Master Your Morning
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My morning routine changes over time, but I continue to learn, grow, live a more fulfilled life because of it. I have more energy, become a better partner, business owner and person. I continue to build better versions of myself, leaving behind things I outgrow. They aren’t necessarily bad things, just outgrown. I form new, better, more efficient habits… all from experimenting with my morning routine.
The routine I use to master my morning sets the tone for my day. It allows me to get a head start – physically and mentally.
A great morning routine needs 3 things: Physical movement, a mental activity and love (for yourself and/or others).
Truth is, my morning can be such a great boost to my day before it ever arrives. The most important thing, before all else, is to go to bed routinely at the same time every night. It isn’t an easy habit to form. I give credit to the most growth by getting to bed in a strict and routine manner. This allows me to get 8 hours every night. The later I stay up the less likely I am to master my morning. The more likely I am to be less productive with personal chores, my health, my relationship and my business.
Many before me have said, ‘win the morning, win the day.’ There are endless meanings for this saying. The key is to understand that if you get up and accomplish something right away, you complete a task before you’re fully awake. Accomplishing just one task builds momentum to the next task – maybe, for you, it’s making your bed – which leads your first win, and then another. Psychologically, our brains feed off of this (More information on the psychology of accomplishment, and its role in many aspects of life). This is so effective, and so interesting. I spend a lot of energy practicing new habits that will ultimately help me optimize my day and life. At the end of the day, why not? I’ve got nothing to lose from trying to learn more about myself and make myself better.
‘win the morning, win the day.’
Here is my morning routine – I look at these as my tasks that I am lucky enough to complete every morning. I’ve also included which category these fall under – Physical, Mental or Love.
- Lights on, roll over and kiss my bride (also snuggle my dog) – Love
- Out of bed and in-and-out of a deep squat (2-5 minutes, rocking left to right, up and down) – Physical
- Neck + Shoulder mobility – Physical
- Find my breath – Physical – Mental
- 24 ounces of water – Physical
- Make coffee + lunch for my wife and I – Love
- Clean for 5 minutes – just pick something and clean – Love (for future self)
- Let dog out, get some fresh air – Love – Physical – Mental
- Read 10-15 minutes – Mental
- Cold Shower, 2 minutes – Physical – Mental
Now, I don’t hit all of these every day. Weekends for instance there is no need to make coffee and lunch right away, and I usually don’t read on weekend mornings since I spend them with my little family. I strive to hit all 10 during weekday mornings. And honestly, at this point it is easy because it is such a routine habit and many of them build off of the others. A key importance is not hanging my head if I don’t complete the whole list… every thing on there is a boost. Sometimes I’ll hit one, or eight. However, nothing is lost, just less momentum when I start my day.
I mentioned that some of these build off of each other. Some mornings, while coffee is being made, I step outside with my dog, she does her business, I breathe some fresh air and then come back in to feed her. This is also a time that I read. It’s amazing what even 10 minutes of reading can do… putting dents in books, focusing on one thing and not letting thoughts about the tasks later in the day overwhelm you, as well as learning something new before you head off to work.
By the time I get in my car and go to work, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I won my morning, and will win my day. I attribute this not to specific tasks, but to the buckets I fill for myself, both physically and mentally.
Let's Dive Deeper
Above is more of a summary of the importance of a morning routine. Below I’ll breakdown how I’ve arrived at this list and what the checklist means to me. My goal is to fill the buckets: Physical, mental and love. Each item on my list identifies which bucket it fills as well – Physical, Mental, or Love (sometimes 2 or 3!)
1. Lights on, roll over and kiss my wife (also snuggle my dog) – Love
An object in motion stays in motion… the first part of anyones day is waking up, so get moving! It may be 5 or so minutes of just laying there, scooting over to my wife, and giving my dog a good pet but it makes the morning tone start off right. Not really thinking about much, just laying there, blinking a little bit more each minute and allowing a natural wake up process. In the winter, it’s turning on the bedside light. During the longer daylight months, it’s just opening the blackout blinds and waking with the sun as it lights up the room.
I would encourage everyone to start their morning with a slow-roll rather than a spring out of bed, just to allow the body to wake up naturally vs waking up and rushing yourself, causing some stress. For me, this helps check a love box on my morning list. For you it could check a love box, or a mental box as you lay there and keep a clear head before facing the day.
2. Out of bed and in-and-out of a deep squat (2-5 minutes, rocking left to right, up and down) – Physical
I can’t quite remember when I started doing this, but it was after experimenting with doing some squat jumps, lunges, push ups when I woke up – and to be honest, I just did not like doing that right away. What I do like, is getting out of bed, holding onto one of the corner posts and getting into a supported deep squat where I can rock from side to side. This targets the muscles of the toes, feet, ankle, lower leg, upper leg, glutes, low back and upper back (I always do some scapular retractions to work the upper back out too). It allows me to continue waking up, but to get my body in a good, dynamic position that encourages mobility in multiple joints.
This may look different for you, but it doesn’t get much more passive than getting into a supported squat and rocking in and out of it, up and down and side to side. For more ideas on and a whole bunch of resources on workouts and flows – check out APEX365!
3. Neck + Shoulder mobility – Physical
You could double this up with the deep squat, and I often do since it feels great on the whole body. In that supported deep squat, I will do neck rolls, cervical retractions (double chin), scapular rotations (shoulders circle forward and backward), as well as letting go with one arm and doing some twists, reaches and shoulder circles.
