performance training nyc

My Morning Rituals & How to Make Your Own

Me demonstrating the Hindu Push Up at Maui Jiu Jitsu. Photo Credit: Kristie Andreula

 

Each morning, I have a wake up ritual that I do all or most of, no matter where I am. Coming out of deep sleep is a delicate thing: from a physical, but also mental perspective. 

How often do you hear about the person (or maybe it's you) who wakes up just in time to get dressed and run out the door to catch a subway or shoot to the expressway to make it to work or school on time... barely. 

That's such a shocking way to start your day. There's a physiological response to that as well: one that you probably don't want if you're trying to maximize fat loss, maintain healthy body composition, stay primed for your best performing self.... Oh and did I mention that the scenario I described above is super stressful? 

Treat yourself a little better. That's the #1 reason to do this. We could sit and discuss the intricate X's and O's of adrenal hormone response, cortisol and fat storage, and the history of successful people and wake up rituals, but the real reason you should plan a morning ritual is because it's simply time for you.  Time you make for yourself always results in a good return on the investment: you're happier, calmer, have time to think, be more creative, etc. 

Getting beyond the physiological and philosophical reasonings and justifications, I also enjoy my routine for these two reasons:

  • The ritual itself signals to me it's time to wake up, gets me out of a groggy state, and ready to train or do whatever I need to that morning. 
  • I've found tremendous benefit mentally in waking up and not putting my mind on anything except what I'm doing to get the day started. 

 

My Morning Rituals 

 

Tongue Scrape

I always do this, no matter what. It's probably the oral health routine most people do the least, but would feel the best after doing. I use Dr Tung's metal tongue scraper, as the plastic ones never work and aren't particularly durable, and using a brush just sort of has the effect that smushing mud with your shoe into your shag carpet would. You'd be shocked and possibly disgusted as to what comes off your tongue, so it's best to get it off! I do this before drinking any water. I'll let you Google the sulphuric compounds that build up on your teeth and smell like death...

 

Brush My Teeth

This is what most people (hopefully) do anyway, but after a good tongue scrape, I brush my teeth. Self explanatory as to why, and you can debate what toothpaste you want to use. 

 

Coconut Oil Swish and "Pulling"

This is something that I've found to be the most refreshing and waking of any morning habit, and it's so easy to do! Simply take about a tablespoon of coconut oil (unrefined, extra virgin works best and is all I recommend), and swish for 15 to 20 minutes. Besides the different benefits people commonly write about across the Internet and literature of the oil pulling away impurities and acting as an antimicrobial, I find that it has the effect of "moisturizing my mouth." On the east coast, much of the year is very raw and dry, and your skin and sinuses get pretty baron. The throat is no different. The oil feels really refreshing on your gums, mouth and throat and takes away any scratchy or overly parched feeling. It's like a moisturizer for your mouth.

 

Drink a glass of room temperature water

I make sure the first thing I drink after the steps above is water: never coffee. After going about 8 hours without fluids, it's a good idea to hydrate. I also feel, intuitively, that it starts to wake up my "insides" and helps get the digestion or "elimination mechanisms" primed.  

 

My Choice Mobility Exercises

If I wanted to, I could do a movement for each joint in very little time (5-10 minutes), but usually in the morning, I do the most important areas for me: neck, shoulders, spine, hips.

Most days, after I do the specific joint mobility of what's listed above, I'll do:

  • A minute or two of Hindu Push-Ups (no rep prescription
  • A minute of two of Hindu Squats
  • 10 straight legged forward bends, bringing my forehead to my ankles.

I don't always assign rep counts, and usually go for time because I like to move until I don't hear any more crackly creeks or pops in the body or joints. That's my sign that I'm mobile and I've started to get the joints and connective tissue lubricated. 

NOTE: This is NOT a morning workout, it's simply getting my body moving and ready to move for the day.

 

Don't Eat Until Moving My Bowels

While this one may be controversial for some (or a giggle-inducer), it really shouldn't be. I was introduced to Dr John Tilden's book, Toxemia Explained a little over a year before writing this. In it, he makes the case for us essentially being digestive machines. In other words, we are only as healthy as what we can digest. When we are burdened digestively, it's not a bad idea to fast and let our body deal with what's already there. 

