Many of us at Life Time are really in to our routines. They anchor us and help us stay focused on the things that are important to us — including our work, families, communities, and of course, our health. We also know that when it comes to living a healthy life, there’s no single “right” routine, and there’s no such thing as perfect.
In Part One of this three-part series, we talk to six healthy-living experts to get a sense of what their morning routines look like. Take inspiration from folks who aim to “walk the talk” and see if any of these ideas might work for you. (Find Part Two, on midday routines, and Part Three, on evening routines, here.)
Julie Brown, 34, nutrition and assessments program manager
Julie is a registered dietitian and personal trainer. She has been married for 11 years and has a three-year-old daughter.
I wake up at 4:45 a.m. on workout days, 6:10 a.m. on non-workout days, and 7:30 a.m. on weekends. My husband stays home with our daughter, so he’s responsible for getting her up on weekdays. I love getting her up on weekends, though.
Exercise is so important for helping me manage stress and feel my best. I attend a GTX Burn class three mornings a week, do an additional two days of cardio and abs, aim to get in a yoga class here and there, and prioritize two days for recovery. That’s the routine that feels best for my body.
I then get ready for the day at Life Time while I drink my protein shake. In a shaker bottle, I combine one scoop each of chocolate whey protein, vanilla collagen peptides, fiber, and L-glutamine with 16 ounces of cold water. If it’s a non-workout day, I’ll eat egg sous vide bites I get at Costco for breakfast.
At work, I have coffee with half-and-half while I start digging into my day. I prefer how I feel on decaf, so that’s what I drink 90 percent of the time.
I’m a stickler for planning, so I use a planner that helps me prioritize my top three needs for the day as well as keep track of my schedule and to-do list. I also use a journal where I record five things I’m grateful for and 10 dreams I’m currently working toward. It’s a form of meditation for me to focus on my goals each day.
The main thing that may deter me is if I decide to hit snooze and skip my workout, which does happen from time to time. But that’s OK — I’m human!
Set out your workout and work clothes the night before. This prevents having to make any decisions on clothing in the morning and lets things move more seamlessly. Also, I strive to drink half my body weight in ounces of water daily, starting in the morning, so I always have water within arm’s reach.
Jen Elmquist, 49, MA, LMFT, LT Mindcoach
Jen is the designer and program lead of Life Time’s internal performance coaching program. Jen has worked in the field of mental health and wellness for over a decade. She and her husband have two adult children and have two puppies at home.
I like my morning routine to be as calm and simple as possible. My preference is to sleep 7 to 8 hours and wake up naturally, which is usually around 6:30 a.m.
While still in bed, I meditate and then focus on what will excite and challenge me in the day ahead. I then listen to my heart and reset my mind toward what’s positive and possible. I drink a full glass of water, then I get out of bed.
I’ll drink a cup of coffee while I read something inspirational or spend time with my husband — we love connecting at the beginning and end of our days. Then, I get in a workout. Some days that’s strength training or cardio and some days, it’s just a walk. For me, it’s important to move my body early in the day.
After my workout, I’ll drink a protein shake, which is typically a mix of almond milk, vegan protein powder, berries, and super greens. I also take my morning supplements.
As I get ready for the day, I try to use the time to focus on creative thinking. (Some of my best ideas come in the shower!) Before I leave for work, I text my kids to tell them I love them, send a quick encouragement to a friend who’s on my mind, and kiss my husband before we leave. I see the morning as a time to set up my body, mind, spirit, and relationships for success.
My biggest obstacle is being rushed and needing to jump into the day quickly. I try to manage my schedule while also accommodating busy days by flexing my routine without giving it up completely.
Not every morning allows for my preferred pace, so I have options that allow me to be set up for a great day regardless of my schedule. For example, I always take time to set my mind right before I get out of bed, whether it’s two or 20 minutes. Movement is also a non-negotiable; some days I have time for a long workout, others just a quick walk.
Lindsay Ogden, 31, group training and nutrition coach
Lindsay is a certified personal trainer who’s passionate about helping Life Time members pursue their health and fitness goals. She has a boyfriend, Brenton, and dog, Louie.
I try to wake up naturally, but have my alarm set for 5:45 a.m. I do my best to get up right away, as hitting snooze doesn’t provide quality sleep and just puts me behind. I’ll then drink a full glass of water with lemon and set an intention for the day, asking myself, “At the end of this day, what do I want to have achieved?”
I take care of my dog and pack up everything I need for the day, including clothes, work items, and my lunch. (I make most of my meals on Sundays, so they’re ready to pack-and-go each morning.)
I then commute to work, which is also where I work out. Moving your body early in the day helps with your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycle) so this is when I typically get in strength training, go for a run outside, or take a yoga class.
After my workout, I get ready for work and eat breakfast. This is usually a protein shake (made with unsweetened almond milk, protein powder, powdered greens, spinach, some fruit, an avocado, and ice) or egg whites and overnight oats. I also drink one cup of decaf coffee a day. If I feel the need for more, I take that as a cue to prioritize going to bed earlier that night.
The main thing that throws off my morning is if I don’t wake up early enough or if I hit snooze, which is why I set my alarm for a consistent time and do my best to get up right when it goes off.
