Monday, October 17, 2016

Morning Rituals

Good morning! Its Monday morning. Are you smiling?

Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, I believe your morning routine is really important. What you do, or don't do, upon waking can affect your mood and physical wellness for the entire day.

Coffee, first thing in the morning is how most people start their day, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, but your A.M. routine should ideally include a lot more than just java.

My day has started with exercise of some sort, first thing, for the past 25 years or so (before that I used to exercise in the afternoon), and I don't see this ever changing. Ever. There are so many reasons to workout first thing in the morning, but that's a whole other post.

Aside from getting my sweat on, my morning routine has changed significantly over the past few years. The reason is certain things just stopped working for me.

First, about 3 or so years ago, it was switching from mostly cardio, to mostly weights. I wasn't enjoying endurance workouts anymore. They just felt like a slog. I asked myself what I did enjoy, and the answer was weights and HIIT type training. It was the best decision ever as I immediately looked forward to my daily workouts again and felt better than ever.

Then, and I think this is related to my change of workout routines, my beloved oatmeal breakfasts stopped being satisfying. No matter how big the bowl, and no matter what else I added to it, I found about 2 hours later I was becoming dangerously hangry (like dangerous for everyone else!). I wasn't ready to give up my oatmeal yet, so I started to eat it less often and experimented with other things here and there.

But then my tummy troubles started. As I posted about a while back, I eventually traced them to flax seed, which I often put in my oatmeal. I finally decided to cut out oatmeal and do more experimenting to see what breakfasts make me feel best. I eventually fell in love with one, even though, I now admit, it wasn't the best for my tummy. Clearly, drawn to oat-y things, I started eating my own version of overnight oats, with chia seeds, yogurt, berries or other fruit, and konjac powder, instead of banana as a thickener.

But then the tummy troubles got worse again. I finally had to admit that chia seeds are problematic too. Ya know, its especially annoying when you discover you can't eat a favorite food, that also happens to be healthy? I guess I will have to get my omega-3s from fish instead.

Anyhow, I know alternate between eating fried egg and cheese sandwiches on whole grain flat bread and grain-free cakes and squares (so no, I don't in any way feel deprived. Kind of privileged actually!) that I bake from beans, like this one. After much trial and error, I have finally found a way to fuel my body in the morning that leaves me feeling satisfied, energized and tummy-trouble free!

Then something else cropped up. After not drinking my usual morning coffee for a lot of the summer (because it was too stinking hot to even be appealing), I reintroduced it once the temperature cooled off. Then I noticed that just after I would start drinking it, I would start feeling nauseous and develop a killer headache. Its not the caffeine, as I am fine with caffeine in any other form, but its the coffee itself. Hmm. This really sucks since its chilly mornings when I really used to enjoy my coffee routine. At first I thought it might be because I was drinking it after eating breakfast, instead of after my workout, like I used to, but drinking it at a different time hasn't helped.

Well, out with it then! This week I have switched to drinking tea, and I am feeling much better. All day long. I have also suspected that coffee wasn't doing much for my tummy either because its so acidic.  I can still have an iced one or frappe later in the day, but right now, I'm loving just drinking water and tea.

If you are not feeling your best, either physically or emotionally, I suggest you start by evaluating your morning routine. Everyone is different and has their own unique needs, but here are a couple of tips:

1. Shake it off. Don't just open one eye when your alarm goes off, think about how cozy your bed is, and hit snooze. Push past the initial inertia and get up. If you automatically shut your alarm off, put it across the room, not beside your bed. Even I feel groggy at first, because if my alarm has woken me, than I was absolutely deep in REM sleep having some weird dream, and if I have waken before my alarm, my ultra low blood pressure has me feeling a bit woozy. But I always get up, because I remind myself that as soon as I start my workout, I wake right up and feel great.

2. MOVE! If you refuse to do an actual workout, or wake up early enough to fit in a sweat session, at least spend 5 minutes after you wake up stretching and maybe doing some basic body weight exercises. Seriously, there is no better pick-me-up than physical activity!

3. Hydrate. Drinking coffee or tea is fine, but maybe start off with a glass of lemon water, or something to get the pipes moving. This is particularly important if, like me, you drink very little in the evenings so you aren't up all night peeing.

4. Nourish with nutrition. Everyone knows your first meal of the day is important. But its not just a matter of eating SOMETHING, its a matter of eating the right thing. Again, its not one size fits all, but most people feel best starting the day off with a meal that provides protein, fibre and a bit of good fat. A croissant and coffee or a bowl of Sugar Puffs gives your body nothing good to work with!

5. Experiment. Just because you try a new healthy habit and it doesn't work for you, do not throw in the towel. Keep trying new things and experiment until you find what works best for you.

6. Make it pleasurable. The morning can set the tone for the whole day, so make sure you fit in the things that you enjoy, whether its drinking your coffee out on the deck, taking an aromatherapy bath, or listening to your favorite music. Mornings are actually the very best time for 'me time'. You are far less likely to be derailed by a distraction or crisis. I get pleasure from my whole routine: exercise, shower, breakfast while reading the paper (a proper paper paper, not online!)...

7. Start the day with gratitude. Whether big or little, there is always a reason to be grateful. Every morning when I open my eyes, I am grateful for a good night's sleep. Sleep is so critical to physical and mental health! I am always grateful for my husband and family, and when I start my workout I remember to give thanks for my health and mobility.

Of course, nothing will make your morning better than getting adequate sleep so if this is not the case for you, you gotta start there!

Enjoy your morning, whatever you are doing and have a great day!

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