Make Your Mornings Suck Less: Part 3

Good morning! Hannah, here. 

Nothing like daylight savings to remind us of a universal truth: 
 
It is harder to get going in the DARK. 

Seriously. Doesn't it just feel wrong to get up before the sun? Even though I am now in the habit of getting up before sunrise, it's always much nicer to walk out the door to a little bit of light in the sky. 

Oh well. It will be back in a few weeks. 

But this brings me to one of the key things you can do to make getting up early suck less: Get the right alarm clock. 

As I mentioned in my first email about mornings, when my S.O. and I finally agreed to do early mornings together, we treated ourselves to a new alarm clock. 

But my phone is my alarm clock, Hannah! 

Yeah, I know. But does your phone wake you up gently by slowly brightening your room? Mine sure doesn't.

But my alarm clock does. 

See, it's a light.

Say you wanna wake up at 6:30am. You set your alarm clock, and it will start slowly brightening your bedroom from 6:15-6:30am, so that by the time your alarm goes off, your room is filled with (artificial) sunlight. Ta da!

If this isn't a great example of faking it til you make it, I don't know what is. 

Another bonus of having a legit alarm clock is that you can leave your phone out of the bedroom. This helps on both sides of sleep:

  1. At night: We ALL know that we shouldn't be staring at screens prior to bed if we want high quality sleep. If you haven't heard this yet, you're late aaaaaaaand welcome to 2018. We're delighted to have you. 
  2. In the morning: the surest way to NOT get out of bed and do all the great things you had planned for yourself is to lay there scrolling through social media/news/whatever on your phone. WE ALL DO IT. 

If your phone is your alarm clock, it is ALMOST impossible to resist the siren call of those notifications on your home screen when you turn your alarm off. You know I'm right. 

Leave your phone in the living room. Read a paper book before bed. Get an alarm clock. Thank me next week. 

But seriously. Looking back at my journey to becoming a morning person (resentfully, slowly, now joyfully) one of the things that made an immediate difference in my waking mood and ease of physically getting out of bed was this stupid alarm clock.

I almost don't expect you to believe me because I remember the way I felt before I got mine and I wouldn't have believed me then either. 

But enough of you asked, so I'm sharing what worked for me! 
 

-Hannah

Becoming Fluent, part I

Everybody hurts, at some point. It is one of the ways our bodies learn, and critical to keeping us safe, because it's the alarm system that let's us know when danger is near. But it also creates a lot of strife, and keeps a lot of people from engaging with the world in a physical way. Becoming fluent in how you communicate with your body means that you are not just terrorized by the hurt, but also tuned in for the good stuff--strength, pleasure, flow--as well.

Make Your Mornings Suck Less: Part 2

Hi team, Coach Hannah here.


If you’re not a morning person, and you are forced to get up earlier than feels natural to your body (looking at you, teacher friends) it can be rough. As I talked about in my last email, you can start to deeply resent the people you serve in your work. 

 

Which is not the jam. 

 

So many of you replied to my last email - I had no idea mornings were such a struggle for so many of you! But I’m glad you piped up, cuz I’ve got more “make-your-morning-not-suck” emails coming your way.

And we are working on a quick video you can do along with us to help you get moving and set you on the right foot for a freaking fantastic day. More on that later this week. 


Today, I’m going to reveal my #1 secret to pushing past the grouchy bit and finding a way to be bright and shiny by the time you actually have to interact with people. 
 

You know how sometimes when you are really sad, or really angry, the feeling will get so absurdly big that you’ll find yourself laughing hysterically? 
 

Just me?


Well.  Laughter, my friends is the key for me. 


When I’m still feeling grumpy about being awake, even after moving and meditating, I listen to stand-up comedy on Pandora. 


I have a few go-to stations, based on my favorite comedians. Pandora pulls together choice bits from various comedians they think you’ll like based on the person you love. It’s brilliant! As a side bonus, I’ve found comics I didn’t know about. 


Short bits are perfect for morning grumpsville. You don’t have to get too involved, you’re not listening to a whole hour. If you miss one, cuz you’re electric toothbrush drowns out the sound of your phone, no biggie. You can pick up with the next bit.