If you were to do it separately, start with arms to side, relaxed. 5 neck circles clockwise, 5 counter clockwise. You can then move to making a handful of double chins, followed my sticking your neck out as far as possible. Moving onto the arms, do some big shrugs and circles with your shoulders, and then circle your arms in any direction you want, working your way overhead and as big as you can. There is nothing specific here, we are just working on getting the body ready to move around the house and waking it up!
For more ideas on and a whole bunch of resources on workouts and flows – check out APEX365!
4. Find my breath – Physical – Mental
I combine this with the previous two! While I’m in a deep squat, I focus on BOX BREATHING – 4 second inhale, 4 pause, 4 out, 4 pause – repeat. This is almost meditative and is great for keeping the mind calm and priming the nervous system as it wakes up. Breathing is connected to our nervous system, and controlling the breath can help us control other factors as well. Check out The Ice Man Wim Hof and James Nestor, the author of Breath. I love how they are spreading the word on the power of breathing. Both of them provide excellent, tangible breathing exercises to help anyone willing to focus on their breath!
On days when I don’t do the movement right out of bed, I will work on the same breathing technique – I really like this because it helps keep a clear, present mind rather than thinking ahead about everything I have on my agenda for the day.
5. 24 ounces of water – Physical
This is just NON NEGOTIABLE. It’s really easy too – you just have to beat that little voice in your head that tells you to do it later or that you’re okay. You’re not. Drink the water now. Our body’s functions rely on water – every. single. one. So get a glass, water bottle, or mug you like to drink out of and drink one. Then fill it back up and drink it throughout the rest of your morning. Drink 2 if you can, and hydrate your body!
For me, I keep the APEX Water Bottle, lid off for easy access, at my side at all times. I am not a huge fan of chugging water and actually prefer to use a straw with ICE cold water to give me a little shock and boost. 22 ounces per bottle gives me plenty of water early in the day which is a great way to ensure hydration.
6. Make coffee for my wife and I – Love
Now before you go on about how bad coffee is for you… understand that this is purely for the love of having a warm, tasty brew in my mug first thing in the AM. However, there are some things I do before taking my first sip (aside from letting it cool down). Also, coffee is not bad for you (see here) and thats all I need to encourage another pour!
I try to be sure that I have gotten up and consumed a good amount of water before I drink my coffee. It’s nearly never the first thing that I drink, but I don’t follow any special rules for it either. Just no sugar, no milk – avoiding the additives that add bad calories to the equation.
7. Clean for 5 minutes – just pick something and clean – Love (for future self)
This has changed my life… honestly. I also do this in the afternoon when I get home and am still winding down from monkey/work brain. It has allowed me to keep the house tidy, and not let things stack up. This helps so much when busy… you have an extra 5 minutes to spare when you go about your morning, and when you get home from work. You will begin to notice the difference over time. For me, it’s usually the kitchen sink, and the hamper/bathroom counter. There are typically just more things that clutter up in these areas and when I spend just a few minutes (denying that resistance in my head that’s telling me to let it wait) I am so much happier when I get home in the afternoon and can focus on other things. This has been a huge time management win for me.
8. Let dog out, get some fresh air – Love – Physical – Mental
Ahhhhh. The fresh air on my face, and cold grass under my feet… can’t think of something better – I mean outside of waking up in a chilly tent on a brisk morning with a warm cup off coffee near a trickling river… but anyways, I digress.
Given that we can’t be somewhere in nature every morning, the closest we can get is out our back door… and we should take full advantage of some fresh air, whether it’s summer or winter. It’s freeing, clears your mind and can stimulate blood flow by exposing your skin to colder air (unless you’re in a tropical climate… where you might sweat… well, that’s okay too!).
9. Read 10-15 minutes – Mental
Work that brain muscle! But… actually it’s not about that specifically. Again it’s about focusing on the now, and not getting caught up in the day ahead of you. Read something you’re interested in, find a news source you can rely on, find a health tip and read into it, or crack open a book!
How I overlooked this for so long is lost on me… but I am happy to be reading in the morning again. Sometimes it is a newsletter in my email. Some days it is a book. my choice in books are usually either about what may be considered ‘self help’ but I look at them as building a better, stronger me – learning about myself along the way. Otherwise, I’ll read something about business, leadership, health and wellness, or a hobby that I’m into. Fishing, camping, skiing, backpacking – the more I read the more I learn and the more connected I feel to that passion.
Just pick something up to start, and watch your days begin to get better and better as you stick to it consistently.
10. Cold Shower, 2 minutes – Physical – Mental
OOHH WEEEEE. You know that Wim Hof fella I mentioned earlier, he is known for overcoming extreme cold by simply tapping into his inner fire and breathing to create more heat.
Now find your inner calm, find your breath, and lets conquer our mind so that our mind and body can thrive. This has been the biggest life changer for me. Since I’ve experimented with this, probably circa early 2016, I have become a stronger minded person with better discipline, better consistency in life, and better overall mood toward life. It is a kick in the pants, and it makes a world of difference if you can begin at 5 seconds and move to 10, then 20, and up to 3 minutes.
It helps me become present – we have no other choice than to think about the here, and now, while in that extreme situation. It helps me regulate my mind and mood. It helps me clear my mind. It helps me decrease stress. It helps me better respond to stress. It helps me sleep. It helps me fight inflammation. It helps me burn body fat. It helps literally everything.
Now, I absolutely do NOT hit all of these every day. I don’t even try every day because sometimes it’s not realistic. But I try to hit 6 of them – that is 6 things more than nothing, and to me that sets me up for a win.