Monday, January 2, 2012

Wake Up With A Purpose: 4 Steps To A Great Day

Two days ago I woke up in a haze to my alarm clock, turned it off, and went back to sleep. When I woke up I cooked myself a hearty English breakfast of eggs, sausages, and beans, then proceeded to watch morning television while checking my website, email and Facebook. Then I took a shower at noon.
Obviously, from the off it wasn't a very productive morning. It's okay though. It was a Sunday. Well, that's my excuse anyway.

This isn't a good way to spend your morning. No doubt about that. However, I will never do this during the working week as I juggle my work, projects, strict nutrition program and social life. When I'm on the go, the start I get to the day is all important. I'm sure you've noticed the same thing, the way you start the day tends to set the tone for its entirety. Indeed, making good decisions from the start puts me in a positive mindset, while eating an unhealthy (or skipping) breakfast and being late for work commence a downward spiral for the rest of the day.

So how do I ensure that my morning (well apart from Sunday morning- see above) sets me up for a successful, productive day, in a positive mindset?
I stick to a routine. In fact it's probably more of an early morning 'ritual' for me these days. Since I designed this site for those of you who want to look your best, but have a hectic lifestyle (full time job, kids, college, college and a job etc.), I hope you are able to apply some of the following aspects of my morning routine to improve your energy, productivity and general mood for the rest of the day.

1. Get out of bed and wake up.
Sounds obvious doesn't it, but going back to sleep at the sound of your alarm isn't a good start to the day. It will leave you feeling groggy upon waking and due to your extra 'snooze time' you're likely to be in a rush. Your body also sleeps in cycles, so there are optimum times to wake research has shown. Now, although your alarm may not wake you up at the optimum moment, you're still going to feel a lot better after an eight hour sleep than half an hour, so get yourself out of bed without battering the snooze button. There is an app called 'sleep cycle' that I've experimented with a little bit, it's supposed to wake you up at the ideal time. It's not bad. By all means give it a try.

2. Move, Drink, and Breathe.
Before you start thinking "Does this guy take me for an idiot? I already do all that!", let me explain. I'm sure many of you enjoy a morning tea or coffee, or perhaps its more of a caffeine overload in a cup. I know this is what I used to do too. It was my only option after having too much to do in the evening, resulting in a late night. Sometimes, it would be the reverse of this. I'd have to get up ridiculously early as I just had too much planned for the morning ahead. Either way, I reached for the caffeine.

When I researched the subject I found that there was a general consensus that the quicker you get hydrated, after the seven hours or so without a drink, the quicker you get rid of that morning 'groggy' feeling. The best option to go for is a glass of cold water. My routine is to pour myself a glass of cold water, put my dressing gown on, and walk around my patio while drinking it. Getting outside really helps to freshen you up in a natural way.

While you're out there concentrate on your breathing. Make sure you're taking long, deep breaths (as if you were running) in through your nose and out through your mouth. This ensures that your respiratory system is given a morning 'exercise'. This can help to reduce the need for artificial stimulants, and improve energy levels. You might think that sounds like 'new-age' nonsense, but it really seems to help me.
3. Have a Healthy Breakfast.

Now although there is currently much debate over whether breakfast really is the 'most important meal of the day', making sure your first meal is a combination of healthy foods is imperative for nutritional success for the remainder of the day. Ever had one of those days when you do everything right until your evening meal, then you give in to your hunger and have those fries, and all hell breaks loose with the rest of the days nutrition? Me too.

Start with a well prepared meal which fits with the nutritional plan you're currently following. If you're not following a nutritional plan, you should be. Currently I'm having three organic free range eggs with peppers and spinach for my first meal, but there are literally thousands of good options. Drink another glass of water with your breakfast. I usually have a glass of water and a green tea. BIG tip: If you want to enjoy your breakfast and ensure you have a proper meal, don't check your phone, email, or news until you've finished the meal. Then the day can really begin.

4. Consume around 200 calories of low GI Foods just before bed.
Okay so this isn't really part of your 'morning routine' as such, but it may have a huge impact on it. Morning fatigue or that 'groggy' feeling may be the consequence of low blood sugar. This is due to spending the last seven or eight hours of your life in a fasted state. To eliminate this have a small, healthy snack just before bed. I usually have some almonds and an apple, or some organic greek yogurt with an apple. Even if this isn't part of your nutritional program, if you commonly wake up feeling lethargic, or even have headaches, make sure you incorporate this. If you're overly worried of the calories, have a smaller portion size for your evening meal. Some nutritional programs recommend cottage cheese before bed, which would be fine to use are your pre-bed snack in this protocol.

Give the above steps to a healthy and productive day a try. It can be tough to adjust to a new morning routine, so make sure you incorporate any changes for at least a week. Let me know how you get on. Or, if you have your own morning routine that you swear by tell me in the comments section below.

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I'm a health and lifestyle author/journalist/geek. I've been published in numerous online and print publications. I love researching the optimum methods for burning fat and increasing muscle mass.

Check out my opinion of the much-hyped diet the Fat Burning Furnace
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