The logic for me in this practice is this: Most people poop in the morning, so after that morning "movement," they accumulate a whole day of eating, drinking, etc. That stuff is just waiting in que to exit the body all day. Then when you sleep, there's a host of metabolic processes that happen overnight, not to mention a nice little "gravity shift" on you when you stand up in the morning.  I like to let all this run its course, drink water (as stated above), and if necessary, some coffee for "added stimulation" to let the process happen. Then you start the day with a clean slate. You aren't piling shit on top of shit, so to speak. 

Making Your Own Morning Routine

Beyond that- it's up to you. Many people have really awesome rituals that are worth reading about, Steve Maxwell and Nikolai Amosov come to mind, but I think what's most important is just having a routine. Famously, Tim Ferriss loves to ask all his high profile interviewees about this topic, and while I do believe the best performers in the world have morning routines, that's not why YOU should- I just think it's a nice thing to do. 

 I believe and benefit from having a morning routine and I think it's less important to get caught up in the minutia of what to do, or why doing it will "put you on the path to excellence," but rather concentrate on constructing a routine that you find beneficial and puts you in your unique, calm headspace. Then, just do it.

(If you come up with a cool one, drop me a line!)

Newton's Second Law in MMA (and why Dan Henderson can hit so hard at any weight)

I like physics. Admittedly, like most, my understanding of it gets very convoluted very quickly, but I do enjoy it. To be a successful strength coach and performance trainer, you really need to at least understand the basics, specifically Newton's Laws; they're EVERYWHERE in sports.

This was especially true at UFC Fightnight 68: Dan Henderson vs. Tim Boetsch. So much so, that I decided to make a little video breaking it down.

If you're not a video person, or for the sake of notes: let's use our (written) words and talk a little about what I mean.

Applying the SCIENCE

What should you take away from Newton's Second Law and what it has to do with strength and conditioning?

If you recall, Newton's Second Law is:

Force = Mass (x) Acceleration

 

or more concisely:

F = MA

 

For a very long time, strength coaches and trainers in nearly all conventional sports tried to build the biggest, largest, most hypertrophied muscle-bound athletes they could, operating under the idea that manipulating the mass (M) in this equation would deliver more force. They were right in many cases too. If either number in the equation is larger,  you get more force (F). Simple math.

Well, this can present problems for a fighter. One of the biggest problems is that fighters have to weigh-in. A linebacker doesn't have to hit the scale to get access to the field, but a fighter of any combat sport does.  They have specific weight classes and they have to be as strong as possible at that particular weight. How do you make someone strong without putting on (too much) weight? The answer is in the "A."

Acceleration (A) is a tricky one to train. Strength trainers and coaches, in increasing numbers, are beginning to consider it more and more as a vital variable in producing more striking and takedown power in conditioning programs.

It's also the answer as to why a 135lbs man can brutally dish out a knockout punch, and why a guy like Dan Henderson can crank out incredible blows at any weight he fights at (even down 20+ lbs from his "prime years"). 

When Dan Henderson winds up to deliver a straight right, like he famously did to Michael Bisping, he's effectively putting the optimal amount of force into the punch by how effectively he accelerates via his technique. If he committed too much (or too little) of his weight into the punch, he no longer has the optimal striking power; his "M" is reducing his "A"/acceleration. 

Combat sports are a great example of acceleration in athletic performance because both fighters are roughly the same size. Their weight class ensures and defines this, so any talk of a "size advantage" (or Mass advantage) goes away quickly. 

The Takeaway

So there you have the theory as to why we want to manipulate and put a premium on acceleration in strength training. Now, of course, we have to answer the "how do you train for increased acceleration in generating force?"

 That's a topic for a future blog or article (something I think we'll do very soon- how's that for a tease?), but for now I want you to consider something:

4 of the 5 fights on the main card ended in knockouts. The only heavyweight bout ended in a submission victory for Ben Rothwell (go figure!). All other fights were under 155lbs, and two fights were at 135lbs. Two knockouts in a row from men weighing 135lbs certainly isn't just because of size.

Let me know if you guys like breakdowns like this, and I'll do more of them. If not, I'll stick to my long-form posts on programs and techniques, like the How to Build a Better Gas Tank (if you're a Jiu Jitsu or Combat Athlete)

- Mark

 

PS:  I know some of you will say this is all relative: if each fighter weighs the same, the force (and their tolerance to absorb it) is relative. You're right. However, you are generating much more than your body weight in force if you're properly striking. If I weigh 135 lbs and deliver a punch that only has 135 lbs or less of force, the chances of that punch being a knockout blow are probably pretty low.