Ep. 79: Routines that run my world

Over the past several months, as I’ve been recovering from my broken elbow, one thing that has really helped me out of any funks or potential funks in my day-to-day has been the idea of routine. I have built certain parts of my day around non-negotiable routines that guarantee I get my day off on the right foot with: energy, hydration, exercise, nutrition, and more. So, I wanted to share these routines with you and why I developed them. Not so you can copy and paste them into your own lives, but so that you might take some inspiration on how to use the principles to make some of your goals non-negotiable.

I also reference Ep. 70: My “Resolutions” for 2023 & How to Create Your Own, if you want more reference around my beginning of year goal setting philosophy.


Welcome back to the Not Your Mama podcast. This is your host, Kelly Bryant, and this week we are talking about routines. I’m dropping in with a quick hit episode for you cuz I wanna talk about something that’s been going on in my world, which is, uh, In the last two, three months, I feel like my life has gained a pretty significant amount of structure and stability, and there’s been a couple things that have gone on with that.

If you want a little bit of background on kind of my goal setting for this year, you can go back to January. I did a New Year’s post about resolutions, um, and talked a little bit about how I sort of reconciled the uh, anxiety to create lots and lots of resolutions and change on January 1st with the reality of what behavior change actually looks like.

So if you’re interested in that, go back to that episode. We will link it in the show notes for you. But I wanted to give a little update to that process because it feels like a lot has changed. So the big thing that happened was in mid-February I broke my elbow. So that took a lot of my goals, a lot of my intentions, both like actual, you know, measurable fitness goals and just structured my life and kind of turned it all on its head because obviously, uh, I could not do a whole lot of weightlifting.

I had been working on a pull-up focused program, and I gotta tell you, when you break your elbows, pull-ups really take a hit. And, uh, simultaneously there was all of the uh, hormones and brain chemistry that go along with pain, which I think people really, um, don’t acknowledge how much impact that has.

You’re not consciously thinking, man, this elbow hurting is really. Uh, bringing my whole like quality of life down in my worldview and shifting it and making me miserable. It’s not such a conscious thing, but on a chemical level it really is much, much harder when you’re experiencing ongoing pain to initiate activity, to change behavior.

All of those things require a lot of energy and it’s hard to do that. And then of course, there’s just the uh, structural difference of like doing all of my work, which requires being at a desk and using a mouse and using a keyboard. All of that suddenly took much, much longer. And so I had all these great plans at the beginning of the year.

Things went pretty well for a month. Broke my elbow and things went real rough for five weeks. Five, six weeks really was like very difficult. Um, And then we came back. And so I wanna talk a little bit about what are some of the things that really worked for me coming back from being, I mean, truly I felt like useless.

Like I can’t lift anything with my arms. I can barely hold the kids. I can’t put my son down in his crib. I can’t wash dishes. I can’t cook. I can’t, like, I couldn’t use a knife. There was, there were so many things that I couldn’t do for myself and coming back from that and. Almost having like a fresh, uh, clean slate to think about, okay, how do I wanna structure my behaviors that I’m trying to do?

So I have two routines that have worked really, really well for me. And it’s really, um, I won’t say changed my belief because I’ve always felt this was true, but it’s really just like, drove home for me how much routines matter. Yes, there are lots of distinct individual behaviors that can be very impactful.

But it’s the routine of those behaviors that makes all the difference, because that’s how you can do it continuously, sustainably, and without a lot of mental effort to create the behavior. So the first one of those routines starts at night. So it has to do with getting up early in the morning, but it has to start at night.

And so 9:30 has become my bedtime. I, in a optimistic world, I have like, you know, my plan A, my plan B, my plan A is that like I’m ready for bed and getting into bed at nine 30 and can get eight and a half hours of sleep. That’s a little optimistic, but because I’ve set nine 30 as my goal, even if I’m lagging a little bit behind there, I start getting ready for bed around nine 30.

I am in bed before 10:00 PM on school nights, and that means I can get eight hours of sleep. I’m a really good sleeper. I said that that’s like such a brag. I’m a really good sleeper. No, I, I sleep very easily, which is, uh, very, very fortunate and that’s the only reason that I would ever budget only eight hours to sleep if you are not someone who’s a good sleeper and you regularly lie awake at night or have trouble falling asleep.

You should budget more. You should budget much more time. And I think what happens in our head is the opposite. Well, screw it. I’m not gonna be able to sleep while I’m not gonna get eight hours of sleep anyway, so I might as well stay up or I have trouble falling asleep, so I need to stay up until I feel tired.

The trouble is people who do that typically are staying up looking at their, um, glowing stress box and scrolling on their phone, and therefore they never feel tired and therefore they never get into a good sleep routine. So, I get usually eight hours of sleep. Sometimes I don’t sleep all this week.

