Fitness has always been a vital part of not only my physical health, but also my mental health. But after a year of 6:30 AM classes, I noticed another trend: I was feeling unexcited by workouts, sluggish at the end of the week, and uncreative. My routine of wakeup, workout, work felt more restrictive than empowering, and kind of depressing considering I was spending my favorite time of the day—early morning—inside a windowless studio. With some trial and error, I finally landed on a compromise that helped me take back my mornings, and add more joy to my weeks:
After writing down a list of things I felt I missed from my regular routine, I landed on creativity, inspiration, and nature—then made them a priority. Call it mindfulness, or #selfcare, but for the past several months, I've reserved two mornings a work week for working out, and dedicated the other three days to mental health (carving out time to work out in the evenings on those days). Practicing balance isn't a groundbreaking idea, but I was amazed by how positively the small switch impacted me.
The key, I believe, is that my non-exercise mornings are intentional now: I'm particular about when I use my phone, maximize my morning time by packing lunch and setting out my outfit the night before, and am careful to focus only on things I want to do—rather than get distracted by dirty dishes or work emails. I realize in writing this, that this idea gets infinitely more complicated as soon as you have kids, but my hope is that the takeaways, of carving out some alone time, going for even a ten-minute walk, and forgoing workout classes for creative pursuits can apply to anyone. Here's how I spend three mornings each week:
My daily alarm is set for 6:05, since I've found keeping a consistent routine is key to treating my insomnia. As a result, I generally wake up naturally a few minutes ahead of my alarm, and hop out of bed before it goes off to avoid waking up Jonah, who generally sleeps in a bit later.
Because mornings are often the only time I have to myself all day, I consider them sacred and treat the nook in our kitchen like my morning sanctuary. I leave my phone in another room, light a candle, turn on dim lights, and sit down with whatever I feel inspired to do that morning. Nine out of ten times, that's writing. I'm part of a fiction club with two other friends, where we give each-other weekly assignments. For me, these assignments serve as a just-for-fun creative catharsis that can feel a bit like journaling. If I'm not writing, I'm reading a book or catching up on newspapers and magazines. But most importantly, I make sure this hour is completely mine.
Unless I'm in a good writing groove, I try to head outside as soon as it's light out, since I love walking around my neighborhood as it wakes up. I usually only walk for ten to fifteen minutes, just enough time to get outside and listen to a ten-minute Headspace meditation or podcast (or chat with Jonah, if he has time to join me), but those few minutes always positively impact my day and leave me feeling calmer.
I make myself the same thing for breakfast each morning: Bulletproof coffee and three to four eggs with a huge handful of spinach, cooked in coconut oil (and either tomatoes confit, this homemade pesto, or the fermented hot sauce from Palette in Atwater Village on top). I know that sounds like a lot of eggs (it is!), but I eat this breakfast every morning for a few reasons: One of my closest friends is a holistic nutritionist, and after sharing with her that I felt hungry and fatigued each day, despite calorie-dense breakfasts and lunches, she told me it may be due to a protein-deficiency in my diet. Switching to pasture-raised, organic eggs, from breakfasts like avocado toast and bananas with nut butter, and adding nutrient-dense leafy greens solved these issues on the spot for me. (On mornings when I work out, I drink Bulletproof coffee before my workout, then eat four soft-boiled eggs, over spinach and sometimes an avocado at the office. It makes me feel like a bodybuilder, but hey it works!).
As far as Bulletproof Coffee goes... There are a lot of purported benefits to drinking Bulletproof coffee, and as with most food trends I think the the benefits are exaggerated, but I personally drink it because I notice it keeps me fuller for longer, gives me energy without caffeine jitters, and tastes delicious, like a super-luxurious latte. To make it, I brew one cup of coffee (1 cup water, two heaping scoops of my favorite coffee). I then add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 scoop Vital Proteins Marine Collagen Peptides (another recommendation from my nutritionist, because it has 6 grams of protein per scoop), and 1 teaspoon MCT oil to a Magic Bullet, then blend it for about ten seconds with the coffee.
While eating, I set an alarm for twenty minutes and read. I usually use this time to catch up on the New York Times I receive every Sunday, in part because it's the perfect length of time to read one to two features, in part because I won't be upset when I inevitably spill yolk on the page...
P.S., I just want to emphasize: There is almost nothing more personal than diet, so check with a professional before following anyone's diet advice, mine included. Everyone is different (I learned last week that people with certain blood types can feel nauseous from collagen powder—who knew??), but this is what works for me! If you do want a professional, this is my girl.
Possibly the most impactful thing I've done for my morning routine is develop a diligent haircare and skincare routine, since having healthy skin means I don't have to wear nearly as much makeup as I used to—or often forgo it altogether. On mornings I don't work out, I usually don't shower and just take a 'washcloth bath' (the delicate way of saying I take a soapy washcloth to my armpits), then shower in the evening. The entire "getting ready" process takes ten minutes, max—read about my "Two-Four Rule" here!
Every morning, I listen to the New York Times podcast 'The Daily' on my way to work, since it's incredibly informative and I'm a little in love with the host, Michael Barbaro.
I'm often out the door by 8:30 AM, which puts me at the office by 9! I alway spend fifteen minutes catching up with coworkers, putting the coffee maker on (working on breaking that two-cup habit...), and reading through comments (hey!), before diving into my inbox.
P.S., If you're curious, I'll be sharing what a routine looks like when I work out on @shopcupcakesandcashmere today!