The Benefits of Morning Movement
Convincing athletes to think and act differently is no easy task, but when we convince the Misfit community to buy into something, and it moves the needle in a positive direction for athletes, there’s no greater thrill for us. A new feature to the Blog in Phase 9 is something we have coined as “Morning Movement.” Morning movement is nothing more than a 10-15 minute training session; we are looking for athletes to implement in the morning on their training days. During this 10-15 minute session, athletes will perform a brief bout of exercise to spike their heart rate and check-in with their range of motion before concluding with a short yoga routine known as Sun Salutations. Each facet of the Morning Movement routine is programmed intentionally and creates a subsequent benefit, which is our primary motivation for its inclusion. The three main reasons we are asking you to buy into Morning Movement are setting up your training day, beefing up your energy systems, and promoting better sleep.
Setting Up Your Training Day
Our first goal with Morning Movement is to set you up for a great day of training, both mentally and physically. Each day, athletes can expect a brief heart rate spike, a modest dose of bodyweight movements, and holds performed at an intentionally slow and steady pace, where the objective is moving smoothly and purposefully, before concluding with a Sun Salutation routine. Purposeful movement provides the opportunity to check-in and allows for the discovery of tightness or soreness that may hamper their ability to train effectively. We then address the tightness and soreness with a short yoga routine, provided to us by our friends at ROMWOD (www.romwod.com), known as Sun Salutations. This dynamic form of yoga moves an athlete through multiple rounds of the range of motion work needed to squat, hinge, and press effectively, bolstering your ability to train later more efficiently. We have found that athletes feel and perform their best when they start their day with movement and mobility, so we’ve included both in the Morning Movement routine.
Finally, the combination of low-to-moderate intensity exercise and Sun Salutations provides an opportunity for mindfulness and will create the opportunity for setting intentions and goals for the day. These intentions can come in many forms, such as how you’re going to structure your training day, how you plan to execute each training piece and goals for each piece in the day’s training. This practice can take a B/C-level training and quickly elevate it to an A+ training because the more you know about yourself, the fitter you are. Mindfulness and intention setting is a skill and, like anything else, takes practice. Rather than just “going through the motions,” use this time to practice this skill and reap the benefits it provides. These benefits alone make it worthwhile, but we’re just scratching the surface.
Another essential adaptation we want to promote via Morning Movement is beefing up your energy systems. One day per week, we ask athletes to move an entire training session to the front half of their day, which tenured Misfits will recognize as “Fasted Cardio.” As the name suggests, we ask athletes to fast for this 20-45 minute session. When your body is in a fasted state, it is primarily metabolizing fat tissue for energy. We can further enhance our body’s ability to metabolize fat by training fasted. Efficient fat metabolism should interest athletes because it ensures your body can produce the necessary energy you need for exercise, regardless of the time domain. Think of the countless times we’ve seen high-level CrossFitters “bonk” when the time domains are longer because their bodies fail to make the requisite energy they need to perform at their best. Athletes who can switch between burning carbohydrates and fat can create the energy they need when the time domain goes long, giving them a substantial advantage over those who can’t.
Promoting Better Sleep
The benefit of Morning Movement that is conceivably the most profound is its effect on your sleep. Long-time Misfits know precisely how we feel about sleep, but if you haven’t heard us say it yet, getting quality sleep (5-6 90-minute sleep cycles in a cool, dark room) will do more for your health and performance than just about anything else you can do, try, or buy. There are many tips and tactics for improving sleep duration and quality, such as reducing caffeine intake or getting sufficient sunlight, but one of the most effective ways to enhance sleep quality is by manipulating two essential hormones using morning movement.
Cortisol and melatonin are hormonal antagonists that have an inverse relationship to one another. Cortisol is your fight-or-flight stress hormone responsible for waking you up first thing in the morning, whereas melatonin is your sleep hormone. Upon waking, your cortisol levels are at the highest, and melatonin levels are at their lowest, and as your day progresses, cortisol production decreases as melatonin production increases. As is the case with most of your hormones, certain conscious behaviors can manipulate either an increase or a decrease in production. In the case of cortisol and melatonin, we aim to create a more significant cortisol spike in the morning by spiking your heart rate as part of the morning movement routine. This heart rate spike triggers your adrenal glands to increase cortisol production. A more significant cortisol spike in the morning equals a greater melatonin response in the evening. By manipulating cortisol, we effectively teach our body to produce more melatonin in the evening. In doing so, you’ll want to be in bed sooner, which means more sleep cycles and better recovery, both of which set you up for a better training session the following day.
Before the 2019 Open, we dropped the slogan Grow or Die because growth is what Misfit Athletics is all about. However, convincing athletes to try something new isn’t always easy, but if you’ve made it this far, we hope you can see why Morning Movement has the potential to seriously benefit your training with a relatively low barrier to entry. If you could spend ten easy minutes in the morning and increase your training efficacy, develop more robust energetic pathways, and set yourself up for more restful sleep the following night, wouldn’t you do it? Give us a few minutes of your morning and see for yourself.
Written by Matt Sherburne