Letters For My Sons

Month: May 2017

The Greatest “How-To Make A Morning Routine” Breakdown Ever: Part 2 – The Why

I’d failed.

Id failed again.  And again and again and again.

I had only one task to do, and for years, decades, it had eluded me.  The pain of failure was hanging on me like an irremovable overcoat that buttoned in my desire to shine.

I felt the ache of continually butting up against an immovable object.

And that immovable object? My inability to do what I said I would do.

I was seated as an obstacle in my own metaphorical driveway, like a lump of rock that despite all efforts to move, shift, and even blast away via the use of drugs and alcohol, remained firmly fixed in place.

However as time progressed I found some things made me more energetic.  Some things made me more tired.  Over time I added more of the former and removed more of the latter.  I started getting up earlier.  I started having cold showers.  I started writing.

I stopped and I started and I stopped again.  Tens of times I stopped and started again.  Some weeks I would be motivated as I listened to podcasts about silicon valley greats and boxing coaches, others I would hide my head under the rock of work and sleep and try to ignore how ruined I was as a man.  How useless I was.

“A donkey” as my father would have said.  “A bloody useless donkey.”

I found something funny after a couple of years.  It was easier to get up earlier.  It was easier to jump into a cold shower each morning.  

Whether I was motivated was no longer a concern, the habitual nature of this practice made it “just happen”.

The seconds, minutes and hours over the preceding years had built slowly up into a critical mass, a mass that was cascading over my head and pushing me towards a goal that I had given up on.  I was surfing on a great wave of habit that washed me onward despite myself.

surfing huge wave

And then, this year, it all came to a head.  I spent seven consecutive weeks ticking ALL the boxes on my weekly goal lists.   The longest I’d had previously was one week.

Seven weeks!  This effect and the momentum that it generated in my life was nothing short of amazing.  I realised that all the stories I’d heard of the greats and coaches were only the 10% of the iceberg that we could see.  They didn’t show the pain, the uselessness, the utter redundancy of existence while trying to put together a life worth living.  They didn’t tell of the internal quicksand that sucked you down as you failed again and again.

What was the difference?

 My morning routine.


The Greatest “How-To Make A Morning Routine” Breakdown Ever: Part 1 – The Physical

My morning routine has changed my life.

I feel stronger, more self aware.  I bounce out of bed, both on the days I do it, and the days I have off.  When I finish and head off to work, I am looking life in the eye and am ready to take it on with a large shoulder-mounted rail-gun and optional IR scope.  The habitual nature of doing it has actually made it harder for me to NOT do it than do it.

My morning routine takes between one and one-and-a-half hours five days a week.  For me this is the best time of day, when the family is still asleep, and I can be alone with my body and mind with no interruptions.  I do about 25 minutes of physical, 15 min of spiritual, and the remainder mental practices.

Creating the routine has evolved over the months I’ve been doing it.  I started with some things that I’ve been doing for years, such as getting up at five am, starting the day with a cold shower, and writing.  These were good foundations to build the rest of the routine around.  Why build from the ground up, when the bricks are already laid?

When I build my routines, I take elements from the Physical, Mental and Spiritual realms.  I work on my body (physical), my skills, intelligence and memory (mental), and I try to establish a deeper connection between my conscious and subconscious to enhance my poise and creativity (spiritual).

5/3/1 Protocol for Morning Routines

Each month I program three weeks on, and one week off.  This is from using the 5/3/1 weightlifting template from Jim Wendler.  For three weeks I use the protocol, following as closely as possible to the routine and going hard.  Three weeks is generally enough time to try an activity and see whether it has any benefit.

I then take a week to relax, regenerate, and ponder what improvements and additions I can make to the next months protocol.  This is a time of honest self assessment.  Where did I improve?  Where did I go wrong?  How can I get more bang for my buck?  Where can I fit more in to the time I have?  Where do I need to relax a little more?

It’s also a time to chill out and take the pressure off.  I’ve found that I can focus more during the routine if I know there is an end-date.  I know I won’t have to get up and do pushups forever.  And I’ve found that due to the habitual nature of the routine, I often get up at 5am during my week off anyway.


Important Questions to Ask

To create this routine I used a common thought pattern and turned it into a question: What are the things I want to improve at but never have the time or inclination to do?  

This question pulls out those items from my brain that I ponder under the surface, and only occasionally pop up into conscious thought.  Like when I’m squatting and realise my ankle dorsiflexion is letting me down.

“I should really do something about that.”

I then use these items in conjunction with the overall goals I have for the year.

The Physical

Here’s my broad physical goal list for this year:

  • Run Spartan Race
  • Better movement – more flexible, poised and nimble, lighter on my feet
  • more comfortable moving quickly and fluidly at 85-90kg
  • run 5k with ease
  • squat 140×5
  • Deadift 180×3
  • box jump
  • ab strength
  • Improve fighting power, speed and technique

To hit these goals I need to:

  • Run each week
  • Squat each week
  • Deadlift each week
  • Do abs each week
  • Stretch each day

I go to the gym in the afternoons, and run on Sundays.  So that leaves stretching to be done in the morning routine.

To further aid inquiry, I then ask the question: “What are the things I want to improve at but never have the time or inclination to do?”  It could be more easily summed up as: “What am I really bad at that makes my life miserable?”

  • Stretching in general
  • Calf flexibility and ankle dorsiflexion
  • Thoracic flexibility
  • Shoulder rotation internal and external
  • Abdominal strength
  • Pectoral development
  • Overall conditioning

I then brainstorm ways to improve these items, trying to hit multiple items with each solution.  The objective is to both improve my weak points AND work towards my goals.  I then have a range of options to select from, for example:

  • Pushups (pecs and shoulders)
  • J-curls (thoracic)
  • Ab roller (abs and shoulders)
  • Reverse shoulder walk (shoulders and abs)
  • Calf stretches and rolling (calves)
  • Cossack squat (calves and conditioning)
  • Agile 8 (overall flexibility)
  • Couch hip flexor (hip flexibility)
  • Cat-cow/roller (thoracic)
  • Hollow body holds (abs)
  • Breath-in side bend Rudy (abs and ribcage)

I then pick and choose what will tick most of the boxes I require while fitting into the timeframe I have, which for physical work is about 20-25 minutes max. So into my morning routine I might select:

  • 50 pushups with vest + superset abs – minimum 2 sets of 5x10sec max hold
  • Stretches:
  • reverse shoulder walk
  • cossack squat
  • couch hip flexor
  • cat-cow/roller

(Side Note: For me the morning routine isn’t a punishing morale-killing half hour.  It’s mildly tough but still a walk in the park.  Some mornings I just don’t feel like doing it, but I do anyway.  These are the mornings I break things down to their easiest.  Take the pushups for example.  I never specify set and rep breakdown.  Some mornings I’ll do the entire 50 in one go.  Some mornings when I’m feeling blah, I’ll do five sets of 10, with two minutes between each set.  The tradeoff is that I need to superset abs for each set of pushups.)

In the Part 2 I’ll cover adding mental and spiritual exercises to your routine to round it out and form a super-positive start to your day.  Stay tuned amigo, you’ll wanna read this one.


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