Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer, and teacher. Spending her free time taking photographs, walking, and hanging out with friends and family, Tammy lives in Northern California with her husband and two cats.
What is your morning routine?
In 2012, my morning routine fell apart. My dad became ill, and for the next five months, I split my time between my parents’ home in Northern California and Portland, Oregon. After my dad died, I felt paralyzed by sadness and started to sleep in late. Plus, we moved back to Northern California in 2012. I don’t regret the move, but I wonder if it was the right thing to do. During this time, I felt uprooted, unsettled, and I had trouble getting back into my morning routine.
To counteract these feelings, I decided to create a different morning routine. I began a daily photography project—My Morning View—that inspired me to get out of bed and start the day with gratitude. Over four years later, I’m still taking my daily photo and sharing it online. I’ve also added new activities to my morning routine like gratitude journaling. My daily photography project was the catalyst that helped me deal with grief, and as a result, I feel better, more grounded, and inspired to do good work.
On weekdays, I get up between 4:30 and 5:30am. After I get out of bed, I do the following (and not necessarily in this order):
- Splash cold water on my face, brush my teeth, and drink one glass of water.
- Make coffee. While the coffee is brewing, I feed both cats and sing to them (yes, they are that spoiled).
- Find a comfortable place to sit, and then get out multiple journals to free write and plan my day.
- Take a photo of my morning view and talk with Logan, my husband, about our respective days. Besides drinking my first cup of coffee, this is my favorite part of the day.
- Finally, I go to CrossFit Northern Limits. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I attend the 6:00am class, and on Tuesday and Thursday I go the 9:00am class.
My morning routine is a simple way to start my day; that’s why I love it so much.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
Since January 1, 2013.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years, and are you currently experimenting with adding or removing anything from your routine?
I love getting up early in the morning because it’s peaceful and quiet. That wasn’t always true, though. As a teenager, I slept in late. However, when I started college, I began getting up early for work and to study. Rising early became a key part of my daily ritual.
After college, I continued getting up early. I didn’t have homework, but my work days were full and the mornings were the only time I could exercise. When we lived in Davis, California (2002-2008) I belonged to a swim team, and I attended the 6:00am practice. There is nothing like jumping into a heated outdoor pool to get your body moving.
Things changed when we moved to Sacramento, California. I didn’t have access to a pool, so I started running with my friend, Kai. We would meet at 5:30am two or three times a week and go for a run. With Kai’s encouragement, I completed a few half-marathons and even a full marathon! Sadly, I hurt my knee and had to find another activity to keep my body and mind happy; that’s when I discovered yoga and walking. I no longer practice yoga regularly. I still walk frequently, though.
My morning routine has changed over the years, and I’m sure it will continue to change in the future. For example, attending CrossFit classes is a big part of my morning routine. Here’s why:
In January 2016, it was hard for me to walk around the block because of back pain, and I was couch bound for a month. As a result, I reconsidered some of my habits. I found a great physical therapist in February 2016 and started swimming. In mid-September, I walked into CrossFit Northern Limits in Yreka, CA. When I began CrossFit, it was hard for me to do basic movements (like back-squatting with a 1lb PVC pipe)!
On July 8, 2017, I back-squatted 120lbs. Becoming strong didn’t happen overnight. It took over a year and a half of effort, moving my body every day, making diet changes, and asking for help. As I close out 2017 and move into 2018, I’m looking forward to becoming stronger and healthier.
What time do you go to sleep?
Typically, I go to sleep between 8:30 and 9:00pm. I love reading before I go to bed. Snuggling under the covers with my cats and a good book is the best feeling.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I try not to check my phone before I go to sleep because it’s too tempting to check Instagram or read articles. Plus, the light from the phone stimulates my eyes, rather than lulling me to sleep.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
My iPhone is my alarm clock. At the time of this writing—July 2017—I leave my phone in my tiny office, which is near the kitchen. Doing so forces me to get up in the morning. If the phone is near me, I will snooze the alarm, and that delays my morning routine.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
During 2016 and 2017, I changed my diet and eating patterns because of health issues. In years past, I delayed eating breakfast. Today, I make breakfast a priority. I love eating eggs or oats, and I pair the meal with fruit or nuts. If I’m running behind, I eat an RXBAR. Also, I eat a snack—well some folks would probably call it second breakfast—after CrossFit. CrossFit makes me perpetually hungry.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Yes! I’m obsessed with CrossFit (see my response to the third question, above).
In addition to CrossFit, I love going for long hikes. While I walk, I dictate articles into my iPhone. I have a hard time sitting still during the day, and my best creative ideas emerge when I’m moving my body.
Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?
Journaling is my meditation. Writing in my notebook clears my mind and helps me stay rooted in gratitude. Without my daily journaling practice, I’d be less grateful and full of joy. Also, I am a fan of Oprah and Deepak’s meditation programs. I listen to the programs before a nap or on an afternoon walk.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I try not to respond to email first thing in the morning. I usually check my inbox later in the morning. Checking email right after I get out of bed is the number one way to derail my morning routine.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
Below are apps that I love:
- Sometimes I’ll listen to an Oprah and Deepak meditation before falling asleep. It always seems to calm my mind.
- I’m a huge fan of Instagram. I check Instagram in the morning and share my daily photos via the app.
- Evernote and Grammarly support my writing and work in a myriad of ways. My writing would suffer without these apps.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I’ll usually scroll through my Instagram feed when I make coffee. It doesn’t take very long to look at the photos. From there, I focus on journaling, taking my daily photo, and enjoying my morning view. I try to keep screen time to a minimum in the morning.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Making coffee, taking my daily photo, journaling, playing with my cats, eating breakfast, talking to Logan—my husband—about the day ahead, and going to CrossFit.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Water is the first thing I drink in the morning. Then, I drink coffee. Water and coffee consumption happen between the hours of 4:30 and 9:00am.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
My husband, Logan, supports my morning routine. He enjoys going to bed later and rising later in the morning. We try and give one another space and quiet time in the mornings and evenings.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
As long as the cats don’t wake me up, I sleep until 6:00am (or later) on the weekends. Everything else stays the same, though. I still drink coffee, journal, take my daily photo, play with my cats, and talk with Logan.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
So far, I’ve been able to stick with my morning routine when I travel to new places or visit friends and family in different cities.
Sticking with my morning routine helps me feel grounded and centered when I travel. For me, this is essential because sticking to a routine makes me feel healthier and more productive.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
If I don’t follow my morning routine, I feel unfocused. When I’m tired or unfocused, I try to be kind to myself. Treating myself with kindness and compassion might sound silly, but it makes a huge difference in my daily life. If I’m able to offer myself kindness and compassion, my day is always better.
Anything else you would like to add?
If you’re in emotional or physical pain, don’t give up. Seek help and work hard. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Tammy updated her morning routine with us on Jul 11, 2017. View what has changed since Aug 12, 2015.
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