Actually, I have not been sleeping well at all, but I’ve still gotten over seven hours, which is great. Um, for most, most parents of small children would be pretty pleased with seven hours of sleep on average. So that’s essential. That is an essential part of my morning workout routine. If that doesn’t happen, the rest doesn’t happen.

I get up at six. This happens to work really well with when my son wants to nurse, so he typically wakes up between 5 45 and six. I feed him, I go sometimes I actually beat him. I, I wake up before him and I sneak out very, very quietly, but in either case, 6:00 AM I try to leave my bedroom. Sometimes it’s a little later if he’s just woken up and I’m still nursing, but I immediately leave, drink 16 ounces of water.

All of these behaviors. Link. They all connect and it’s what allows me to get them all done. So it’s first thing, as soon as I wake up, I put on dirty clothes that are on my bathroom floor. Yes. I literally put on yesterday’s clothes in order to go do my workout because it’s one less, uh, barrier to me walking out the door and getting it done.

Right. I’m not fumbling around in the dark to find an outfit. I’m not, uh, adding that to my evening routine. You totally could. Right. But for me, it would mean because my son is still sleeping in my room. It would mean. Before he goes to bed, I have to remember to get an outfit out. And that was a barrier for me.

So I started going, you know what, I’m just gonna leave my dirty clothes in the bathroom at night and I’ll put them on and walk out the door. So put on dirty clothes, drink 16 ounces of water. I walk my dog. And so that whole time that I’m drinking my 16 ounces of water, I’m sitting on the floor. There’s a specific place in my house.

I sit on the step in my house and he is, Nudging me the whole time. He’s like, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on. It’s really great motivation to have my water quickly and move on to get out the door. So I finish that water. I put his leash on. We go for a walk. Our walk is 17 minutes. It’s the exact same route every single day.

It happens as the sun is rising. And I honestly think that that alone made such a difference in how I felt throughout the day. I don’t know if that’s a circadian rhythm and like a sun exposure thing and like seeing the sun rise. Um, and what that does, you know, on a chemical level or if it’s more of an emotional thing where.

I don’t look at my phone while I’m drinking my water because the dog is aggressively harassing me. And so really like the first light that I take in in the day is the sun rising. It’s like such a, I mean, peaceful is maybe not the right word because I’m walking a dog who is kind of an, a-hole on a leash, but it is as peaceful as it gets, I think for, uh, a mom of two little children.

It’s the most peaceful way you can wake up. So we walk 17 minutes, we get home, I start my workout. This is a big thing. I plan my workouts for a month in advance. So every day when I open my workout, I’m not thinking about like, oh, what do I want to do? Oh, this looks hard. I don’t feel like doing this. I literally don’t think about it.

Occasionally, and I’ll talk about this a little bit at the end. Occasionally I deviate from the plan, but for the most part, it’s Jesus, take the wheel. I open my workout, I hit start. I do exactly what’s programmed because previous Kelly thought about it, made this plan, thought it was a good idea. Of course, I can still respond to how my body is feeling in the moment because I can adjust weights, I can adjust reps that’s available, but I just hit start and go no matter what the workout says.

That’s about 30 minutes. I don’t work out for an hour. I think a lot of people get this like 45, 60 minute thing in their head. I have exactly 30 minutes to do this because I have booked my morning and I have committed to my husband and the kids to be in the house at 7:00 AM so. Occasionally my workout goes to 7 0 3, but I’m in the house at 7:00 AM and that is as part of this routine.

That’s a really important part of it. A lot of my routines have to do with time boxing. It is saying this is how long the thing is gonna take. Period. When we timebox tasks, it gives our brain the, uh, like the peace, the calm of knowing that you don’t have to worry about other stuff, right? If your workout is like 30 ish minutes, but sometimes it’s 35 and sometimes it’s 40, then the whole time your brain is in overdrive going, am I gonna get to the next thing?

Where do I have to be after this? What do I have to do next? So knowing at 7:00 AM I’m gonna be done with that workout, it doesn’t actually, you know, if it goes to 7 0 3, obviously it’s not a big deal. But if for whatever reason I’m not done at 7:00 AM I hit done right? I’ve committed to being there. I’ve committed to hitting start, and I’ve committed to being done at 7:00 AM because that’s what my brain and my lifestyle needs in order for this routine to work.

And so I think, um, yes, there’s a lot of benefit to saying like, these are all the things I am going to do as part of a routine, but I think there’s also benefit to saying, this is what I’m not gonna do. What I’m not gonna do is let my workout go past seven because if it does all the way down the row of dominoes, things are going to be more difficult for me.

And I don’t wanna give my brain any ammunition for saying, let me not do this, right. Because if it throws off my whole morning one day, maybe not a big deal. But if it throws off my whole morning, three days out of the week, then the next week it’s a lot harder to go hit, start on that workout. So that’s the morning routine.

