Recovery over routines

As I get older, I’ve become more aware of my body and how best it functions. And oh, how I wish I knew all this when I was much younger. But as they say, “it’s never too late to start today.”

One of my constant battles has been sleeping well, specifically, clocking in just the right amount of sleep that my body needs. For years, I’ve craved a consistent morning routine that almost every “guru” talks about. You know, the usual stuff — meditate, journal, exercise, read/study, and write before I get started with my work.

The challenge? Maintaining a solid routine is hard work. Mine is nowhere near perfect, and I still don’t have a freaking clue how these billionaires and millionaires make it happen. And if your response is, “Sunil, you should try harder,” or, “perhaps, Sunil, you can try…,” save it, please. I’ve been studying and practising productivity hacks for 20 years now, so I understand the perfect routine that people hear and talk about isn’t for everyone and is not sustainable.

That said, you can create a routine that’s suited to your lifestyle. Meaning, you can ignore Robin Sharma’s advice on waking up at 5 am, when your work schedule doesn’t allow you to log off before 1 am. Likewise, if you like to go hard physically (as in training, workouts, or sports) in the evening hours, understand that your body needs to rest and recover. You cannot recover from all that physical work if you force yourself to get up at 5 am.

Finding the right balance is the key, which begins with listening to the body and being hyper-aware of what you’re putting it through. Now, that doesn’t mean you will have to sacrifice your routines to rest and recover fully. But that you’ve got to be strategic about it.

Let’s say you want to work out in the mornings 4-5 days a week and play a sport 4-5 days in the evening. If that’s your intent and you’re not an athlete, I’m sure you’ve been doing this for quite some time now. And I also understand that your challenge will be to balance all of that with your work and other projects that need a lot of your time and attention. How would you navigate such as schedule? Is it reasonable to even expect to wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning each day to focus on your morning routines?

The answers are simple but hard to apply because we’re so attached to our “perfect” routines and schedule that we don’t want to compromise. We don’t realize how immature is it to have it all. You can’t. Here’s what I propose:

  1. One of the days you’re training in the evening — take it easy the following day. Wake up without an alarm clock so your body can wake up fresh and recover.
  2. On days you don’t have training in the evening, you can wake up at your preferred time the following day.
  3. Early morning training doesn’t have to be super-intense; a light to moderate to occasionally heavy is preferred over the traditional “go heavy or go home” approach. Remember, you’re not a world-class athlete and that you’re using exercise to affect your productivity, life, and wellbeing in general.
  4. Stay active throughout the day by doing stretches or whole-body movements for 5-10 reps every other hour. I do 20 Hindu squats every hour-on-the-hour (mostly from 10 am to 6 pm) one week and 10 Hindu push-ups every hour on the hour the following week. Don’t focus on the timing but the quality of reps. And you can choose any other exercise; I prefer these as they work the whole body.
  5. Don’t drink caffeine first thing in the morning. Have lukewarm water with lime juice and honey instead. It detoxifies the body and will give you a boost for your workout.
  6. Drink lots of water.

These are easy tweaks that you can make to recover from your mental and physical stresses from work, training, and life. I find it stupid to follow a routine just because a billionaire follows it.

You’re not a billionaire, and the chances of you becoming one while continuing to kill yourself every day are slim. Remember — recovery over routines. Always.

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