When we wake, our cortisol levels are at their highest. Therefore, jumping straight into the game can potentially overdo your stress response, which can wreak havoc with the rest of your day. Fortunately, I have a small toddler, which means I don’t have a chance to look at my phone first thing. If my little one hasn’t woken me up, my alarm will go off at 6am and I coach most mornings at 7am.
Music has the potential to lift your mood. I coach an audio run most mornings and always make sure I’ve put together a good playlist, which lifts my spirits on a tough morning. There have been a few recently as I’ve been averaging three to five hours’ sleep for the last six months and this can take its toll on the body and mind.
Try to squeeze in a workout if you can. Twice a week, I coach an online strength session so I can get some work done there. On other days, I coach mobility and I also take part in that. These are all 7am sessions, which suits me as it means I can tick off a workout before the day has really got going. If you struggle with motivation in the winter months, my advice is to just do it. The most important sessions are the ones you do on the days you don’t feel like exercising – you’re challenging your brain to create new habits.
I’m a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast. I’m one of those people who will have the same thing for months then move onto something else. At the moment, I’m on a toast with peanut butter and jam cycle. I’ve just started an MSc so on university days I coach the morning sessions then drive to London for my first lecture. On these days, I’ll have some fruit in the car with a kefir yoghurt, but I relish the weekends when we enjoy scrambled eggs on toast as a family.
It’s only taken me 35 years to give meditation a go. I’m sat at a laptop for hours on end every day and feel I need those little breaks more than ever to aid focus. We recently recorded a meditation series with Terrence the Teacher for OneTrack and I’ve been using those a lot – the impact on my mental state and focus is noticeable.
How you wake matters. I hate alarms – a hangover from ten years of waking up at 4:30am, five days a week. Now, when it’s bright enough, I leave the blinds open and wake with the sunlight. When it’s dark, I use a Lumie light which replicates sunrise and avoids that horrible alarm noise. Waking in this way stops snoozing and is far less stressful – it’s been game-changing.
I’m partial to starting the day with a podcast. If I’m on the train, I’ll listen to the Akimbo podcast or something on Audible. I’m currently listening to The Art of War by Sun Tzu, which is oddly applicable to modern business life.
You don’t have to work out first thing. You don’t get brownie points for training at 6am – if it works for you, then great, but there’s no significant additional benefit to an early morning session. I prefer to train later in the afternoon, but if I know the day will be busy, I will do a sunrise circuits class – it’s quick, efficient and you don’t have to think about it too much.
Setting goals daily is important. Every day, I pick two ‘anchors’ – these are two things that have to happen by the end of the day, one for me, one for work. Things can easily get lost as the day progresses. Picking one thing to completely finish by the end of the day – and being brutal with other distractions – means I’m motivated to tick things off my list and not get bogged down with what hasn’t been done.
Breakfast is a good opportunity to pack in nutrition. I often make a protein smoothie and pack it with fruit and veggies. I take vitamin D in the winter months and will have a matcha latte if I need an energy boost.
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During the week, I wake around 5am. Sadly, I need an alarm to get me up at this time, but on the weekends I’ll sleep until around 6am. I try to keep my wake-up times within a 60-minute window to counteract the modern phenomenon of social jetlag. If you lie in on the weekends and feel exhausted on a Monday and Tuesday, this is a result of your body shifting time zones – skip the lie-in and you’ll feel better for it.
Mornings are time for silence. I try not to listen to the radio first thing, but if I have a particularly busy day ahead, I’ll do a guided meditation from either the Waking Up or Ten Percent Happier app. By 7am, my 18-month-old daughter is up. Between work and family, the day’s demands are pretty all-consuming. I know that if I don’t meditate and breathe early, chances are I won’t do it later. It’s pretty remarkable how calm and clear your mind becomes when you give it time to settle. After meditation, it’s time for coffee, which for me is almost part of the meditation itself.
You can’t beat a morning run. Having the streets of London to myself at sunrise is pretty special.
A protein and carb-rich breakfast is a must. My daily go-to is a bowl of organic, Greek-style yoghurt with oats, berries and a little honey. It’s a quick breakfast but is nonetheless packed with micronutrients. I also make a point of drinking plenty of water first thing – I’ll drink a litre before I sit for meditation to set me up for the day ahead.
With a three-year-old son, mornings can be hectic. I just counted the alarms I have on my iPhone and I have 20 between the hours of 4am and 9am. I have times like 6:47am in there – I have no idea why. Leo, my son, never fails to make mornings entertaining. Him shouting down the stairs, ‘Daddy, I think the sun has woken up,’ will never, ever grow old.
Ideally, I’d always workout first thing. My ideal time to do a workout is 9:30am – whenever I’m in the States that’s when I’ll do a Barry’s class. Problem is, that’s the class I teach here Monday to Friday, so I have to find other times to workout. Part of my job is to make sure our classes are the best in the business, so that means taking lots of Barry’s classes at different times of the day. I don’t have much of a routine when it comes to fitness except ensuring I take five classes a week.
If I drive to work, I’ll listen to the radio. I spend so much time with my Beats headphones on that I need silence when I wake up. But if I drive to work, I’ll listen to Radio 5 Live on the way.
You can’t beat eggs for breakfast. I often skip breakfast until I’m done teaching later in the morning, at which point I’ll head to my favourite café near St Paul’s, where they do incredible poached eggs on toast. If I don’t have time, I’ll make a protein shake with Hermosa’s protein – it’s made without nasties and is responsibly sourced.
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Getting eight hours of sleep is crucial to wellbeing. The body gets its optimum mental repair between 2am and 6am, so I try not to wake before this point. I’m also pragmatic in my approach to waking: if I’ve had a late night due to work, studying or socialising, I’ll try to balance what time I set my alarm to ensure I’m always inside the eight-hour window. My other rule is that my waking time doesn’t fluctuate too much – studies show this should be roughly the same time, give or take an hour or so, for optimum health.
Mornings are a good opportunity to mentally reset. If I’m having a stressful week, I’ll start the day listening to a recording from my spiritual mentor. If not, I’ll tune into Classic FM or BBC News to listen to the headlines. I like to be informed but not inundated.
A pre-breakfast walk is non-negotiable. Even if it’s just ten minutes, a walk helps clear my head. If I’m weight training, I’ll wait at least two hours after waking, as this is one of the optimal times to train. I’ll then come home to breakfast, which is always high fat, high protein. My go-to dish is five or six poached eggs (always free-range and organic), along with some walnuts and avocado. This is always followed with lots of water and a peppermint tea. I’ll have a coffee later in the morning prior to hitting the gym.
High-dose supplements keep me firing on all cylinders. I take a high dose of supplements, including vitamin D3 (which is vital for immunity during the winter months), zinc, vitamin B and various other botanicals, as well as 20g of omega 3.
A to-do list sets me on the straight and narrow. Every evening, I draw up a task list, which helps me to focus quicker on the day. It can be a cathartic way of keeping all my thoughts and tasks in one place and makes busy mornings that little bit easier.
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