5am. I don’t, therefore, have to take that hour and a half away from time with my wife and children. Managing the many demands on life is hard, especially for those of us with kids and all their activities. So I choose to wake up early and make the time to do the things that are important and get my day started right.
- Opportunity: Getting up early gives me the opportunity to get a step ahead of most of the world. It allows me to get a head start on the competition and my laziness.
Work out, exercise, or movement practice
I started working out consistently a little over 5 years ago. At the time I was 135lbs on a good day and could barely run a mile without being completely winded. I definitely couldn’t back squat my body weight. There is some (not perfect) research which suggests that early morning workouts are not optimal (compared to late afternoon sessions) for strength gains and performance. Despite this, I’ve achieved considerable results over the 5 years I’ve been getting after it. As I said above — its more important to me to consistently get my workouts in — than to maximize the results at the margins.
As a father of 3, a soccer coach, husband, grandson, and community volunteer, I spend my evenings with my family and engaged in the other activities that I’ve prioritized in my life. Most of these activities can only be done in the evening.
A solid, morning routine, that includes a workout allows me to maintain a level of fitness that I’m happy with and doesn’t take anything away from the other important activities of my daily life.
Plus I get an early win for the day. I accomplish something substantial before most people are awake. Additionally, the 5am crew at Crossfit Silver Fox is pretty awesome. We push each other and hold each other accountable.
Finally — If you wake up before 5am can also be part of a little online community of some pretty bad-a$$ people. The #0445Club. This has provided me an additional network of accountability and encouragement. And keeping up with Jocko is pretty dang cool.
Eat a good meal
Eventually Pursuing Balance will have a number of posts about my approach to nutrition. For today’s purposes, I’ll stress that eating a good meal after a morning workout is a critical element for success.
I am someone who can eat the same meal 9 out of 10 days — and as long as that meal is aligned with my goals — I’ll smile while slamming it down. Several years ago my views on food shifted. I see most meals (and especially this post-workout meal) as simply a source of fuel for my body — to recover and build strength. I’m not concerned with the flavor, or the presentation, or that fact that I’ve eaten the same thing every day for the last 12 days — if the nutrition profile matches what I believe I need post-workout — I’m eating it.
This particular episode of Barbell Shrugged captures how I feel about that first meal after my workout. High protein and carbohydrates, low on fat.
What do I eat?
Not including the supplements, I take (that will be a separate post) here is the meal I eat most mornings.
Training day nutrition:
- 1 Whole grain English muffin with low-fat spread or whole fruit spread (just a little)
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 4 servings of egg whites
- 1/4 cup of chopped mushrooms (I break them up by hand)
- 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
All cooked in a pan with a sliver of butter or olive oil spray. Then after I finish this I’ll eat some more carbs:
- 1 small gala apple (I love these small crisp apples)
- 1 serving of quick oats made with water, a package of stevia and cinnamon.
This comes to about 78g carbohydrates, 36g of protein, and 17g of fat (thanks MyFitnessPal).
On a rest day — I’ll drop the carbs by only eating 1/2 muffin, no oatmeal. I’ll also drop the egg whites to 2 servings and add an extra egg for a little more fat but about the same protein.
I started eating this routinely in February of 2016 — It makes a great breakfast scramble and has helped me go from a 315 back squat to a 375 squat (while losing weight). Gainz!
Practice of gratitude
I downloaded the 5-Minute Journal app as part of a promotion last year and believe that it has had a very positive impact, not only on my morning routine but on my entire life. The app prompts me each morning to list three things I’m grateful for, 3 things I’ll do to make today successful and to make one affirmation.
For example, I am grateful for…
- The love of my wife
- The health of my children
- This beautiful weather we’re having
Expressing gratitude each day has helped me stay within an abundance mindset. Realizing how fortunate I am — every day — keeps things in perspective. Especially when self-doubt and negativity creep in.
Some days I’ll list the very same items that I listed the day before and the day before that. This is a quick exercise — 5 minutes of your day — not a study of your inner psychological workings. Try not to judge what springs to mind — don’t rack your brain to note something unique and powerful. Pause, reflect on how things are going in your life — and identify 3 things that have helped you get where you are or that bring joy to your everyday life.
Maybe its family, a friend, mentor, your home, your job, the weather, even the comedian you heard yesterday could be something you’re grateful to have experienced. It doesn’t matter — express gratitude as part of your morning routine — and you’ll notice how your mood and outlook begins to improve.
Review your plan — and Get After It!
By this time in the morning routine — I’m showered and getting dressed in my bedroom. I’ve been up for 2 1/2 hours and I’ve laid the foundation for a successful day. Now it’s time to transition to the next phase of the day — work. I take this time to review my Todoist App and my calendar to see what the priorities will be when I arrive at the office. In another post, I’ll talk about using the Todoist App to ensure that you’re focused on getting important tasks done first thing in the morning.
Reviewing my plan for the next phase of my day is part of the morning routine because it continues to prime and prep me for what is in store. I’ve already attacked a workout, eaten a good breakfast, because of the gratitude and affirmation I’ve stimulated my mind, and now I’m ready to get after it. Reading my to-do list focuses that energy and is the final piece of the routine.
If you stayed with me till the end, Thank you. Let me know what you think of the routine. What is similar and what different things do you do to set your day up for success?