My Morning Routine

Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life.

Yoko Ono.

My relationship with routine has been, paradoxically, unpredictable.

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But the older I get the more I crave the nourishment that comes along with having a reliable beginning and ending to each day. A good morning routine helps me deal with the stress, depression, moodiness, or boredom that may arise at home, on my commute, or at work.

With inspiration from blogs, articles, and my own intuition, here are the things that I’m trying in order to create a happy, positive morning!

+ 6:30-7:00: Wake up!

Step one: get out of bed, turn on the electric kettle, and head to the bathroom. I get back into bed for some extra cozy time while I wait for my water to boil, drink a glass of water and take a probiotic. I’ve recently committed to writing in my new Five Minute Journal before doing anything too complicated.

+ 7:30: Seated meditation

I make my coffee (lately that is Philz Philharmonic blend w/ Califia toasted coconut almondmilk) and head to the living room for morning meditation. I’ve begun incorporating Metta (also called Lovingkindness) in the final minutes of my usual 20-30 minute concentration practice, which is supposed to cultivate increased empathy and patience but for the moment hasn’t gone past the stage of just feeling a little goofy.

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+ 8:00: Exercise

This summer I’ve consciously been less regimented about my workouts. Anything from a good old fashioned 6 mile run to a half hour of intuitive, DIY living room yoga works. If I’m feeling especially low-energy or uninspired I might just do 15 minutes of simple, light stretching. I’m working on listening to what my body wants here! Sometimes it’s something more intense, and other times it’s enough to just get the blood moving a bit.

+ 8:45: Shower and breakfast

Almost nothing beats a post-run hot shower (in my opinion it’s like half of the reason to even do a morning run in the first place). To up the self-care ante I’ve been using a few drops of eucalyptus oil and a fun natural scrub (right now I’m using the delicious Fresh Cocoa Body Exfoliant) to give my morning shower a spa-like quality.

For breakfast at home I usually like to make toasted Ezekiel bread with avocado and a fried egg, or some similar version of this. But I have to admit that lately I’ve been grabbing a green juice or smoothie on my way to work (my current fave is a spirulina-spinach thing from Native Juice here in San Francisco) and sipping at my desk throughout the morning.

That’s it! These few small things are actually likely to put me in a better mood, if only temporarily. 🙂 There is so much advice out there on creating a “perfect” morning routine, and while a lot of these tips are helpful and inspiring, there is no one-size-fits-all. The best version of your morning is of course that one that allows you to feel strong and ready to go after the day. And for me, I feel more grounded when I start my day with some meditation, movement, a steamy shower and a little food! I’ve especially learned I need some extra chill time because I get really stressed and out of whack if I leap out of bed and start rushing around. However, I have a good friend who is completely the opposite. His body and brain just doesn’t work right before 10am and he needs way more stimulation to get going. So my morning routine would be totally counterproductive and leave him feeling sluggish for hours!

I’m interested to hear about your own morning routine. What things do you like to do to begin your day? And what about the self-described “non-morning” folks?

 

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In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

Albert Camus.

Big News! Summer is not yet over! Yet alas it’s true that time has passed and I’ve not been so interested in shouting from the blogtops since Spring. But besides that there is a sliver of August left for camping and running and drinking in the outside evening light.

So. The world relentlessly turns and we move forward, never backwards! In spite of it, allow me to reflect on the previous six months:

Running

Not ideal training, but at least relatively consistent. After setting my half PR at ORF In March, my plan was to shoot for a quick-turnaround near-or-sub 1:50 half followed by a strong fall marathon.

Golden Gate Bridge Warming Hut

if only every run could end with sandwiches at the warming hut.

I won’t bore anybody (most importantly myself) by droning over all the details, but suffice it to say that the execution of this plan has been a whirlwind of lottery denials and waning motivation and false starts. And the humidity, my god the humidity.

But more than that, I’m learning a tough yet valuable lesson about the role of stress in one’s personal life and how this can, actually, have a markedly negative impact on performance. I guess this seems pretty obvious, but I feel like we often look to running as our “therapy” – a deep tissue massage for the psyche to use as directed for problem solving, de-compression, and otherwise general monkey mind relief. In the past few months it’s proved frustratingly opposite for me, culminating in a not quite disastrous but certainly very unpleasant experience at the San Francisco Marathon 2nd half.

It wasn't all bad, thought. Any day that ends with Dungeness Crab is a worthy 24 hours.

It wasn’t all bad, tho. Any day that includes Dungeness Crab is a worthy 24 hours.

As such, I’ve downgraded from an October full to an October half, and steady but not wanting eyes towards CIM in December. Either way, I’m letting go of my previously tight grip on a 2015 marathon finish.

In addition to the half in SF I did Bay to Breakers, a Brazen 10k in Point Pinole, and a 4th of July 5k in Concord. Between now and Detroit (October 18) I may try to fit in a 10k. Maybe DSE Oyster Point, where I ran a surprisingly good time last September at what is still my only 10k road race.

