Why is having a morning routine important for a healthy lifestyle?

Days can be unpredictable, especially work days. There are very few of us who get to choose everything that will happen in our days. Therefore, the morning has the power to determine who and/or what will be leading the way and how much we give to our own interests versus simply responding to others’ as the day progresses.

Psychologists tell us that our willpower is greatest in the morning – before we’ve had to face the challenges and choices that come our way during the day. In other words, if you struggle to keep a given commitment to yourself/your wellbeing, you’ll likely be more successful making it part of your morning routine as opposed to waiting until later in the day. Exercise is a perfect example. Many of us start the day with good intentions of exercising, but we hit the snooze button a couple of times and before we know it, it’s time to get ready for work. We tell ourselves we will factor it in later in the day but other things get in the way.  You’ll be more invested in making healthier choices throughout the day if you’re already on a roll with a morning workout.

If you start every day with healthy habits and focus on what is important for your day to be the most productive it can be, you consciously and subconsciously take actions towards success. The main benefits of a morning routine performed every day is that not a day will go by without you thinking about your short-term and long-term goals, which in turn helps you achieve them. Therefore, it can assist you with motivation and improvements in productivity.

Also, by developing a morning routine it will allow you to assert your own authority over the day. You will be in the driver’s seat and can take charge of your own work-life balance. Too many of us do it the other way around and are left with no time and energy to invest in the time we get to ourselves and loved ones. As a result, too many people end up falling at the mercy of their work demands and become increasingly overwhelmed with responsibilities and they end up continually stuck.

A typical morning for a Dietitian (Robbie Clark)

Firstly, I try to get up at the same time every morning. This is vital for hormone balance by developing a healthy circadian rhythm (body clock). Upon waking at 6:00am, I will drink roughly 2 cups (500mL) of water with freshly squeezed lemon. I will then head to the gym for a 30-45 minute workout, no longer. These workouts will vary between a strength/resistance training program an HIIT circuit training. Depending on the intensity of the workout, I will generally do them in a fasted state. Otherwise, I might have a banana and/or Greek yoghurt to fuel me before.

After the gym, I will head back home where I will make a protein boosted smoothie usually consisting of high quality pea protein or WPI, banana and berries, almond milk, cinnamon, chia seeds, Greek yoghurt and coconut oil or MCT oil. Alternatively, I will have two boiled eggs, spinach or kale, tomato, lean bacon, avocado with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds. This is consumed within 30-45 minutes of finishing my workout.

I will then have a shower and get dressed into the clothes I have laid out for the day, the night before to save time. I will then map/plan my day using a specific template that never changes.I break down my day in 30-minute increments, documenting any calls or appointments I have or need to make, and then schedule out my tasks for the day. I always put the most important ones first to ensure it gets done. I try to schedule any meetings or appointments in the afternoon, because my mornings are my best hours of peak productivity, which is reserved for admin, business planning and article writing.

I then start my work day by 9am.

Tips for people who are in a rush in the morning

Firstly, getting a good night’s sleep is paramount. If your sleep hygiene is all over the place, it’s important you start there. A few tips include: going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time every morning, Limit “screen time” (checking emails, social media, browsing the web etc.) after 8:30pm, Make sure your bedroom is dark with minimal noise and at a comfortable temperature. All the things I mentioned above will make for a better night’s sleep and therefore, you will feel more refreshed and energised the following day.

Secondly, organise your clothing for work and exercise the night before. This cuts down on the time spent in the morning deciding what you will wear and then ironing as well. The time saved here can be put towards making a proper healthy breakfast, which people complain they don’t have time for or doing a workout.

Thirdly, make time for exercise with no excuses! Schedule exercise into your daily schedule as you would an important meeting or appointment. I am aware that important meetings might pop up unexpectedly, which take precedence. So, planning exercise first thing in the morning before work will reduce the risk of this happening. Also, make the most of your time during your exercise with limited resting periods. This is where HIIT training or circuit training is ideal.

Fourthly, prioritise the things that are important to you rather than saying “I’ll get around to that later” or “I’ll look into it next week”. If starting an exercise program or weight loss or improving your health and fitness is important to you then make it a priority rather than an inconvenience that needs to be addressed “at some stage”.

Finally, take action! The hardest thing, as we all know, is starting. It’s taking that first step towards your goal that is the most challenging. But once you have done it, you can start (with the help of health professionals and a good support network) putting tools in place to make these healthy habits achievable and sustainable.