What is your morning routine?
I usually wake up around 4:00am and begin my run by 4:30 or so, while waiting for the gym to open at 5:00. After an hour of running, I go inside my gym where I do some body-weight strength work—usually pull-ups, push-ups, and dips.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I live this way, so it’s hard to say. I really grew into this specific routine over time. I’d say I’ve been doing it for about four years now.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
My morning routine used to be to wake up and head to work, stopping at McDonald’s en route every damn day. I’d say it’s changed significantly since those days.
Even now my routine morphs and changes in complexity based on the specific race I’m getting my body ready for. For instance, I’ve gotten up at midnight to get mid-week long runs in, and I’ve taken hours in the middle of the day to get in good heat training.
To me, it’s about being flexible to my needs. Having a routine is great, but only if it serves your goals. If it’s not doing that, it’s called a rut.
What time do you go to sleep?
I’m usually in bed by 8:00pm. (I have no kids.)
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
No, I don’t. I really don’t need an easy morning. I like to take things as they come. Short of making sure my watch, headlamp, and earbuds are charged, I don’t do a lot of prep work for my morning routine.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I usually beat my alarm clock with my wake-up. No joke! There’s something about dropping more than 50 percent of your body weight that makes you want to just get up and move in the morning.
On really early mornings I hit the snooze button a couple times, but I have a buffer built into my wake-up times to accommodate this likelihood.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I don’t eat until after my morning workout. My breakfast is usually simple, whatever I have on hand—usually a bowl of oats or a couple big potatoes or beans and rice… yes, for breakfast.
Can you tell us more about your morning workout routine?
Yes, I usually run what’s on my training plan, then lots of body weight exercises.
I really like the idea of a race calendar dictating my daily activity, workout, and movement. It gives me a real sense of purpose instead of just trying to maintain my fitness. To me, we go forward or backward. There are only two choices. My race calendar and training plan keep me on fire for my daily “grind”—it’s just fun for me.
My day usually starts with an early five-or-six-mile run with varying degrees of difficulty, depending on the goal of the workout. (Am I breaking to be rebuilt or am I rebuilding/recovering today?) Then I move into the gym or find a tree limb or some other safe, sturdy place to do pull-ups. I do “nickels and dimes” (borrowed from David Goggins): five pull-ups, ten push-ups—usually at least five sets.
On days I don’t run there are more push-ups and pull-ups, the stair climber, swimming, yoga, and sauna time (at least one twenty-minute sauna session a week).
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
I don’t carve out minutes for meditation per se, but I take breathing breaks many times a day. I stop everything and focus on my breathing for just a few seconds.
I often get overwhelmed with my day. I have many irons in the fire at all times—training, recovery, work (I basically have three jobs), and keeping up with folks on social media.
When demands on my attention get too heavy and I feel like I’m being dragged down by the weight of it all, I stop! I focus on my belly. I breathe into it deeply, making sure to open it up by bringing my belly button forward. In through my nose, out through my mouth. Sometimes I close my eyes, sometimes not. But I focus on my breath like it’s only thing that matters, because it’s kinda true.
This helps me center. I still have the stuff to deal with when I’m done, but the perspective shift—realizing that without my breath I’m dead—really helps put things on the correct shelf in my brain instead of just being scattered all over the floor.
The breathing also feels good on my lumbar spine. It feels like a good stretch is happening deep inside me in that area.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I am overwhelmed by emails on most days, so I spend time throughout the day fielding emails. Generally, I get to them when I can. If it’s important enough, someone will contact me another way. That may not be an option for a lot of people. I get that.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
There are tons of breathing apps. Try some. They’re what got me started. I had just lost my chocolate Labrador and I wasn’t sleeping well at all. Focusing on my breath with an app helped me calm my mind enough to fall asleep. I’ve since adapted it to my awake life, and I love it. Even thirty seconds is a long time when you intensely focus on nothing but quality breaths. It’s all I need (a few times a day, of course). I’m in love with life and progress.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
As soon as I open my eyes.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Brushing my teeth and then getting out the door to go sweat and move as if I have to gather the food I intend to eat for the day.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
As soon as I wake up I drink a huge Mason jar full of water.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
My wife sleeps later than I do, so my early mornings are part physical fitness and part getting out of the house so I can let her and the dogs sleep longer.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I have the same routine on the weekends, but I may sleep until 6:00 or 7:00am.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Yes. There is a “no matter what” aspect to my relationship with progress.
A different environment is always fun. When I travel I can hardly wait to hit the streets and/or a local gym in the morning! Time flies when you have no idea where you are geographically on a run. When you don’t have a clue what’s around the turn or in the next mile, every step is a new frontier, and it’s exciting as hell to me!
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
If work or something gets in the way, I’ll take a break during the day to get something done at the gym or go for a run.
I’m not a fan of allowing myself to become fragile over a desire to have things the way I prefer them. Life hardly ever gives you your preferred things. It’s how you deal with “different” that matters most, so bring it on.