Also it’s generally all the BEST bits from each comic, so you don’t have to wade through the kinda boring set ups to get to the real payoff. 


Once I’m laughing, I can’t be mad anymore. 


Some of my favorite stations to get the day started are:

  • Robin Williams (listening to that dude is like 8 shots of double espresso - he thinks and talks so fast! And makes me laugh so hard I cry) 
  • Maria Bamford (absurd, sneak-attack funny)
  • Jackie Kashian (family friendly side-splitting smart silly stuff)

 

But you should listen to YOUR favorites.

This is the whole thing: Pair something unpleasant with something pleasant. Prefereably a pleasant thing that changes you, physically (laughing/smiling). See when you laugh, it forces you to BREATH. And breathing makes everything better. 

 

Giggle and get going,

Hannah

CARs, or How to Make Your Body Go VROOM

Coach Will here to talk about CARs: Controlled Articular Rotations.

I have an irrational fondness for this exercise, and I want to tell you why. I have a lot to say--probably too much--but I wanted to lay it all out. 

One of my favorite aspects of working with humans and their bodies is that I get to interact with human realness. I'm pretty sure "realness" is not a real word.

But I bet you understand what I mean: realness is that base layer of our experience, where we have actual feelings and are actually weak and vulnerable. It's also where we are actually strong and beautiful, too. It's a cool place, even if things do get a little real at times :).

In the gym, the "real" aspect is pretty obvious: I have the chance to see, feel, challenge and support physical bodies, in real-time. Regardless of histories, goals, or opinions, the simple reality of how someone's joints work, one-at-a-time and in larger patterns, is made plain to me, and so I might know better how to help that person. I love that interaction.

At the same time, there's another even more real interaction going on: between the mover-student and themselves. Somewhat problematically, that conversation is not always the most polite (and sometimes is pretty darn harsh). I say "problematically" only euphemistically: it's one of the most damning obstacles that we see, day in and day out.

Imagine for a moment the preposterous complexity of the human organism: 60,000 miles of nerves (potentially) conduct 1,000,000,000,000,000 (that is 1 quadrillion. 15 zeros. I read it somewhere, I think from Hunter Cook) impulses across the brain each second, creating more neurological connections than there are particles in the known universe. That's a lot of complexity to sort out and understand, let alone process into powerful, willful movement (Ha! Will-ful!).

But now multiply that by all the ways our consciousness might make things more complex. Like by: deciding that certain movement-sensations are "right" or "wrong"; or by repressing the shame you feel in certain physical positions or places; or by trying to guess what others may or may not be thinking about you. Seeing and feeling what's actually going on in your body becomes a devious, frustrating task.

Fortunately, we have found tools that works on that particular ability, of seeing-feeling what is real in your body. They're called Controlled Articular Rotations, or CARs for short.

They ask for you to make the largest pain-free rotation of a single joint in your body while keeping all other joints still. Simple!

Simple, sure, but not easy.

First, CARs demand that you practice the of holding strong, of not moving; this takes huge energy and tension, but yields an equally rich flow information to your brain (more muscular tension = more nerve feedback).

Second, CARs demand an inquisitive awareness of simplified movement, at the specific joint your moving. Continuously comparing the non-movement of your body with the controlled movement of that single joint gives you an honest view of what is actually true in your body, today.

Third, this enhanced awareness is only temporary. It opens up a window in which, with more information, the movement part of your brain is able to make better decision, and you become an intrinsically better mover. For a day or so.

So, to recap: CARs are an incredible way to bring clarity to your unique physical puzzle (your body), if you can 1. work hard, 2. pay attention and 3. be consistent.

That's why we recommend ALL of our clients do them EVERYDAY. It's why I do them every morning (except Saturdays. Because, Saturdays!), and why we start every class with them.

It's also why we put together a morning CARs routine video guide, called 10 Minutes of Morning Alchemy. By showing you what CARs look like, talking you through them, and being there every morning (on your smartphone/computer, at least) we might get you to ACTUALLY start doing them :). Imagine being the person who spends a little time every morning getting sorted, inside and out...

