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?

 

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!

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Despite a dull lingering hum from the hammond organ and salty dogs at the Royal Cuckoo, last Saturday morning I emerged from my front door at a quarter-to-eight to take a very dirty dog for a very necessary haircut. A strawberry smoothie, a stroll around Precita Park, a trek up and down the hill to the Noe Valley farmer’s market (bounty: kale, parsley, summer squash, rapini, lavender, sunflowers), and a very strong cup of Philz later (Greater Alarm blend) — I felt it. Summer. Arrived.

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Here are a few to-dos for my summer vacation (note: summer is always a vacation, even if we’re still nine-to-fiving):

Finish FIVE Books Since purchasing an iPad, reading has become a rare event. When I do select from the bookshelf or Kindle, it’s usually nutrition, running, or cooking-related, so I’m focusing on fiction. Novels and short stories kind of exercise the brain creatively in a way that nonfiction doesn’t, as corroborated by this article from the Boston Globe:

“The emerging science of story suggests that fiction is good for more than kicks. By enhancing empathy, fiction reduces social friction. At the same time, story exerts a kind of magnetic force, drawing us together around common values. In other words, most fiction, even the trashy stuff, appears to be in the public interest after all.”

Hoping the “magnetic forces” not only feed my soul but also improve my sleep (by doing away with the evil blue light of the device screen). I’m only almost finished with book #1 (The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham), so I need to get cracking. What can I say? I was derailed by OITNB.

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Write 3x/week “Writing” is a common excerpt from my Gratitude Journal. I’m attempting two blog posts and one free-writing or exercise. Maybe a few creative nonfiction prompts from Poets and Writers?

One getaway / month (June-August) With Tahoe in June, and a planned vacation mid-August, that leaves a July excursion. I’m itching for a campout, but if it must be an overnight at a B&B in Marin, well then, I guess that’s life. 😉

Foam roll & Yoga Forming healthy habits for increased speed sessions and mileage building later this summer/fall by developing a short home yoga practice (once/week in addition to my twice weekly classes), using my “Stick” after every run, and epsom salt bath and foam rolling sessions on Monday nights.

Meditation Just 15 minutes several times a week. Psychology Today discourages meditation before bedtime, which would actually be my preferred window. But after work or running sound nice too. This goal also involves exploring various mindfulness and meditation apps.

Practice happiness Continue writing in my gratitude journal. Take deep breaths. Smile. Don’t hold onto things too tightly. Take myself less seriously. Wake up early and enjoy the quiet times.

Happy Summer 2014!

(Photo by Max Wanger)

“I have a lot of fun doing this but I don’t necessarily think that it’s good for you.”

Josh Spector. Ultrarunner.

“The benefits of running decrease after a certain amount of time…I do it because I love it…”

Talking about exercise with a friend last week, he warned: “Don’t make me run and don’t make me do crossfit.”

I don’t know much about crossfit, but I wouldn’t be recommending it to anybody based on what I do know. At the same time, while you’d expect that my enthusiasm might make me an evangelist, I don’t recommend running either.

There’s no shortage of conflicting evidence concerning the benefits and dangers of running, but recent research suggests that those running more than 20 miles per week (or frequently run faster 8 min/mile) may have shorter life spans.

In other words, when “increasing mileage and pace, the benefits of running seem to disappear,” cardiologist Martin Matsumara told The Huffington Post over the phone this week.

Interestingly, this closely echoes some of Josh’s musings during his 135 miles in the above video and the quotes I’ve referenced. But:

Matsumara says that people should absolutely not stop running. “Runners in general enjoy longer and better health,” he said.

You can see in that little documentary that while Josh is clearly under physical and mental distress, these kinds of experiences are not only enjoyable, they practically define him. He describes running as an integral, non-negotiable part of his existence. The majority of us are less fanatical of course, but I think that many runners understand the kernel of this passion.

I’m learning that overall fitness is a holistic effort that is largely personal. For me this means strength training for the body, yoga for the mind, and running for the soul.

At the end of the day, it’s what works for your body, mind, and soul.

“Rest and be thankful.”

 

William Wordsworth.

I ran a marathon in early October (Portland, my first), after which I took about 4 weeks to rest my body and mind. I didn’t plan it it this way, in fact I had this whole idea that I would reverse taper after a week off (courtesy of Hal Higdon) and complete a bunch of winter races. But after nearly 6 months of intense training, my body just said “slow down.” And I listened. I wasn’t particularly lazy…I got up with the sun, took nice long walks with the dog, recalibrated my diet from “I’m absolutely uncomfortably hungry at all times” to “hey, let’s eat like a normal person again.”  

(that’s me about 10 seconds after coming through the chute)

After about a month of this I was ready to ease back into a regular fitness regimen.  At the moment, this includes 3 days a week of running 3-6 miles, 1-2 yoga classes, and 1 day of leisurely bike riding followed by a slow torturous intense workout. After 4-5 weeks of such, I’m happy to report that my rest was a huge success.  My endurance, strength, and speed have all improved! So now, I feel the time is right to kick things up just a notch. Over the next several weeks I hope to consistently practice 60-90 minutes of yoga twice a week (I’ve been really good about the Saturday classes so far), come up with some plan for an at-home practice, up my weekend mileage back to “long run” status, and to include more formalized speedwork.   

Listening to our bodies is so important, and balancing all of our fitness goals is so tough! It’s tempting to want to do everything all at once. Overall I’m happy to be inspired and so far don’t feel overwhelmed.  But for example, I’m very interested in getting more serious about my yoga practice in particular, and I feel like there just aren’t enough days in the week.  

For the moment, I’ll continue to go day by day, and work on feeling the joy without enslaving myself to a specific schedule. Come late-December/early-January, I’ll begin training for my second marathon in Big Sur, April 2014. At this point, I’ll list out my 12-16 month goals, and at the same time assess last year’s achievements, and analyze where I struggled or fell short.

Gearing up for a new year!  We’re so close!