What do your mornings look like? Scowling at the alarm clock that seems to have gone off too early? A frantic coffee and out the door? Struggle with kids and school runs?
How would it feel to be able to start the day in a way that sets an intention and rhythm for the day ahead – waking up feeling that you had enough sleep, eating breakfast that gives you plenty of energy, and even having that morning workout to really make you ready to face the world?
Setting a new rhythm takes a bit of time for the body to adjust to, but you can start with any one of these following steps and build on it.
Move your body clock forward
It’s an obvious one, but if you go to bed earlier, it won’t be so hard to get up early – you’ll feel much fresher when that alarm clock goes off. And if you do this consistently, establishing a new routine, you’ll eventually train your body to automatically wake up earlier. You’ll know you’ve cracked it when you don’t even need an alarm!
“If you’d like to try this, now is a great time,” says Florent Rivault, wellbeing manager at Aspria Brussels Arts-Loi. “It’s easier to start this sort of routine when the day breaks earlier, because our internal body clocks are conditioned for us to get up with the sun.”
Enhance your sleep quality
It’s easier said than done, but if you improve the quality of your sleep, you won’t feel as groggy in the morning and you’ll be in a better state to exercise. Simple things like avoiding alcohol, drinking your last coffee at lunchtime, and making your bedroom a place of peace by removing phones and com- puters or at least putting them on ‘airplane mode’.
“The good news is that your sleep cycle naturally adapts to a new routine,” adds Florent. “After a busy day that includes sports in the morning, plenty of water, and less reliance on sugar, you’ll find it easier to sleep at night.”
In contrast, doing higher intensity exercise in the evening can serve to keep you awake. Things like a gentle yoga session are OK, but other options if you need to de-stress in the evening might include a sauna or time with friends.”
“Start with a glass of water because the body is dehydrated after a night’s sleep. Rehydrating helps it to wake up,” recommends Suzy Sumner, Nutritional Health Coach at Aspria Brussels Arts-Loi. “You can add a little lemon if you like for an extra boost.” Over the day, we need to be drinking between 2 and 2,5 litres of water and having a large glass in the morning is a good way to begin to meet the target. It will set you up for the whole day.
Eat for Energy
After a night’s sleep, breakfast is when we get to ‘break the fast’ and give our body a boost for the day. Missing it, or not giving the body enough of what it needs, usually results in a mid-morning dip and a craving for sugar and caffeine to get us to lunchtime… sound familiar?
Stuck for ideas? Here are a few suggestions depending on how much time you have and what your personal preferences are.
If you do not have much time in the morning but are happy to prepare the night before, mix together some oats, seeds and nuts – maybe add some dried fruit if you like sweetness – and soak in almond or oat milk overnight in the fridge – all ready in the morning and you can simply add a few berries or chopped banana on the top.
If you have 10 minutes to prepare breakfast, or you like something warm in the winter, try chopping an apple or pear and heating in some water until slightly soft. Add in oats and mix into a fruity porridge. Again adding some nuts and seeds before serving will give you an extra protein boost.
If you prefer something savoury for breakfast, think about having whole grains, seeds, and nuts in there – they will give you energy for much longer – dark organic bread with mashed avocado, lemon juice, and a sprinkling of hemp seeds maybe.
If you have a blender, try mixing up a tasty smoothie with banana, apple/pear, berries, nuts, and add in a handful of spinach or other green leaves… just add water and blend -you’ll be surprised how good it is!
“If you need a coffee in the morning, drink it after you have eaten” advises Suzy, “caffeine causes your body to release sugar into your bloodstream which in turn causes the pancreas store lease insulin. On an empty stomach, this can cause a sharp drop in blood sugar which can then set up more sugar cravings. Having a wholegrain breakfast in your stomach will help modulate this.”
Early morning workout
We all know that once you get stuck into your day, things can unexpectedly prevent you from doing the workout you really, honestly planned to do.
Whether it’s a busy day in the office that means you can’t leave your desk at lunchtime, or a sudden call from friends inviting you out for drinks or dinner in the evening, it’s easy for life to get in the way of your gym visits.
The best thing is to get up early and do your workout in the morning before the day gets into full swing; this has the added benefit of getting you focused, energised and ready to get the most out of the day.
Draw on a tool called ‘precommitment’. This involves taking preparatory steps that give you the best possible chance of sticking to your plans when the alarm goes off in the morning.
Precommitment strategies include packing a gym bag the evening before and having it waiting by the door, ready to go to the gym, or holding your favourite TV shows ‘hostage’ and only letting yourself watch them during early morning workouts.
Do things you like – with people you like
“It’s easier to get up to do something you like,” says Florent. “Just think about when you get up at dawn to go on holiday!”
He continues: “Plan your morning workouts to make sure they’re full of things you like doing, whether that’s cycling, yoga, swimming… And make appointments with friends to meet at the gym, or else go as a couple, so you can motivate each other.”
And don’t forget, by making these plans in the morning, you free yourself up to make even more fun social plans for the evening – because your workout is already done for the day!