Even though we’re both back at work, the year has gotten off to a slow start. We’ve had houseguests on and off since before Christmas and other friends holidaying up here who have wanted to catch up over a meal. It’s been great but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve changed the sheets on the guest bed. Mostly though it means we’ve been way out of routine – especially regarding food.
The last guests left earlier today and the house is ours again – and strangely quiet – but it means the year can finally get started.
Last week I told you about my intentions for the year – and the three words that will govern those. The post is here but essentially my goal for the year, inspired by Dr. Michael Mosley’s Just One Thing (podcast and book), is to make changes one habit at a time.
In the podcast the first thing Dr. Mosley tackles is the early morning walk, so that’s what I’m doing too.
Regular readers and Instagram followers would know that Grant and I are out walking the beach path at Mooloolaba Beach at 5am each morning. We call it our 5@5 – almost 5km at 5am followed by a coffee and a few minutes of just sitting before we have to head home and get the work day started.
Aside from the obvious exercise benefits – there are usually 6000 steps on the clock before I log into work – the early morning walk makes a massive difference to my mood and the way I approach the day.
For a start, there’s the knowledge that no matter what sort of chaos the day job descends into, I began it with a tick: I got out of bed at 4.30am when the alarm went off and I exercised. It seems like such a little thing, but there are days when that small win is something I grab hold of.
Then there are the connections. While Grant and I always sit down and have dinner together, that early morning walk is when we really talk. It’s also the only part of the day when I talk to anyone other than my dog. I work remotely and unless there are scheduled meetings, it’s not unusual for me to spend the whole working day speaking to no one else. On track though, there are the regulars. We bond through our early mornings, those days in winter when it’s pitch dark, those rainy mornings when it’s just us out there.
Mostly though, my early morning walk helps my head as well as my heart. That’s why I struggled so much with headspace stuff towards the end of last year when due to illness, injury, and absence I’d fallen out of my early morning walk routine and as a result wasn’t coping well with things I normally could cope with. Walking, as well as moving my body, moves my thoughts. Without that, they were stuck in a more negative pattern than they’d otherwise be.
As Dr. Mosley says, it’s not just the walk, though, that’s important, but the time that we do it. He says walking in the morning seem to tell our body and brain that the day has started, that it’s okay to stop melatonin production and time to wake up. Aside from the effect on melatonin, daylight also triggers serotonin, the hormone that makes us feel good.
“It’s a natural mood booster, serotonin is one of the chemicals that antidepressants boost, and it’s so powerful it can actually reset your brain chemistry and perhaps even change your outlook.”
But what if, like us, you’re awake before the sun?
“If you’re awake when the sun is rising, although it might not feel like there is much light, there is a higher proportion of blue light or short-wavelength light which is one of the same things our receptors are particularly sensitive to and can have a positive effect.”
And that’s even before you factor in the feel-good factor that comes with seeing a sunrise.
So this week I set the alarm for 4.30am and got up and walked each morning before work. My ankle is still dodgy but if I’m on a flat surface and not balancing on one leg for any period of time – which puts lunges and stairs out of the question – it’s okay. My back is still hurting, but it’s that low, achey hurt that comes from lazy butt muscles, not enough squats and carrying too much weight. While it’s painful, experience tells me the best thing I can do for my back now is to keep moving, until one day it doesn’t hurt so much, and then before I know it I’ll have forgotten when it did hurt.
This week’s early morning pics…
Healthy recipe of the week
We ate out four times again this past week with a few different sets of friends. Thankfully one of those occasions was at the local Vietnamese and I was able to choose a vermicelli salad with char-grilled lemongrass chicken and plenty of veg.
I also made a batch of this chickpea and potato curry. We had it twice during the week and I still have a couple of serves in the freezer for lunches. Cheap and healthy.
Things are back to normal so I’m attacking diet – and by that, I mean my diet, not a diet – and my “just one thing” will be to give time-restricted eating a go.