Be well, folks!

Make Your Mornings Suck Less

Part 1

Hi team, Coach Hannah here.
 

I need to come clean with you about something: I am NOT a morning person.

A year ago, if you had told me that I would willingly get up at 5:30am Monday through Friday  I would have laughed you out of the room. 

 

And yet. 

I do. (I’m putting the finishing touches on this email at 6:18 am)

How the hell did I become a "morning person" ???

 

I did not start out this way, kiddos. For those who know me, you know I love to sleep. I do best with 8+ hours per night, every night. So I’m not making mornings happen by sacrificing sleep. Mama don’t play that sleep dep game. I’m hilarious when sleep deprived, but otherwise non-functional and I quickly get overwhelmed and think that the world is terrible and everything is wrong and it will never get better so let’s just eat M&Ms and potato chips until we die. 


Yeah.
 

I start teaching at 6:30am. That means I need to be a) Alert b) Articulate and C) Charming AF by 6:30 in the freaking morning. 

 

When this first became the truth of my professional existence, I resisted the early rise kicking and screaming. I would sleep until the LAST possible minute, roll outta bed already wearing workout clothes that I’d slept in, make coffee while barely conscious, and then bomb down the road to the gym riding my bike as fast as I could. 

 

And it worked. Kinda. 

 

The I’ll-be-late-if-I-don’t-pedal-as-fast-as-humanly-possible bike ride got my heart (and adrenaline) pumping. The coffee in my thermos gave me confidence that I would be able to string sentences together in front of my clients. And I told myself that sleeping as late as possible was the only sane thing to do, because getting up before 7am is just cruel so you should mitigate that shit as much as possible. 

 

But during this year a funny thing happened. I began to resent my clients. Even though they were people I loved working with, I noticed my patience getting thinner and thinner. To the point where I was thinking about switching careers. 

 

I wasn’t happy. 

 

Then I heard about this book on a podcast called “The Miracle Morning” - if that sounds hokey to you, you are right on point. 

 

I still can’t, in good conscience, recommend the book itself—the tone of the writing is the worst self-help-salesman-sunshine BS you can imagine. OMG it’s seriously the worst. 

 

But. 

 

I was so unhappy that I was willing to try anything, so I ordered the book on amazon, convinced my S.O. to do it with me, and we started our “Miracle Morning” adventure. 

Begrudgingly at first, we put the principles outlined in the book into practice. 

The principles (Which I CAN WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend, as as follows):

  1. Get up an hour earlier than you need to
  2. Preset a sequence of actions that will kickstart you into being awake (drink a glass of water, brush your teeth)
  3. Do 10 minutes each of 6 practices that are known to improve your happiness, and in turn your life (movement, meditation, journaling, visualization, reading, and affirmation)*
  4. Go about your day. 

 

*I have since modified WHAT I do in that morning time, as I found that for me personally I feel rushed trying to cram in just 10 mins of each thing, but the habit of getting up early and doing something for myself first thing in the morning has stuck. 

 

WHY?

 

My work revolves around caring for other people. Being what they need for the hour that we are together. I know many of you can relate to this, even if your line of work is different in name, most of us SERVE OTHERS in our work. Parents really know what I’m talking about—you take care of tiny humans before you even GO to work. Bless you. 

 

The old way I ran my life meant that I was taking care of other people from my first conscious moment until late afternoon. The first time I would do anything purely for myself was 5-6hrs into my day, when I already felt depleted. 

 

This new routine flipped the order: I was taking care of MYSELF first thing, before I even thought about another human being. 

 

Turns out putting yourself first is a powerful thing. 

 

Just a week into implementing this new morning ritual, I felt clear headed. At that point, by body wasn’t yet agreeing to the new sleep schedule, which meant I was staying up later than I’d like and getting only 6-7hrs of sleep per night. But even with less sleep, I felt more rested. More calm. My patience came back. Stuff that used to make me feel overwhelmed suddenly seemed manageable. I actually wondered why I had been so stressed out. 

 

Putting myself first changed the game. 

 

Instead of feeling like a martyr who was sacrificing herself for the good of her flock, I felt like a whole person who was living by my principles. I no longer felt like a fraud. 