The early morning is when I have the most “me” time — before work, friends, or family take priority — so I try not to sell my mornings short. I’ve found if my morning goes well, the rest of my day tends to go that way, too.
Do as much as you can the day or night before so you can enjoy your morning, not feel rushed, and avoid forgetting anything that could get in the way of the rest of your day.
Michael Dregni, 58, deputy editor at Experience Life magazine
Michael is a year-round bike-commuter, husband, and dad to two grown sons and a puppy named Rosie.
I used to wake up between 6 and 7 a.m., but my puppy has an atomic internal clock and she now wakes me at 5:35 a.m. on the dot. I feed her (and the cat, who likes the earlier start as well), then make my own breakfast and a cup of coffee.
I always eat breakfast — it’s my most important meal for functioning during the day, especially since I usually eat a light dinner before 7 p.m. I often eat an egg scrambled with wilted Swiss chard, goat feta cheese, and spicy tomatillo salsa with tortillas. Or granola with lots of fruit and yogurt. I drink one large cup of coffee a day, in the morning. I make it with 50 percent caffeinated beans, 50 percent decaf.
Sometimes I meditate, but not on a regular basis. I do read almost every morning for 30 to 45 minutes, which is very meditative for me. Then I give in to my puppy’s demands for her walk. I’ll also take some time to groom her and clean up after her in the backyard.
Then, it’s on my bike and off to work.
I love mornings and can’t wait to get up and get going, so no real obstacles. I’m raring to go.
Be a morning person! Seriously though, strive to get a good night’s sleep so morning feels better.
Jamie Martin, 36, editor-in-chief at Experience Life magazine
Jamie is a wife and the mom of two school-aged girls whose activity and social calendars keep the whole family on the go.
My weekdays start around 5:15 a.m. I always drink a glass of water first thing, then move in some capacity for 45 to 60 minutes. If I don’t work out in the morning, I often struggle to fit it in elsewhere in my day.
Once or twice a week, I do yoga plus a walk or an easy run (two to three miles); I go for a longer run (three to five miles) once or twice a week; and I do strength training two to three times a week. One of those strength sessions is with a personal trainer at Life Time — we’re working on imbalances and improving movement patterns.
Then I get ready, make my breakfast — and sometimes lunch — before I get the kiddos up and going. I don’t need coffee, but I usually enjoy a cup with almond or coconut milk and a dash of maple syrup after my morning workout. Breakfast is typically a protein smoothie with unsweetened almond milk, frozen greens, blueberries, half an avocado, and hemp seeds. I pack my lunch about half of the time — typically leftovers from the previous night’s dinner or a salad topped with grilled chicken or salmon, nuts, and veggies.
My husband has a wonky work schedule, so I’m responsible for getting our daughters (who are 8 and 6) up and out the door on my own a couple days a week. Those mornings are more hectic, but if I stick with my routine and am ready (for the most part!) by the time they wake up around 7:30 a.m., it’s manageable.
I try to take 10 to 15 minutes in the morning to journal, jotting down things I’m grateful for, my top 10 goals, and the one I’m most focused on right now (doing a pull-up!). I’m also working to spend 10 minutes a day practicing mindfulness.
My goal is to be out the door by 8 a.m., but it’s often closer to 8:30 a.m. by the time I spend time with my husband and girls before they head off to work and school.
The temptation to hit the snooze button. To overcome this, I aim to get to bed no later than 10:30 p.m., so I’m getting a good 6.5 to 7 hours of sleep a night. Another obstacle for me is checking email and social media in the morning — I try to avoid checking in until after my workout.
Get up as soon as that alarm goes off! Put on those workout clothes and drink a glass of water to get going. It doesn’t work every day, but it’s proven to be the most effective way for me to be consistent with my routine.
Bob Holper, 56, certified personal trainer and nutrition program coordinator
Bob is an early riser, bodybuilding competitor, and strength-training enthusiast. He’s a dad to three adult kids and a recent newlywed.
I start work at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday, so those days are pretty fixed. I set my alarm for 4:15 a.m., and I’m up and out the door by 4:45 a.m.
To do this, I need to have everything ready. That means my clothes are out. My vitamins are out and ready to go. I drink an eight-ounce glass of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of Himalayan salt while I take all my vitamins.
I then go to the refrigerator, grab the food I’ve prepped for that day (two protein shakes plus a container of grilled meat and veggies, usually with pickles or sauerkraut), and put them in a little cooler. I also grab a gallon-sized container of water — which I drink throughout the course of the day — and then I go.
That’s my 30-minute deal every single morning. I’ve got it down to a science. It takes me 10 minutes to get to work — I drink one of my shakes on the way — and I usually arrive at 4:55 a.m.
A really short morning. I could get up at 3:45 or 4 a.m. for more time, but my goal during the week is to get at least seven hours of sleep. I find I do better if I get everything ready the night before and get to bed by 9 p.m.
My job and my passion are strength training, so while I always prefer real food, I do rely on protein shakes as well — one for breakfast and one as part of my lunch between clients. I blend up a double-batch of this whole-foods-based recipe and store it two containers in the fridge the night before: two scoops collagen protein, 1/2 cucumber, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, a handful of both fresh kale and spinach, and approximately 10 ounces of water.