PART I: WHAT DO YOU DO? – AN EXERCISE IN REFLECTION AND UNDERSTANDING
A new beginning.
A time to start fresh after a rejuvenating slumber.
An opportunity to set the tone for the day – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
An opportunity. One we all have the option to partake in, should we choose to.
However, all too often we either:
- Wake to an alarm, go through our routines and get ready for the day.
- Hit the snooze button one too many times, rush out of bed and clamor to get ready.
Upon waking, too many of us immediately check our phones, computers, social media, etc for notifications, messages, emails, updates, etc. etc. – essentially living in a reactive state.
A state that can keep us addicted and distracted, away from the beauty and opportunity the morning presents. Away from presence and away from growth.
This reactive state is a time sucker. Spending time on something or someone else and neglecting our own valuable time.
I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to deconstruct your morning routine – step by step. Grab a pen and paper and write out the steps you generally go through in your morning. Don’t make any judgements here, just write down your morning process.
Some things to consider:
– What time you wake up
– What time you get out of bed
– What you drink, eat
– What you ingest in the form of literature, social media, emails, and so forth.
– What type of movement you do…stretch in bed, stretch on the floor. Or maybe the only stretching you do is tying your shoes.
– When and if you meditate
– What time you’re out the door/beginning work (if you work from home)
Perhaps its 5 steps or 30 steps. Doesn’t matter.
Just observe and note. If your cat/dog/voyeur was watching you, what does your morning look like? How much is mental preparation for the day? How about physical? Do you have any rituals? Are there any time suckers in your routine? How good do you feel (on all levels) when you’re “ready”? Do you even feel ready, or just rushed?
This exercise can be highly beneficial to those who are rushed as well as those who are not.
Starting the day with movement can and will have a carryover into everything else that you do. There is plenty of current research on how moving improves cognitive function as well as creative output.
Morning Movement Preparation (Part II): Ask the Experts
I decided to reach out to some of my favorite people in the community for their thoughts on the subject.
Each person on the panel has a very unique perspective and take on the subject, which is absolutely beautiful. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, different styles of training, different histories and different philosophies.
Another reason why, when learning and experimenting with new ways of living, it behooves you to keep an open mind. Tabula rasa.
We have an incredible opportunity each day to set the foundation for success or continued stress. All too often during our training regimens, we skip over preparing our bodies for what is to come. Preparing our bodies (the physical) can have a strong carryover to the other areas (mental, emotional, and spiritual).
If you had 10 minutes in the morning to prepare yourself for the day, what exactly would you do?
I would focus mostly on my joints, working from head-to-toe. Neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, spine, knees, ankles. Nothing fancy. Just going up, down, back, and forth. Rotating when applicable. Taking each joint through it’s max controllable range of motion, pausing each end range for a few seconds. I wouldn’t expect this to improve my mobility in any way, but I’d expect it to help maintain my mobility.
I’d do this for eight minutes. I’d then spend two minutes breathing deep through the diaphragm.
This is a loaded question though. Because if I was also doing some kind of a warm-up before a training session, I’d do this again joint thing again just because it’s a good way to wake up the body. And, if I were already doing that once in the day (like before a warm-up), I might spend those eight morning minutes trying to improve mobility somewhere (rather just maintain total body mobility).
Well, in my case, I don’t wait until morning. My Sleep Ritual is the most important part of my NEXT day. I love checklists and reminder lists, so the first thing I do after the dinner dishes are cleaned up and put away is make a few notes for tomorrow. It can be things that I can’t do right now, like grade my students’ work…due at midnight. But, it might be to fill out a form, or make a call.
Often, I just fill out that form or make that call. It’s a habit I picked up as an administrator. Do It Now…DIN. From there, I put on these annoying Blue Blocker glasses that allow me not to get stimulated by the TV, movies or computer. I only watch shows and movies without commercials…if I like a series, I buy it and watch it commercial free.
Not long from there, I hit the hot tub with the wife with a glass of wine (or more) and relax and turn it all off. After the soak, I take a brief ice shower and I’m done. I strive for well over eight hours of sleep every night.
I rarely need an alarm. The coffee (set the night before) wakes me up with the smell. By the time I pour my first cup, I have knocked down some vitamins and two glasses of water. It is easy to get “it” down when I start off this well.
We live in a world where our lifestyles, jobs, environment, schedules, and likes of specific sports and/ or activities dictate our daily movement variability or lack of variability.
In the AM for 10:00 a day i offer a mindful practice focusing on breathing, positioning, and moving in a very conscious and aware state focusing on everything from head to toe. Everyone has days where they might not flex, extend, rotate, reach, retract, lengthen, engage, breath with intent. Why not implement it in the AM and check off boxes to be safe.
I like people to do the least amount of preparatory activity possible before physical exertion. I think warming up is good before big time exertion by doing the same activity you’re going to do nice and easy…just building up some heat without incurring fatigue. I think preparatory stuff becomes a crutch for people…they start relying on it and needing it…and then more and more of it.
