Some mornings there’s nothing more horrifying than that alarm ringing in your ear. You’ve dreaded it since your head hit the pillow the night before. You promised you’d stagger out of bed and into your Nikes to “punish” yourself because then you can relax and know that you’re doing the best you can to contribute to that “summer body.” You hate that alarm, but that’s the cost of being better, right?
We live in a workout culture defined by the need for “cleansing,” where in order to feel good about your body you first have to rid it of all its accumulated toxins. The punishment of a strict diet and painful, efficient exercise is part of this purge. It’s tough not to want to get it over with as soon as possible, with your reward being to maybe share it on social media or confidently go on that date you’ve been looking forward to before finally taking a break for a little while.
If anyone was nodding their head in agreement on the above statements, I’d politely like to call BS.
There is nothing wrong with working hard, drinking $8 juices (it’s your money) or posting a picture of yourself on Instagram when you’re proud of how you look and feel. The distinction I want to draw is one of motivation, and whether it’s intrinsic or extrinsic.
Let’s assume you want to make a change in your life. You, like so many others, may have been through countless cycles of reaching a relative peak, physically and emotionally, only to crash and start again. There’s some worth to this cycle, but is it how you sustain a change?
Let’s go back to the alarm. You open your eyes and see that you’ve got, let’s say, two hours before work. You have options. You can hit snooze and go back to bed (arguably making your day even worse). Get up late, front-load the pain and bypass nutrition for another earned day of relief. OR – and how you do this is up to you – you can get up and truly, honestly enjoy yourself for two hours.
You can grind your coffee beans and start learning which coffee you like best, instead of forcing down the most caffeine-soaked rocket fuel available. You can read a book – for fun! – while you wait for breakfast to finish cooking. Listen to a favorite podcast and fuel your mind. And when you’re ready, you can workout – wherever you want, however you want, for as long as you want (just don’t forget about work).
Try taking the headphones out and listening to your neighborhood come out of the woodwork. If you find yourself getting bored or just going through the motions, change your route; if you feel you’re getting tiring too quickly, slow down. Who cares how far or how fast someone else runs? The goal is to arrive back at home feeling quietly happy and smiling – not necessarily exhausted – so that you want to do it again tomorrow.
And speaking of quiet, when your work or school day finally does start up, resist the urge to tell everyone about your routine. The only feeling better than that post-exercise dopamine high is looking back on the last few months and knowing that you didn’t do it because you hate yourself – you did it because you love yourself, and your life.
On the above routine, how you feel in the morning is predicated on how you go to bed. 7-8 hours of sleep is a MUST. Your body and brain cannot function on sleepless nights, so make sure you’re giving it the necessary means to reboot and reenergize itself. Your body literally gets stronger while it sleeps.
Work hard. Eat right. And sleep like you’re getting paid for it!