Starting your day with a routine can help you live longer, better.
I never noticed the value of routine and its impact on my life until I lost it. As I reflect on my younger days, I now realize that a daily routine and the discipline that structure provided was a large part of my life and a direct correlation to success as I had. The system of waking up for school, shower, breakfast, school, homework, practice, and repeat allows for an environment that minimizes stress and maximizes time. As I got older, this structure became less inherent as it became more of personal responsibility, and the one abundantly clear thing was the more free time I had, the less success I experienced. I was always putting off things until later, thus creating a higher stress environment. However, grades would improve in season, as the structure of early morning classes and midday practices limited my time, forcing me to create an involuntary system for my day. In turn, this routine set the skeleton for success as it moved a focused (and oddly rewarding) work not seen out of season.
As I got older, the routine of work soon replaced school. However, it still allowed for the structure and discipline to maintain a decent schedule that one needs at a bare minimum. Now, throughout this time, I was still pursuing athletic endeavors in football and Olympic weightlifting and trying to get experience and knowledge in my passion field of strength and conditioning. The structure of this environment made me appreciate the little free time I had. Still, more importantly, it forced me to assess what I value and find essential, causing self-reflection to be a critical component of my daily routine.
As I continue to grow in the health and fitness industry as someone that people often come to for health and wellness advice, I think it is essential that I evaluate myself (and my team at Black Flag Athletics) daily. It is vital to stay true to our mission of working diligently to enhance the quality of life and longevity by taking the necessary steps. It turns out a daily routine can be a massive part of that. Routine can be a double whammy for those wanting to increase health and wellness from psychological and physiological perspectives. But, on the other hand, it could be the key to creating a productive and, even more importantly, a gratifying day. The current routine I am doing is something that I have developed throughout the years and works for me. It is a combination of physical and mental exercises that create an excellent foundation for success throughout the rest of the day. Here is my daily routine:
The night before: This is a critical component of setting up a successful day. The night before, I will take some time and map out what my day will look like tomorrow, then read for a bit, something that is not overly stimulating. Now, most of us would read in bed before going to bed. However, I would urge you to do your evening planning and reading somewhere else quiet. The brain is picky and loves routine, as well. In addition, reading in bed every night can affect sleep because the mattress will no longer be associated with rest but instead reading, thus making it more difficult to fall asleep or maintain quality sleep.
6:00 am Wake Up
- Sit on the edge of my bed and switch on my “Happy Light.” A Happy light is a unique lamp that mimics the sun’s light (without the harmful UV ray). Getting this light on you as soon as possible after waking up will help set your circadian rhythm – the natural, internal 24-hour waking and the body’s sleeping cycle. It will also help with mood and seasonal affective disorder.
- After 5:00 or so of the Happy Light exposure – I get up and head directly in to wash my face with an all-natural aloe herb facial cleanser with the coldest water possible. There are a lot of benefits of cold water exposure that will be discussed in later posts.
6:10 am Head Down Stairs
- At this point in the morning, I take 5 minutes to journal and another ten or so to meditate. I do three things to ensure that I am starting my day with a grateful heart and mind.
- What am I grateful for today?
- What is one truth for today?
- Who is one person that I can help today? (this can take on many different meanings; for me, it is usually predicated on the community at Black Flag Athletics).
- After journaling, I get some study time in. I bounce around quite a bit and usually have 3-5 books I am going through at a time. I also typically use this time to reach a lot of the current research on health, wellness, fitness, strength, and conditioning, so I am up to date on current trends and practices.
- I usually head to my office, check some e-mails and then write. Although I am not a great writer, I find it to be relaxing and rewarding by any stretch of the imagination. Depending on the day and how I feel, this will be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
- I also brew a nice cup of black coffee – no additives as I am in a fasted state and will try to maintain it until around 1:00 pm (after my training session for the day).
- Programming – At this point in the morning. I generally put together a programming outline for the day for my clients and review the upcoming class and competitive (COMPETE) programming at Black Flag Athletics.
7:30 am (My favorite part)
- Fill up a large glass of water, add in some essential lemon oil, oil of oregano, and sea sale in it. Let dissolve and drink it up while going through my self-love work.
- Flip on the Joovv red light and start with my soft tissue work, foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and everything else. I spend about 10 minutes here working over as much of my body as possible. After that, I move into 5 minutes of mobility, focusing on the hips and thoracic spine.
- Up next is 10 minutes of concentrated red light exposure, sitting as close to my lamp as possible. The daily Photobiomodulation treatments have antiaging benefits on superficial and deep tissue levels. Increases in collagen production (tightening of the skin), increased hormone production, and decreases in cellular aging are all documented benefits of red light therapy. I do this completely naked, getting as much red light exposure as possible.
- 10-15 minutes of movement on a stationary bike, sauna exposure, or dedicated soft tissue (foam rolling, Theragun) work. Getting moving in the morning and exposing yourself to an extreme heat environment have been shown to release “heat shock” proteins. The proteins are issued when the body is put in a high-stress state and can aid immune
- A cold shower or cold plunge time! After all of this, I jump into the shower. Warm water to wash and then 3-5 minutes of a cold shower, moving around the whole time. Although this sounds like it would be terrible, and at first, it wasn’t easy. But I started slowly and gradually built up more time and colder water. Now, I look forward to it! Now, why a cold shower. Well, there are multiple benefits worthy of an entire blog post all to itself, but here are a few of the benefits of a daily cold shower:
- Activation of “brown fat” increases fat loss.
- Boost in immunity – that’s right, ditch the Vitamin C and jump in a cold shower.
- Boost in lymphatic function – helps to detoxify
- Potential boost in testosterone
- Increase skin tightness and hair strength
And this is just the tip of the iceberg (get it :))!
- Start my day…
And there you have it, my daily morning routine. From time to time, I will amend and add or remove something, but for the most part, this is it! This is a bit extreme for most, but my focus is on increasing my quality of life while doing what I can to slow down (and hopefully) reverse the aging process. As research changes, so will this.
I encourage you to take some time each night and layout a game plan for the next, starting with your morning routine. I promise that productivity will increase and stress will decrease, leading to a feeling of accomplishment!
Winning the day starts with how you start it!
Thomas M. Rini, MEd.
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
CEO/Owner – Black Flag Athletics