“If you win the morning, you win the day” – Tim Ferris
If I was to pick one lifestyle change over the past year that has had the most notable effect on my health and well-being, it would be my newly refined morning routine. That is, a string of habits that prime my physical and mental state for the day ahead.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it always, what you do outside the gym matters.
Sometimes I wake up negative, lagging with low energy and destined to procrastinate the day away. (Don’t judge.). This routine helps reverse starts like that and spark a happy and productive day…all in around 30 minutes!
It can do the same for you too.
I must confess that I did not pioneer any of these individual habits. Rather, I have cherry picked them to build a routine that works for me.
Influences include Tim Ferris, Charles Poliquin, Wim Hoff, Tony Robbins, Dr Andreo Spina, to name a few.
My 5 Morning Habits
Habit #1 – Lemon / Lime Water with Salt
After waking up, I drink a tall glass of warm water with 1 shot of fresh lemon or lime juice plus two pinches of coloured salt (not table salt…the good sh*t!).
I learned this morning habit from Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin at a seminar a few years back. Charles is a world renowned strength & conditioning guru and advocates this with the gazillion professional athletes and clients he works with.
A quick Google search will reveal a tonne of articles on the topic, but here is a summary of the benefits:
Given that around 60% of total bodyweight is water, there’s no surprise that it’s essential to optimal performance.
Even being slightly dehydrated can affect everything from your energy production to mental clarity. So boosting hydration and getting your optimal fluid balance first thing in the morning is a smart move.
Salt that’s rich in minerals and electrolytes and provides a number of health benefits. It assists water absorption, aids digestion and facilitates bowel movement.
Quick note – I use Himalayan Sea Salt which is easy to get, great quality and fairly cheap.
Lime or Lemon Juice
Due to the high levels of vitamin C, a generous squeeze of either citrus fruit is great for boosting immune function.
The pulp contains a compound called d-limonene which boosts liver enzymes and supports the removal of various toxins and waste products. The soluble fibre content has positive digestive effects like speeding up bowel transit time.
Another reason I like this habit is that it replaces coffee as the go-to morning beverage.
The natural energy producing hormone cortisol is at its peak concentration around 20 minutes after waking, so give it time to take effect.
Save the coffee for when you need that extra boost when cortisol levels are on the way down later in the afternoon.
Or better yet, save that caffeine hit for immediately before exercise when you can reap its performance enhancing effects!
- Boil a kettle.
- Squeeze a half or whole lemon or lime into a mug.
- Fill mug half way with hot water.
- Chuck 2 pinches of salt in there to dissolve.
- Fill to the top with cold water.
- Neck it!
Habit #2 – 10 Minute Mobility
Movement is a powerful tool, and I can confidently say that this is the most valuable habit of my morning routine.
By actively moving joints through their ranges of motion, your muscles will be activated and circulation is improved. Tissue flexibility is also enhanced and joints are prepared to function properly.
Any muscular stiffness, aches and lethargy are quickly eliminated and you’ll feel supple and full of vitality.
And when your body feels good, you’re going to feel good mentally too!
In the long run, this habit will go a long way to helping maintain joint health. It will help prevent fibrotic changes in the muscle fibres that can hinder movement and lead to pain and dysfunction.
I like to work from the neck down, performing a couple of movements for each joint. This doesn’t have to be a rigorous routine, think of it as a flow…your body will tell you what it needs and you can play around with movements according to how you feel.
Habit #3 – Breakfast
I’m not going to dive too deeply into the physiological impact of this habit because nutrition is highly individual and there are many factors to consider.
That said if you don’t have time to make a nutritious breakfast, then you obviously don’t have time to be healthy and lean. It’s really a matter of prioritising what’s important to you.
A consistent breakfast, one that’s right for you, should be a staple habit.
My personal breakfast typically looks like this:
- Scrambled eggs – 3 whole eggs, 3 egg whites, cooked in coconut oil.
- Oatmeal with berries.
- Glass of water with a heaped teaspoon of greens powder.
This provides me roughly 40g protein, 50-60g carbs, 20g fat.
Only YOU can judge how you feel after ingesting a meal, so this requires experimentation.
Carbohydrates first thing in the morning can make a lot of people feel sluggish. As a rule of thumb, the leaner you are, the better you will tolerate them.
So it might be a good idea to omit the bowl of cereal from your first meal of the day, particularly if you have fat loss goals.
And instead, nourish yourself with a breakfast higher in protein and fat. Make an omelette or go for another personal ‘carb-less’ favourite: the meat and nut breakfast.
Play around with food groups; see and feel how your body responds. Eventually, you will refine what works best and you’ll nail this vital morning habit for your nutrition.
Habit #4 – Journaling
I was turned onto this activity quite recently, after I read Tools of Titans. This book by Tim Ferris distils the tactics, routines and habits of many of the world’s most successful people. Journaling was a common theme, so I decided to give it a go.
I personally use the 5 Minute Journal. It’s quick, nicely structured and simple to use, which makes the task less daunting.
The questions posed each day are designed to establish a positive thinking pattern.
This is great, if like me, you wake up with a head swirling with thoughts. It also helps if you procrastinate and tend to focus on things which are uncontrollable or negative in nature.
Since weaving this activity into my morning routine, I have been more mindful and clear headed. It sets a more positive tone for the day first thing.
It’s making real progress for me but I’m still a novice. So, I’ll let this stellar blog from Tim Ferris explain: https://tim.blog/2015/01/15/morning-pages/
It breaks down this habit a bit further and provides other formats and ideas for how to incorporate journaling into your routine.
Habit #5 Cold Shower
This is certainly not the most comfortable habit of the routine and it takes a fair amount of will power. That said, if you can muster up the courage to subject yourself to this seemingly torturous task, you WILL feel amazing.
The health benefits of cold therapy are starting to surface in scientific literature. Science aside, there is no denying that this habit can change your mood in a flash. Nothing makes you feel more awake and alive quite like quick bout of cold exposure.
- Get in your shower. (Obviously.)
- Wash as you normally would.
- Then, turn the tap to the coldest setting.
- Focus on staying calm and breathing normally for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- You’re done. Step out and feel all kinds of invigorated.
This routine might seem arduous at first glance, but I can assure once you’re in the swing it isn’t. I actively look forward to it every day now.
If all 5 steps seem too daunting to use all at once, try building one new habit at a time until it becomes second nature, just like showering or brushing your teeth.
The return on investment is huge. This routine will go a long way toward improving your health, body composition and performance goals; it did for me.