 

Taking time out for yourself feels selfish (in theory, when you think about it) but it has turned out to be the most generous action I can take on a daily basis. 

 

I thought 5am was the problem. That the literal time was so early as to force an unpleasant start to the day. I was so wrong. It was the quality of my experience that made the morning suck. Rushing, feeling stressed, being down to the wire with no time for mistakes. 

What do we love about weekend mornings? It’s not the extra sleep. It’s not that 10am is magical. It’s that we allow ourselves the experience of waking up and responding to our own needs — or even whims — before we go on about our day. We do that naturally on days that we “don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time.” 

Now that I understand that, I’m pretty confident that I could adjust to any wake up time (4am, 9am — whatever) as long as I set myself up to have the experience I need to start my day well. 

If this resonates with you, but you’re like, how do I start? I get it. It's a process. It probably took me a year to get my morning routine (and appropriate bed time) dialed in. 

We are thinking about making a video to help you start your morning with a little self love and joint care via simple movements that anyone can do. It would be a "do-along-with-me" video, and we are thinking 10 minutes max, so you can start small. 

Would you use that if we made it?
Reply in the comments and say “ay.”

Top of the morning to ya,
Hannah

P.S. This story went out to the awesome folks on our email list. If you want to hear more like it, sign up to get our emails. They're like a yoga class for your mind. 

P.P.S Update as of March 19th, 2018 - we made that video we mentioned, you can get yourself a copy here. 

Holiday Nutrition Triage

A survival guide

How do you stick to good nutrition during the holidays? Especially when you are traveling to stay with family and you have little to no control over what food is available?

Triage. 

What do I mean by Triage

Triage (v): the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success

In short,  it means doing your best in the given circumstances.

Perfect nutrition doesn't exist, unless you live in a vacuum. Most of us have to interact with real-world circumstances. Even if we have become adept at navigating the "real-time" ups and downs of our everyday lives, things like holiday travel and the food-based events contained therein can throw a serious wrench in our gears. The key is to limit the disruption, while still taking part in the traditions. 

There are three steps in the Nutritional Triage process:

  1. Know your personal nutrition principles (PNPs)
  2. Assess the available options
  3. Choose the best option, given the circumstances, to keep you in alignment with your commitment to your goal. 

 

PNPs will be based on your goal(s) and what works for you. For example, my goal is to maintain my weight, and maximize my energy. My PNPs are:

  • Palm sized portion of Protein with every meal
  • Green leafy vegetables at least 2x/day
  • Limit sugar & refined carbohydrates 
  • Eat mostly whole unprocessed foods
  • No gluten (not because I believe being gluten free makes you holy, but because it destroys my insides. If it doesn't destroy your insides, eat up! No moral judgements from me.)

As you can see, I'm already a fairly moderate nutritionista. That's because I've found that too much rigidity actually works against me. I get real mad if there are too many rules and end up overeating the wrong stuff just to prove that rules aren't the boss of me. Which is not the championship. So, I moderate. 

You might do better with strict guidelines, and that's cool too. Studies have shown that people are either moderators OR abstainers -- for more on that (including a quiz to help you figure out which camp you belong to) check out Gretchin Rubin's work. She's smart and funny and has done a TON of research on knowing yourself, habit formation and increasing happiness through practical actions. 

SO: Whatever your PNPs, you can still follow the triage thought process to help you navigate eating well during the holidaze. 

 

travelfood.jpeg

Preparation

As much as you can, plan ahead. I always bring snacks with me when I travel, and if I'm going to be away for 5+ days with uncertain access to grocery stores and little to no control over where the family goes out to eat, I like to cover a few bases with some non-perishables. 

  • Protein powder (In a zip lock bag so it takes up very little space)
  • Raw, unsalted nuts (I prefer pecans, walnuts, or almonds--in that order) - not pictured
  • Whole-food bars e.g. RX Bars, Epic bars, or Perfect Bars
  • Supplements (I take fish oil and vitamin B12 daily)
  • Digestive enzymes (the chewables from Trader Joe's are great! Though not pictured) 
  • Water bottle

All of this takes up less space than a pair of shoes, and will help me stick to my principles, keep my digestion on track, avoid hangry tantrums, etc. But most importantly, it will help me hold onto a consistent habit, a key factor in long-term health outcomes (BOOM. <---Science.).