Reading

My biggest success of the year has been reading more. Between kindle, paper, and audible, 2015 has been my most prolific stretch probably since high school. I initially wondered how I’d fit in the time to complete just 1 book a month, but I’ve been able to finish 18 and counting since March. And as such I’m smarter, richer, and more beautiful. The rumors are true, folks. Reading is sexy. And of course I’m tracking it all with a super sophisticated spreadsheet modeled closely after this one from Amanda Nelson at Book Riot. (Don’t ask me about goodreads. I don’t like it. I don’t know why…)

Meditating

After a million years of telling myself to do this, I have finally made major headway towards developing a consistent mindfulness meditation practice. Thanks to Andy Puddicombe and Headspace.

This light, friendly approach alleviates some of my previous anxiety and intimidation around seated meditation. And the structure of the “Foundation” series really makes sense to me and helps reinforce the daily habit.

Anyway, speaking of consistency, we shall see if training recaps resume on this here blog. The fantasy is to really do them in hopes of sparking some next-level shit in the Fall. But priority #1 is to keep it light, and this means refraining from putting undue pressure on myself. Because shit does indeed go down… why pile on more of the weight?

Namaste, bitches!

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”

Allen Ginsberg.

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Negative thoughts approach carefully, though the impact sudden. They descend like a cavernous and starless sky. Behind you, a lovely late afternoon creeps towards a warm early-evening glow, sinking into a luminous and melancholy indigo that fades so, so gently. Once you realize it’s come, you’re not sure how long you’ve been there. Encased in a void. Air escaping from the room. You search even to see your own hands in the dark.

How could you stop the sun from falling? No one can defeat darkness. These nights are inevitable and the chatter is forever. But suffering we know’s a choice. The voices needn’t carry.

I have lately put almost all my energy and attention into physical pursuits, naively expecting these efforts to naturally build a strong mind. Now it’s shocking to discover, possibly, my emotions more fragile than ever. Of course we can achieve some kind of clarity by challenging our bodies, and these things can be applied inward. But just like meditating won’t create muscle, running or lifting or an expertly-executed chaturanga won’t make a peaceful and sturdy mind.

Today I began with gratitude. Focusing on what’s good, each today. Now it’s Wednesday. I ran and walked. I made breakfast. There was no shouting. I made a long to-do list that is much shorter now.

Madness persists. Patience takes practice. Work must be done to understand these fears, not just flailing in the dark to fruitlessly chase them away. The moon is always above us, even if we can’t see it. The light is coming.

“Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply, move harmoniously.”

Jean-Pierre Barral.

This quote was tweeted earlier today by Danielle Omar.

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the problem with inversions.

Speaking of deep breathing and harmonious movement, last weekend I participated in a “detox yoga workshop” with Kimberly Hu at Yoga Mayu in the Mission. We began with breathing exercises, moved into flow sequences and standing postures, and finished with about 45 minutes of restorative work.  

It really was a lovely way to spend a few hours doing something just for me. But it confirmed a suspicion that I’ve had for a while: that I think I might be terrified of inversions. I was unsuccessful and both attempting a headstand from a wide-legged position and once again couldn’t manage to kick up into a handstand against the wall.

We’re instructed to remain gentle and patient with our yogic abilities and efforts and allow the poses come naturally. I believe that this is a crucial part of the practice. But how to balance determination with self-kindness? How to mindfully assess the root of our stumbling blocks while resisting the impulse to become too competitive or scold yourself or misinterpret a journey as a series failures?

What is it about going upside down that has me incapacitated?

I’ve selected a few classes on yogaglo.com that I’m hoping will help me move forward.  First, I’m concentrating on understanding the physical components of inversions, focusing on strength and good alignment.

Getting into Handstand with Stephanie Snyder

“The main obstacles to lifting and balancing in this pose are tight hamstrings and a loosy goosy core. …we will open the hamstrings and charge the core up while investigating the energetic alignment of the core architecture to give us the best chance of lifting up and balancing in this pose. Good luck and re-visit this practice over and over – eventually the pose will come through!”

Find your Inner Strength with Noah Mazé

“Accessing Inner Strength: What habits and patterns govern your practice and your life, and how do you find the strength to work beyond them? Through challenging arm balances and inversions, this class invites you to explore your reactions on the mat so you can take skillful action off the mat and into the world.”

Of no lesser importance, of course, is the mind.

Pranayama and Seated Meditation with Jason Crandell

“This practice will invoke deep relaxation and ground your nerves.”

Explore and Release Fear to Find your Greatness with Tiffany Cruikshank 

“Most of us don’t realize how much of an impact fear has on our daily lives, the power it has to limit us and our capacity for greatness…”

Like other breakthroughs in yoga (I’ve had a few…), sometimes they arrive as lightbulb moments that completely change your perspective and open up a new world.  Other things do just take time. Either way, sooner or later I’ll be standing on my hands.

Tonight, I’ll go with a brief and mellow flow to loosen up and calm some nerves, as  tomorrow I’ll be running my first 5k since July.  It’s also my first race since Portland!

Have a happy and healthy Friday!