MORNING AND EVENING ROUTINES FOR PERFORMANCE
Having a solid morning routine can be key to a successful and productive day. Whether your goals are to get healthy,lose weight,or just be more productive and set yourself up for success in work and life in general. Getting up and starting your day right is paramount. Everyone is different and we all have different schedules and different lifestyles. The key is to put the necessary time aside every morning to get your body,mind,and spirit ready and working at peak performance for the day to come. It takes time and experimentation to get it working per individual so I am just offering some advice on what will make you better day in and day out with a good start to your day. I think of the three M’s to make this easy to remember.
The 3 M’s is just a simple way to remember what should be done every morning to get you into high performance mode instead of being sluggish and fumbling through the day. There are a lot of good routines and plenty of great books out there that have many approaches to quality routines and a great start to the day. For example The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod being a very popular and easy to implement morning routine using what he calls SAVERS.
S=Silence-Meditation and quiet time to reflect
A=Affirmations-An encouraging statement to get you motivated
V=Visualization-Imagine your day as you would like it to unfold
E=Exercise-Movement and a good sweat
R=Reading-Get your mind on track by learning something new
S=Scribing-Journaling to reflect on wins/losses
I like this easy approach but I have found it difficult to get it all in most mornings since my sweat in the morning is a bit time consuming and I don’t like to rush it because it is my FLOW and skill work time. So I have simplified it to the 3 M’s so that I can fit it all in comfortably in an hour or so.
The words mindset and meditation are overused and really are vague in explaining what we are trying to accomplish here. All I am trying to get across here is a practice on calmness and quieting the mind. When life gets hectic most of us are stressed and our thoughts are scattered all over the place from the moment we wake up. We don’t step back and give ourselves a few minutes of calm reflection and a relaxed way of collecting our thoughts for a more positive outlook on our day to come and our lives in general. I like to get up and drink my bottle of water next to my bed first thing and then I put aside 15 minutes to get some breath work in. I lay flat and use one of many breathing tempos. For example 1:2 would be a 5 second full inhale through the nose and a 10 second exhale through the mouth while relaxing my entire body and letting go of all the tension I feel physically anywhere in my body. A prolonged exhale activates the vagus nerve and brings a sense of calm. I fall into a rhythm for 10 min just following count and keeping my mind on the task at hand. You gauge the success of the breathing with the level of calm and relaxation you feel. Approximately 10 minutes in I am in a good rhythm and I start with some thoughts of what I am grateful for and a daily affirmation I will repeat in my head for a bit of motivation and confidence for the work to come. Finally I use visualization to play out my day in as much detail as I can imagine. Visualization is an extremely powerful tool to have a quality outlook and perform well. I use it in many ways including my workouts where I play out exactly what I am about to do in a mental movie before I actually do the movement and that brings a very consistent quality to my movements and work in general. So the takeaways are simply to stay present through a breath count and find that calm where you are in control of your inner body and mind chatter. Think of it as hitting the reset button on your thoughts and constant agitation of the tasks to come and start with a feeling of calm where you make quality decisions in your work.
Now we go from the mental and spiritual reset to the physical reset. All you need is a 20 minute sweat in the morning to activate BDNF(brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and promote neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is simply the process of creating new neurons,or brain cells. BDNF is a protein in the brain that is like a fertilizer for these neurons. I have heard it called miracle grow for the brain. Research shows that higher levels of BDNF and a higher rate of neurogenesis are associated with many health benefits including:
-Faster learning and better memory
-Higher cognitive function
-Better mood and emotional resilience to stress and anxiety
-Stronger immune response
-Enhanced overall brain function
All you need to do is get some movement in and get a good sweat. I use this as my time to loosen up physically and not feel like the tin man all rusted up. I do 5 minutes of movement drills to move in many ways and loosen up and then I get a solid 15-20 minute sweat in via jumprope and shadow boxing. I only stop moving from one to the next for a few deep breaths. BDNF has a higher activation rate when you are doing aerobic work instead of anaerobic work. This by no means is my training for the day. I have that planned for later in the form of strength training,trail running,swimming,or skill work like wrestling or kickboxing. This is just to get yourself aligned and working at your best for the day to come. You can use any aerobic means you like and even a quick HIIT(high intensity interval training) workout like jumping jacks,burpees,and jumps. Just get your heart rate up and keep it there for roughly 20 minutes. This makes for a good sweat and a lot of blood flow to get all that oxygen to the brain. After that get a 5 min cool down stretch in while using deep breathing to slow back down and keep getting all that quality oxygen to the brain. I personally enjoy a cold shower afterwards since it seems to finish things off nicely and gets me to feel extremely alert and sharp. Cold exposure has many health benefits in itself that I won’t get into here. You can read up on that here if you like.[http://www.aresflow.com/aresnikolopoulosgmailcom/2015/6/26/cold-thermogenesisct-benefits-traditional-vs-cryo-chambers]()
Now we are clear and focussed mentally and physically loose and feeling strong for whatever comes today. Its time to fuel our bodies with a healthy meal that promotes neurogenesis and quality long lasting energy for the day. A higher quality fat and protein with low carbohydrate approach works well for me. No sugars and starchy carbohydrates that can make you crash half way through the day. Lots of dark leafy greens with a low glycemic fruit-preferably blueberries and goji berries accompanied by quality fats and a good protein source. My go to in the morning is usually as follows:
-3 free range eggs cooked in coconut oil
-3 servings leafy greens
-1 serving of a fermented food like sauerkraut or kimchi
-1 avocado and olive oil with some sea salt,pepper,and oregano
-Full fat Greek yogurt with blueberries,goji berries,and hemp seed
It is a low glycemic meal that gives your brain and body what it needs to perform at its best all day. High in quality fats and protein and nutrient dense while packed with antioxidants. The fermented foods like kimchi and the Greek yogurt will keep your gut happy and it all goes hand in hand with brain and cognitive performance.
Before bed I like to just put aside 30-60 minutes to go over wins and losses for the day and journal a bit. I will journal how I felt during the day and what I was proud of getting done and what could have been done better without any emotional judgement. Then I go over the next days work and the most important task that needs to be done. I unplug from all electronics at least an hour before bed. Then I read something calming and spiritual that won’t get me riled up like trying to learn a new skill. I enjoy some spiritual and philosophical reading before bed. Next to my bed I have anything from Marcus Aurelius’s meditations to The Tao Te Ching for a nice calm read that I truly enjoy. I go to bed once I feel ready and lay down with a quiet mind and put away all the rest. If my mind starts to wander I focus on my sense perceptions and breath. I feel the cool sheets and focus on a calm heart beat while being thankful for a comfortable place to sleep. I usually doze off and sleep through the night well and get up again ready and excited for the next mornings routine and a healthy,happy,and productive day.