If I’m competing in something the absolute most important thing I can do is get good sleep before hand. From there have breakfast. Be relaxed. Have a normal conversation with somebody you like. Smile, laugh, take your mind off it. If you did the preparation you’re fine. If you didn’t, you’re in trouble. Either way it’s too late to worry about it now. Have fun. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The cream always rises to the top. If you’re the man you’ll win, if you’re not you’ll lose and there’s nothing anybody’s going to do about that situation. I think dorks who over analyze this stuff have probably never won anything big or spent time around big time athletes.
I’m not a meditation guy. I like to have coffee and watch sports center in the morning and joke around with my wife over dumb stuff. That’s what I’d continue to do on a big contest day.
I don’t really have a routine, save for space and exploration. I have to get to a familiar environment of practice, which for me is either the gym I work at or the school weight room I teach at. I don’t use any of the equipment, but these places feel like a safe home to engage in feeling out my body (even recently when the football players join me in the school space and blast the hottest rap songs of the day). Regardless of who’s around me, a switch flips where it’s just me and the floor. I shift my spine and hips, looking for tightness and unpleasantness. My feet grip and turn. I twist, fold, extend, flex. It could be anywhere… hips, back, elbow, shoulder, neck. By now a few minutes have passed by, and I have a good sense of where to pinpoint my work. Then I take myself to the ground. The decent is always a bit different. I follow and notice the hand placement. I push into the ground and give my upper body a bit deeper investigation. I continue shifting and searching, lingering wherever I feel I need to. Depending on what I find, I may be done in 10 minutes. Sometimes it takes a half hour. I use positions I find as weaknesses or discomfort to be my focus for the day. Where exactly do I feel it? What motions (both locally and globally) and positions make it let go or scream ‘nope’? Can I find a pleasant way to get in or out of it? The actual ‘workout’ or ‘training session’ just continues down this rabbit hole. I push as hard as I want to push and stay as long as I’m still curious. Sometimes it’s fifteen minutes, sometimes is several hours. The start, though, always begins with this organic and mindful kinesthetic body scan.
1) PRI breathing activities that address my specific needs to reposition my ribcage and pelvis. For me this would be Modified All Fours Belly Lift activities, 90/90 in slight passive FA IR, and if I have time, a left sidelying right glute max. Of primary importance to me with these activities is the focus on getting a full exhale to internally rotate the ribs to flex the thorax and posteriorly tilt the pelvis. As someone who utilizes a dominant extension strategy and is a pathological “belly breather,” it’s very important that I spend as much time facilitating abdominal IOs and TAs to inhibit extensor tone.
2) Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) from FRC vernacular. Essentially moderate-high tension joint circles taking every joint in the body through a full articular range of motion. Movement is critical for joint health and for developing control and stability through a joint’s entire available range of motion. Due to the fact that I’m very short on time, I’d probably just perform CARs first thing in the morning for key problem areas: shoulders, hips, knees, ankles.
If I had 10 minutes in the morning to prepare myself for the day, I would:
Spend the first 5 minutes sitting with my back supported against the wall, breathing deeply in and out pausing for 3 seconds at the end of the exhale. With each passing breath I feel more awake and alert. And the end of the 5 minutes I think of 3 things for which I am grateful.
Then I would spend the next 5 minutes exploring thru movement. This starts for me by laying on my back and rolling SLOWLY onto my stomach using as little effort as possible. Then rolling back onto my back. I do this rhythmically on each side until I feel more alert and centered (usually a few minutes). Then I stand up and balance on one foot (barefoot) and then the other for as long as I’m able without falling.
Then go take on the day!
Morning Movement Preparation (Part III): Put It Into Practice
This whole idea came about just a few months ago as I was analyzing my day, and figuring out where I had “leaks” or areas of inefficiency. What was I doing (or not doing) that was not only preventing me from moving towards my goals, but more importantly not setting myself up for success.
I found the best days were the days when I got out of bed, had food already prepared, and spent some time on the floor just moving around. Bringing the focus internally helped me become more aware of my body in space. The more aware I am of where I am, the deeper understanding I have of who I am. This has ripples into everything I touch.
The new morning each day offers an incredible opportunity, one that too many of us let pass.
We are creatures of habit. That’s fine. As long as those habits serve us.
What exactly are you doing with your time to serve yourself so you can better serve the whole?
Did you make a list of a breakdown? What sticks out to you as important? How about trivial or wasteful?
Cross off the things your can do without. Perhaps its 10 minutes checking emails/responding to notifications or texts.
Or maybe its just laying in bed hitting snooze.
I’m not going to tell you exactly what to do. Well, except for one thing…
When that alarm goes off, or when the rising sun wakes you (bless you people who wake to the sun), wake up with emotion. Sit up, raise your arms and rejoice with a big “YEAH!”
This is literally the simplest thing you can do. You will not want to lay back down after that.
Pick and choose what resonates with you and your schedule. Or create a new schedule. You owe it to yourself.
Practice for 14 days. Have a partner if you can. If not, find a way to keep yourself accountable. Keep a checklist of how well you did for the 21 days. Answering to yourself can be the most powerful accountability – only you can do the work.
There is work to be done.