I go in, I have breakfast with my kids, I sit at the table with them. I eat my breakfast by seven 30. We’re away from the table. Doesn’t matter if everybody ate or not, we’re moving on. I dress my kids. My husband serves breakfast packs, lunches, gets himself ready to go out the door, gets all the stuff in the car.

I get the kids dressed and they walk out the door at 7 45. Sometimes it’s seven 50, but that gives me 10 to 15 minutes. I am at my desk at eight. That gives me 10 to 15 minutes that like anything, I have not been able to finish with getting myself ready. It’s done. Again, that 8:00 AM is a time box.

Sometimes it’s like, hmm, not an eyeliner day. I guess. Like when we just didn’t get there, you know, the kids took a little bit more of my time. I didn’t get to, uh, do as much of my own, uh, primping as I might prefer to. Oh, well it is what it is. That is what I’m committed to doing. And that morning routine has been incredible.

That’s been in place basically since, um, After my six week follow up on the broken elbow, I started saying, I need some kind of structure to get myself back to working out, or I’m not gonna do it. And that routine has served me so well. It started with a lot of friction. I shared my email newsletter recently that I had to have this like, I dunno if you wanna call it an affirmation.

I had to have this affirmation every morning. That I told myself, they don’t serve gains in bed. If I want the gains, I gotta get out of bed. That’s the only way it’s gonna happen. And now I don’t think about it. I just get up, you know, the, the alarm clock goes off. I finish feeding my son, I’m out. There was a lot of resistance initially.

I’m six weeks. Mm, maybe two months into that now. Much easier. So there’s one other routine that I wanna share with you. This one’s a little bit quicker. This is more of a life routine. It does have a little bit to do with nutrition. So, I share, you know, I sit 7:00 AM sit down for breakfast with my kids no matter what.

My husband, um, I prep the breakfast in advance, but he like warms it up, serves it to me. It’s always the same. Ate the same thing Monday to Friday. Sometimes we have pancakes on the weekend, but like same thing Monday to Friday and then mid-morning. I always have a break somewhere in my mid-morning and that is when I go inside, I start brewing a pot of coffee.

We do french press, so that takes a little while. I empty the dishwasher and I prep my morning snacks. So my morning snacks are a quarter cup of pistachios, two dates, or at the moment we have ripe avocado or ripe, uh, mangoes on our tree. So right now it’s mangoes for like two weeks. Um, but pistachios, dates, protein shake, and the coffee is brewing while I unload the dishwasher.

That behavior, that chain of behaviors, again, so helpful because I’m unloading the dishwasher. And there’s a timer on the coffee, right? I’ve said, Hey, Google, set my timer for six minutes. When that six minutes is up, the dishwasher will be unloaded. Sometimes I have time to like load some things into the dishwasher to wipe the counters to do other stuff, but once the six minutes is up and the coffee is done, Time is up.

That allows me to guarantee nutritionally I know that I’ve had 60 grams of protein. I know that I’ve had a decent amount of fiber. If I eat breakfast and snack, those two meals the same every day. I can eat whatever the hell I want the rest of the day. And I know that I’m gonna meet my needs nutritionally.

I’m gonna have enough fiber, I’m gonna have enough protein, and I’m probably gonna have enough water because I started my day with that 16 ounces and now I tend to be a little thirsty the rest of the day. All of this is flexible. I think that with routines, the most important thing is that you acknowledge there are actually factors that will allow the routine to change.

So a big one for me is if we have a really bad sleep night, if I’ve gotten six hours or less, none of the morning routine is happening, period. I’m gonna sleep as long as I humanly can. I’m gonna try to get up around seven to like help with the kids and get them out the door. But I’m not gonna do the morning routine.

That’s a rule that I have for myself, and that makes it much easier to know when do I deviate from the plan, right? I almost always have the 15, 20 minutes to unload the dishwasher, make coffee, and make my snack. The only time I don’t is if I have a client session that’s been rescheduled, and so that’s easy to know.

Did I, on my calendar, is there no block of time in my morning between nine and 1130? If I’m booked back to back to back, that’s the only time that I ever miss that routine and those kind of rules or, uh, it’s like rule deviations. That flexibility allows me to let the routine be more consistent because I can always say like, no, this actually is a reason for me to deviate from the routine, versus I’m going to do this every single day no matter what.

And then obviously there’s going to be a point where you burn out if you don’t give yourself that out. So of course these are highly personal to me, but I wanted to share them because they really have been very, very impactful. It’s been about two months that I’ve been doing some version of these and kind of iterating on them.

I added a protein shake to my morning snack, all that. And it’s been going really well and I hope it provides you a little bit of food for thought around what are some routines that would really change how I feel, how I interact with my fitness, with my house, and with my family. All really rich places to, um, kind of iterate to practice and to build out a routine.

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