In this episode of the Riding For A Lifetime Podcast I share with you my morning routine that helps me set my day on a good trajectory.
Maximizing your health and longevity becomes a big priority as you get older. You can get away with abusing your body in your 20’s and still being able to get after it but if you want to be able to perform well on a consistent basis into your 40’s and beyond you have to start making good daily habits a part of your routine.
Over the last several years I’ve developed a morning routine that I feel has helped me slow down the performance decline and maximize my results from training. Remember that training actually breaks your body down and how well you support the recovery process plays a big role in how hard you can train and what results you see from your training.
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The three things that I do every morning are…
- Hydrate with water and electrolytes, particularly sodium.
- Breathwork drills like Box Breathing or Super Ventilation + Breath Holds (a.k.a. Wim Hof style breathing).
- Cold water exposure.
First, hydration with sodium. After waking up I drink 16 ounces of water with a supplement called LMNT (I pronounce it Lemon T but it is supposed to be pronounced Element), which contains 1 gram of sodium along with 200 mg of potassium and 60 mg of magnesium.
Yes, I know that the FDA says that we should be limiting sodium intake but there are a lot of holes in their recommendations. Robb Wolf is a founder of LMNT and he has done a lot of great work on illuminating the difference between what we’re told by the FDA and what the research on sodium intake actually says.
While a fat, pre-diabetic person who doesn’t exercise and eats a lot of fast food probably doesn’t need extra sodium, if you are reasonably fit, workout on a regular basis and try to eat whole foods then odds are pretty high that you could stand to use more sodium in your diet.
Several studies have shown that there is a sweet spot for sodium intake between 4-6 grams a day that result in optimal health outcomes. Restricting sodium intake to less than this has been linked to higher incidents of high blood pressure and cardiovascular death (ironically the things we’re told that low sodium diets are supposed to protect us against).
By starting your day off with a gram of sodium you are hydrating your body in a healthy way since water without sodium can throw off fluid balance. Sodium helps to regulate fluid outside your cells and potassium helps to regulate fluid inside your cells so your body needs these minerals to maintain optimal fluid balance.
If you don’t get enough of these minerals from your diet then your body will leach them from your bones – along with calcium, which can weaken the bones and is something you want to avoid as an older athlete.
I usually take another 1-2 LMNTs throughout the day, especially if I’m doing something that causes me to sweat a lot, like going for a bike ride. If you have low energy, brain fog, muscle cramps or even recurring headaches it may be a result of low sodium intake, in which case increasing your sodium intake can have a massive impact on your health and performance.
The second thing I do is spend 10-15 minutes doing some kind of breathwork. I’ve talked a lot about how better breathing can impact your health, performance and even your mood and so starting the day with some focused breathing drills can make a big difference in how your day unfolds.
My two favorite breathing drills are Box Breathing or Wim Hof style breathing.
Box Breathing has you assign a time to the four parts of your breath – the inhale, hold at the top of the inhale, the exhale and the hold at the bottom of the exhale. By manipulating these four things you can create a change in the body’s internal chemistry, which will result in changes in the body over time.
For Box Breathing you start with 3 seconds for each part of the breath, so a 3 second inhale, a 3 second hold at the top, a 3 second exhale and a 3 second hold at the bottom. As this becomes easy you can add 1 second to each part of the breath cycle but make sure that you keep each part of the cycle the same length, hence the term “Box Breathing”. While your goal is to work up to 5 seconds or longer, you are getting results from whatever length works for you.
The Wim Hof style of breathing goes in the opposite direction, having you breathe as deeply and as quickly as possible for 30-40 breaths. On the last breath, do a comfortable exhale and then hold your breath.
When you feel the urge to breathe then take a deep breath in and hold once more, this time for 10-15 seconds. Then you breath out and start the process again, repeating 2-3 more times for a total of 3-4 rounds.
While they are very different and deliver slightly different overall results, both of these methods alter the blood chemistry, which results in adaptations in the body, and they both act as a form of meditation, which has also been shown to have positive health benefits.
If I had time I would do both of them every day at different times during the day. As it stands I can commit to doing one of them in the morning and so I like to alternate between the two breathing methods. I will say that the Wim Hof method is more stressful and so you want to make sure that you are in good health and then ease into it.
The last thing I do is take a shower and finish with 1.5-3 minutes of a cold water rinse. You can be a gangster and just take a cold shower but I like to shower like normal with hot water and then finish with the cold.
Cold exposure like this is part of a traditional way to harden the body and has been shown to have a lot of health benefits. Improved insulin sensitivity, improved mood and improved stress response are all documented benefits of cold water exposure and there are several other anecdotal benefits that people have reported as well.
Most of the studies have been done using cold water swimming or plunging but a lot of experts in this area say that you just need to get uncomfortably cold to see benefits. This is why a cold shower can work and is better than nothing. Doing a cold plunge is probably better – inducing a shiver response delivers unique benefits to cold exposure, which is easier with a cold plunge – just exposing yourself to cold water for a few minutes in the morning can have long term health benefits.
After that I’m ready to start my day. The biggest time investment is the breathing, drinking the LMNT doesn’t take long and I’m taking a shower anyway so I may as well finish with some cold water exposure. All told I’m about 30 minutes into my morning and I’ve already invested in some pretty good health habits.
Having daily habits like this helps you do something every day towards your goal of riding for a lifetime. You can’t workout every day but it is good to do something every day to keep momentum and help you feel like you are moving forward on a regular basis. Plus, it amplifies the results from your other training and riding.
Of course, this is just my routine and it won’t work for everyone. But even if you can’t follow this routine or find it doesn’t do anything for you then the takeaway message is to have something that you do everyday that moves you closer to your goals.
And if you have any questions or would like some advice on creating your own routine then let me know, I’m always happy to help.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems
p.s. Just like you need daily habits to help keep you fit and healthy, you need a strength training routine to offset the effects of aging and give you the strength needed to ride for a lifetime. In the 40+ MTB Rider Training Program I show you how to use the best strength training strategies to help you improve your riding fitness while maximizing your time and avoiding overuse injuries.
I also include a section on Breathwork and show you how to assess your breathing and several different training methods to help you improve your cardio in a unique way. If you need a workout plan that takes into account the realities of being a 40+ year old rider and gives you the tools and workouts to improve your health and fitness then click the link below to learn more and get your copy.