Flying is super dehydrating--this is part of the reason many of us have trouble staying regular with our elimination when we travel. (Yes, I'm talking about poop.) Bring a water bottle and fill it up once you get through security--many airports have nice water bottle refilling stations with filtered water. Then all that's left to do is drink up! I aim to finish my 40oz klean kanteen by the time I land. Then I can fill it up on the other and and keep sipping on the ride from the airport ;) 

In general, you want to aim to drink at least half your bodyweight in ounces per day. More active folks need even more! 

Triage for Dining Out

Take a deep breath. Eating out is not an automatic sign to switch into Eat-Like-A-Kid mode. You know what I'm talking about.

First, take your time reading the menu. See what most appeals to you, and also scan for things that fit within your current nutrition principles. Ideally there will be some overlap, but sometimes that's not the case. In those instances, I try to strike a balance of getting what I need, and allowing some extra fun stuff that will please my palate. 'Cause food should taste good, goddamnit!

Also, ask for adjustments. Most American-style restaurants will make quick swaps of sides (i.e. steamed broccoli on place of mashed potatoes, side salad for fries). As a gluten intolerant person, I've learned you can even ask for sandwiches on a bed of lettuce instead of bread--most places will oblige you (even if they do so with a raised eyebrow). 

When you can, use Yelp or a Google search of restaurants in your area to find spots that will have good options for you and be proactive about suggesting a place that will accommodate your nutritional needs. In my experience, large family gatherings give in to inertia. No one wants to be the one to choose for the whole group, for fear that people won't like their suggestion but will go along with it anyway. This leads to just following historical precedent, and eating at "that place we went last year." What I've found? People are more than glad to follow someone else's direction, as it saves them from being the decision-maker. So step up, and choose well!

Triage for Dining In

This may be the hardest place to stay in alignment with your personal nutrition principles. You're at a relative's house, and there's tons of social pressure to partake in the meal they spent time preparing for you and the other guests. Especially around holiday time, there can be an added layer of guilt-tripping: "we only make this once a year" (...so you better enjoy it 'cause we're going to, and if YOU don't then WE might feel guilty). 

Holy minefield, batman. 

In order to tread carefully in these situations, I tend to take a small helping of the prized dish, and enjoy it slowly and mindfully, aiming to stop eating it once it no longer tastes as AMAZING as the very first bite. Read more about the brilliant "First Bite Rule" on Neghar Fonooni's blog. This way I am able to be part of the group activity, honor my host, and also limit my deviation from my PNPs. Not to mention I get to deeply enjoy a delicious treat! 

Let the guilt go. 

The holidays can be stressful enough with family dynamics, travel logistics, and lack of routine. There's no need to add stress to the system by piling on guilt. Trust your triage, enjoy your splurges mindfully...the End.

In the end, sometimes the best therapy is in realizing that the struggle is real, and that there are other people fighting similar battles.  Like me!

If you want to follow along, I'll be posting examples of my own personal holiday nutrition triage on our Instagram feed (follow us @thefitnessalchemists).

Want some specific advice on your choices? Post your own holiday triage efforts and I'll comment with tips and suggestions! Be sure to tag us @thefitnessalchemists and use the hashtag #holidaynutritiontriage so that we can find your posts. 

Doing the Right Thing

Doing the Right Thing

Fitness is, on its face, about helping people achieve real, meaningful changes to their bodies, health, and capabilities. It's about improving weaknesses, functioning better, and living more richly. With that promise, fitness grabs our collective attention as an alluring and fulfilling goal, something worth investing real time, money, and focus. 

As with any investment, we care about the results; in fact, the more we invest, the more we care.  Of course, we care about the "return" on our investment--what has changed--but, because it's our sweat turning the crank, we also care how it feels getting there. So if we care so much, and have invested so deeply, shouldn't we also care about the tools we're using to get there?