How I Stopped Sucking at Mornings

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. 

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?

Kitchen Alchemy: Every Day is Taco Tuesday

Kitchen Alchemy: Every Day is Taco Tuesday

Taco bowls are the best, you guys. Easy? Check. Delicious? Check. Packed with nutrients? Check. Customizable to your heart’s content? Check. Best of all, you can whip one up in under 20 minutes.

If you are following a gluten-free, low-carb, or Paleo diet, or if you are just trying to eat more real food and less processed food, the Taco Bowl is your ticket to feeling full and satisfied.

Here’s my formula...  

Client Spotlight: Dee

Client Spotlight: Dee

When we first met, Dee was often walking with the use of a cane, due to arthritis in her knees and a torn meniscus that was never treated. She was in varying amounts of pain daily.

Today she is deadlifting, squatting, pushing the sled, and being an all-around functional fitness badass.

"My life has been completely changed because of the Fitness Alchemists"

Read on to hear her full story.

Kitchen Alchemy: TFA Chicken Soup

Kitchen Alchemy: TFA Chicken Soup

Over lunch the other day (while enjoying the homemade chicken soup recipe included here), Hannah and I got to talking about how inspired we get by food that just seems to fall together--easily, cheaply, nutritiously. In this case, two rotisserie chickens (one of our favorite quick grabs), bought to make curried chicken salad the week before, had then become homemade bone broth (or, pretty much the healthiest thing you can make in your own kitchen...), and that broth had become this soup. 

This Year, Let Your Garden Grow

This Year, Let Your Garden Grow

Well, it's that time of year again. January. Resolution season. Blank slate, fresh start, New You! Also known as: where best intentions go to die.  January is too often the time when lovely, admirable intentions are made (January 1), acted on (January 2) and then abandoned (January 5). By the end of the month, we're usually back to our regularly scheduled programming, and feeling very much like we did the year before. Coach Will shares how to break this cycle, and actually follow through on your resolutions.