Why Morning Routines Are SO Important (And How It Felt Losing Mine)

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I *just* wrote a piece for MindBodyGreen.com about how HRV testing in the morning completely changed my day and my life… Ironically, though, it got posted the morning I headed to Sea Otter Classic, a cycling expo where I was working for Bicycling, doing a ton of meeting and meetups for my new book, and trying to squeeze in some stealth Ironman training and friend catch-ups where I could. And, I was sharing a hotel room with a dear friend and coworker, and both of us were desperate for sleep.

So, that morning routine I wrote about? It quickly became hell to keep up with.

My morning routine normally—and I mean almost 99 percent of the time—started a year and a half ago when I started waking up and doing my yoga routine, and it spiraled from there. Now, I have it down to a science, and even when we’re on the road normally, I manage to make most of it work.

The Routine:

HRV testing

Read all about it here and here, but basically, you’re doing a 5-minute meditation while you’re checking the space between heartbeats in order to gauge how recovered you are. I love this for SO many reasons.

DuoLingo

I spend 5-10 minutes every morning going through 2 mini-lessons of French on this free app. I’ve been at it over a year and it’s crazy helpful when we’re in Europe. I’m not great but I’m getting more competent!

Yoga

I go through 5 minutes of planks, plus this easy flow (while I watch a show on Netflix, 10 minutes at a time).

Breakfast

I’ve been drinking a greens powder, coffee with collagen in it (article on that forthcoming!) and eating eggs with veggies and sweet potatoes most mornings. On the road, I still do the greens and collagen, even when I can’t get eggs.

Gratitude Journal

I admit: I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one and I’m still not, but I’ve been writing down 1 thing I’m grateful for everyday for the last two months. I won’t say it’s going to stay in my routine forever, but it’s been an interesting process.

There’s more to it once I’m starting work, and of course, I always check my email (I know, I know, sooooo against all the self-help advice) right when I get up. But I work in news, so it’s sort of a thing.

Anyway, back to Sea Otter. I had high hopes I would stick to my normal routine, or at least, most of it, but after the first night of jet-lagged, interrupted (for real, Monterey is nuts!) sleep, I woke up with minimal time and no way I could test HRV or do DuoLingo without waking up my roommate. I ended up doing yoga outside the hotel while waiting for the other staffers to meet downstairs for a run. Breakfast still featured the collagen and greens, though, and I managed to do the gratitude journal from my phone, but it was about a 50 percent overall success rate. It went downhill from there.

I won’t go into the details, but between late nights and packed schedules and a room that made sleep nearly impossible, my mornings were just F-ed. Coffee featured prominently.

It occurred to me yesterday, while I was waiting in line for coffee and a scone from Peet’s while scrolling frantically through emails before driving my headache-y self to the airport that this is how a lot of people live every single day. No morning meditation or yoga flow, no healthy and satiating breakfast, no moments to ease into the workday. And even a year ago, that was me, pretty much.

It wasn’t pretty. After four days of that, I was miserable.

Now that I’m home, despite waking up super late (finally caught up on sleep and getting over jet lag), I stuck to my routine even though my brain was screaming at me to get on with my day and that it was already 9:30AM. It really doesn’t take that long: 45 minutes counting a relaxed breakfast isn’t that much time out of my day to start it properly. Cramming down a donut at a desk may take a little less time, but when you’re falling asleep by lunch, that’s not really maximizing productivity, right?

So—I’m not saying that my morning routine is perfect for everyone. It works great for me—for now—and I reserve the right to change it in the future. (For example, I’d love to add in a morning run again, and I do when it makes sense, but it isn’t a daily thing yet.)

My point is just that having a morning routine designed with your health and wellness in mind is a huge boost to the day—I didn’t realize how much of a boost until it was gone, but it was almost a blessing in disguise that I did have to go without it for a few days. Waking up this morning and being able to do all of it made me feel amazing, and that’s something I forget about when things are going smooth. It’s easy to forget that things are going smooth because of routines like that!

 

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