You’re actually most in control of your day during the morning. It sets the tone for your success. Think of your morning and evening rituals as two bookends that you have full control over. Actually, as you’ll discover in this program, it’s possible to have more control over most of your day than you think, especially once you have these strong bookends in place. There’s a high degree of chaos in between. The goal is to make the best decisions during those periods.
MINDSET: Upon waking, take a minute to give thanks for family, friends, career, and everything that’s right with your life. Consider how your efforts today will elevate others. Visualize this upcoming Performance Day, the tasks at hand, and how you will accomplish them. Ponder the vision for who you are becoming and how you will navigate the day at the highest level. Take a few moments to visualize the benefits of living your IT statement. You could keep a printout of it on your nightstand, but presumably you’ll have it memorized. Repeat your IT statement periodically throughout the morning ritual, visualizing the benefits of living it.
MOVEMENT: Your body has been at rest, which is a good thing, but we must get your fascia moving. Fascia are the connective tissues running from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet and into every cell of your body; they organize your powerful muscles. We can do this through what we call Movement Prep exercises. We also want to engage in some soft tissue work, such as rolling on a hard foam roller or by using a massage stick (see pages 283–285).
NUTRITION: Though you might not feel thirsty, you’re dehydrated after sleep. Drink 16 ounces of water upon waking. You should place a glass of water on your nightstand or bathroom sink before going to sleep (and drink from it during the night if you awaken).
As for breakfast, it’s not just a cliché: It is the most important meal of the day. Actually, your postworkout fueling is more important—more on that in a moment—but breakfast is a strong second. There’s no excuse for skipping breakfast, and it’s important that you break the fast that started when you went to dinner by eating within thirty minutes of waking.
Breakfast boosts metabolism, fuels the brain, and provides energy. Consider drinking breakfast in the form of a nutrition-dense smoothie. Or eat something simple, such as whole grain toast with natural peanut butter, low-fat Greek yogurt, and a banana. Or try oatmeal with berries, almonds, and a hard-boiled egg. Another good option is an English muffin with scrambled eggs and avocado with 100 percent fruit juice. Whatever you choose, your breakfast should include high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, and color coming from fruits and vegetables.
Working out first thing in the morning is the best time for many people. You’ve accomplished something while most are asleep and avoided the potential of something interfering with your training session later in the day. We’ll provide pre- and postworkout nutrition options shortly.
This also is an ideal time to consume a multivitamin and some fish oil. Multivitamins cover any deficiencies your diet might be lacking. Fish oil provides powerful omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties, regulate blood sugar, and are essential for good cardiovascular health and mental clarity.
RECOVERY: Even though you just woke up, it’s still time to recover. Take this time to extend your breath. Breathe in through your nose for six counts, hold for four counts, and breathe out through your mouth for ten counts. This extended breath out slows your breathing, reduces stress, and induces calmness. Repeat this pattern ten times to calm your nervous system and decrease cortisol production. This targeted breathing can be done during the Mindset or Movement portions of your morning ritual.
LATE MORNING RITUAL
There’s a tendency to view the part of the day between breakfast and lunch as a time to put your head down and simply hammer through tasks, regardless of your profession or athletic career. As a high performer, however, you still must incorporate the pattern of Mindset-Nutrition Movement-Recovery throughout the late morning hours. Here’s how:
MINDSET: As you leave home—or even if you operate out of home—visualize the performance athlete you want to be. Consider how you will perform the next few hours. Repeat your IT statement several times and visualize the benefits of living it.
NUTRITION: There are likely five to seven hours between your breakfast and lunch. Eating smaller meals more often controls appetite and regulates blood sugar. It improves concentration, eliminates mood swings and overeating, and maintains muscle mass. Have a midmorning fueling that includes a combination of colorful high-fiber carbs, protein, and fat.
Try fruit, veggies, nuts, sunflower seeds, or beef jerky. If you have access to a blender or shaker bottle, a shake or smoothie consisting of fruit and whey protein also is a good option. Note that we use the word fuel, never snack. Snacking is synonymous with junk food, or at least what you give the dog. Fuel powers your brain and body for success.
By having this midmorning fueling, you’ll find you won’t need your typical lunch. It likely will be smaller, but should again consist of high-fiber carbs, lean protein, healthy fats, and color.
Wherever your morning takes you—or even if you remain at home—continue to drink water. Even minor dehydration impairs concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Drink ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day to maintain hydration.
MOVEMENT/RECOVERY: It can be difficult to maintain good posture while spending a chunk of your day sitting down, whether driving, receiving briefings, or sitting in meetings. That’s why it’s important to check your posture a couple times each morning. Are your shoulder blades pulled back and down? Is your chest elevated? Are you “sitting tall”?
Even if you’re stuck in a seated position, you still can use this time productively. Work on one set of ten anchor breaths, inhaling for up to six seconds, holding for four seconds, and exhaling for eight to ten seconds.
Most people make it a point on long flights to get up and walk around. So why do most of us not rise from our meetings for hours unless nature calls? Take periodic five-minute breaks and do some simple Movement Prep. These movements counteract the effects of the modern sedentary society, which are to round our shoulders, lock our hips, and weaken our cores.
Keep a tennis ball under your desk. While standing or sitting, slip off your shoe and roll your foot back and forth over the tennis ball, applying pressure to the arch of your foot. This trigger point therapy will help relieve chronic foot pain and fascial tightness. According to Eastern medicine, this process also improves overall health.
Reprinted by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Mark Verstegen, 2014.