Real simple…perform these morning routines as often as possible, and you’ll enter your day feeling like a beast…like nothing can hold you back…nothing can stop you. You’ll emerge out of your cave, feeling more ready to crush what the world has to offer you. And you’ll find that these routines transfer to discipline and vitality in other times of your day as well.
Let’s get to it…
The first thing you should do immediately upon waking, is to take a deep, cleansing breath. Use it to send a signal to the rest of your body that it’s time to start moving again. Also use it as a moment to practice gratitude. You can choose to focus on a particular person in your life, being thankful for them or wishing them the best of days. Or, you can simply focus on the incredible opportunity afforded to you in being able to wake up and confront another day. Gently crack a smile while you take this deliberate breath. All of this together provides a subtle, yet powerful and positive start to your day. Some folks roll over and groan thinking, ‘oh crap…another day’. Don’t let that be your beginning.
At some point in your morning, you need to perform some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice. This is a great ‘clean up’ of the mind in a sense. It helps to store away the stirring and swarming thoughts from yesterday…into the correct files and folders. It also allows you to connect with your deeper purpose for the day. Just sit and breathe. No phone, no laptop yet. Just you and the breath. I like to start with some deep belly breathing, focusing my mind on good oxygen coming in, and the used-up air going out. After that, I like to seep into letting the body breathe only as much as it needs. This is a quieter and calmer breath, but you’re still able to focus on it. You can sometimes hear and/or feel the heart here as well. Just pay attention to body and the breath. When external thoughts come in…notice them, and gently guide them away. You’ll get better at that with time. Don’t get frustrated early on with this part. It takes a lot of practice.
Breathe upon Waking.
Before I actually get into my meditation practice, I down a good sized glass of water. Immediately after waking, your body is dehydrated. It’s gone somewhere around 8 hours without fluids. Don’t go straight to the coffee (which is a diuretic, and can dehydrate you even more)….you can get to that after the water. I actually take my coffee while I sit for meditation. This may not work for some people, as the caffeine may cause more stimulation, making it harder to only focus on that breath. It doesn’t have that effect for me, so I combine the approximately 15 minutes of sitting with a nice warm cup. It’s really something to look forward to. If you need more ‘me time’…this is it.
The Elixir of Life –
I have this liquid concoction that I make in the morning. It’s fierce and invigorating. I call it the Elixir of life. Here are the ingredients:
- the juice from half of an organic lemon
- a tablespoon of honey (preferably from your zip code)
- a couple dashes of cinnamon
Stir all of this together in a tumbler glass and shoot it down in one gulp. This elixir is bitter, and sweet, and spicy all in one. It’s so good…and it has many health benefits to boot. I usually take this soon after I’m done meditating. It has that ‘Let’s go!’ feel to it, so the timing has to be just right.
Cold Exposure –
After you actually drink some liquids, you need to soak in some liquids…or at least get sprayed with some in the shower. It makes sense to speak about this here, but it should come after the 3rd routine in which you’ll move and sweat. Nobody likes a stinky beast.
If you have the opportunity to soak in an ice bath or a pool of very cold water…do that. However, if you just did a hard workout, and you still want to achieve the hormetic response from that, most literature says to wait at least an hour after that exercise before hitting the cold.
Another option, and this one doesn’t mitigate that stress response that you want from exercise (at least not enough to out-way the benefits) is to simply take a cold shower. Not just a little cold. Icy! Get under that cold water for at least a couple minutes. Or, what I like to do is the hot to cold contrast shower. After you’re done with the shampoo, conditioner, and soap with some warm water, go as cold as possible and stay there for 20 seconds. Then, go to hot water for 10 seconds. Go back and forth like this 10 times. That’s 5 minutes…and you’ll walk out of there feeling like an absolute beast. Between the Elixir of Life and this, you’ve now already had 2 invigorating experiences. And boy is that good for the soul.
On top of the that, the hot to cold movement gets the blood vessels opening and closing. Therefore, this shower exercise has awesome benefits for your metabolism, your cardiovascular health, and it’s great if you’re trying to burn fat.
While you’re practicing the cold exposure, make sure to get the entire body cold…don’t forget the head. You can supposedly protect the functionality of your brain, and the blood-brain barrier with this practice. Get some.
Early morning exercise has many health benefits, including keeping you in that fat-burning state as well as giving your spirit a boost simply from the accomplishment. Whether you do some gentle yoga, take a walk in the sun (which is great in the morning for help with your circadian rhythm), swing some kettle-bells, or get to the gym for an early morning power-lifting session, you’ll be on your way to creating your beast of choice.
If you are going to do that late afternoon hard workout, make sure to still do some sort of that lighter movement in the morning. When that is the case for me, I grab the foam roller after meditation and go right to the living room floor. I do some rolling, which helps with recovery from yesterday’s workout. And while I’m there on the floor, I’ll do my static stretching…mostly on the legs and back (my needy spots). These two practices totally shape how I feel for the day, and set me up nicely for a workout later on. If you instead choose to do that hard workout early in the morning, it will give you even more of that sense of accomplishment, and will lead you effectively into the rest of your day. Maybe then grab that roller and do some static stretching before bed in that case.
To wrap up…a lot of this comes down to routine and consistency. Try these practices that I’ve written about here (Breathe, Drink, Move), but also work to identify what works best in creating the beast that is within you. But like my friend Brian says…if you want to be a beast, you have to do things that beasts do. So, what are you waiting for?