Here’s What 8 of the Healthiest People Do First Thing In the Morning

published Feb 15, 2018
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(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Even if you aren’t a self-proclaimed “morning person,” creating a solid AM routine can set the tone for your day. If right now that “routine” includes 30 minutes struggling with the snooze button, followed by guzzling coffee while simultaneously blow drying your hair and responding to your email, you might be ready to switch things up. Who better to borrow some inspiration from than some of the healthiest people out there?

We spoke to eight super-healthy people—doctors, fitness enthusiasts, the woman who wrote the book on happiness (literally!), and more—to find out how they jump-start their days. Unsurprisingly, yoga and caffeine play a big role for nearly everyone. But remember to adapt their suggestions to make them work for you: “There is no one best way [to start your morning], because everyone is so different,” says Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of four books, including The Happiness Project, and co-host of the podcast Happier. “Figure yourself out first, and then try to make your mornings suit you.”

Think about what you need to set yourself up for a successful day, and craft your routine around that (so if you never have time to read after work, maybe you’ll carve out five minutes for it in the morning). For some ideas on where to get started, here’s how eight super-healthy people greet each day.

Simple Stretches, Then Walk the Dog

“I wake up every morning at 6 a.m.—weekends, too. I get up, brush my teeth, put in my contacts, and get dressed, and then I stretch. That just helps me feel more alert—nothing major; just five stretches. Then I take my dog out for a walk. That’s my first real task of the day. After that, I check my email and social media. I’m a real morning person, and a lot of the experts will say not to do that low-value mental work in the morning when you’re most alert, and to instead save it for later in the day. I find that I can’t settle down to any kind of deeper work until I have a sense of what I’ve missed, and what’s going on. I like to get everything cleared out that I can before I really hit my day. I’ve only had a dog for a few years, so that part of my mornings is relatively new, but otherwise, I’ve had this routine for years. Even if I’m on vacation, I always get up at 6 a.m. I like having a little time to myself to get myself organized for the day.”

Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of four books, including The Happiness Project, and co-host of the podcast Happier

A Series of Alarms, and Meditation Always

“I try to get as much done as possible during daylight hours. If I’m at home, my first alarm is 6 a.m., and I aim to actually be up between 7 and 8 a.m. I hate that checking my phone is one of the first things that I do—it’s so irritating. I want to get to a point where I consistently have the phone outside of the room, but the fact that you can have so many alarms is so helpful. I try not to get too wrapped up in what I see on the phone but I do check in on my email, and sometimes dealing with it can take awhile. Shortly thereafter, I like to transition into yoga and meditation. Otherwise, I would be so lost for the rest of the day. I have to practice yoga to be around other human beings. When I don’t practice, it’s so evident in my tone and how things affect me. If I have to be on set by a very early time, I may not have time to practice difficult yoga poses for any amount. I’ll try to do just a few stretches regardless. Even if I can’t do that, I always try to make time for 10 minutes of meditation. This has not always been my morning routine, but it has been for the last year or two. It evolved out of me determining what makes me feel good.”

—Jessamyn Stanley, author of Every Body Yoga, runs the popular Instagram account @mynameisjessamyn

40 Pushups —And Absolutely No Complicated Decisions

“Almost every morning, I wake up promptly at 6 a.m. and do 40 pushups with sun salutations. I don’t want to make any decisions in the morning so I save my decision-making chi for the afternoon, when most people fade. I automate healthy behaviors that will make me proud of myself for the rest of the day like: yoga, quick shave and shower, trip to either studio or hospital, and review of the day with team (either scripts in studio or rounds with surgeons). I eat 2% Greek yogurt with blackberries, since it’s both easy to make and to transport. I have too much to do in my early mornings, so I meditate at night. My advice: Do the uncomfortable stuff early and get it out of the way so you are celebrating yourself and all the good options for the rest of the day. I won’t drink coffee until after breakfast since it’s not really needed—I’m already jazzed up by yoga and shower, so I save the caffeine for when it’s really needed.”

—Dr. Oz, a board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon and host of The Dr. Oz Show

Cuddles With Dogs

“I’m an early bird, and usually wake up at either 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m. Whether it’s during the week or on the weekends, it’s super important that I get enough sleep. To help keep me on track, I use the Bedtime function in my iPhone. It lets me know what time I need to go to sleep to ensure I get a solid eight hours shut eye. As soon as I wake up, I grab my phone and check out what the SWEAT Community has been up to. I LOVE to be inspired and encouraged by this amazing community of women around the world. Then I jump out of bed and give my two huskies, Ace and Junior, a morning cuddle. Then, it’s time for brekky! It’s important for me to have a proper breakfast filled with protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber to keep me going through my busy day. I will always have breakfast no matter what, even if I’m up early for a shoot! Lately, I’m really loving the simple combo of fresh tomatoes, olives, and anchovies on toast with olive oil. If I’m in Adelaide, after brekky depending on what I have scheduled I might head into the office to work on content and meet with the team. I travel a lot, so I try to keep my morning routine the same despite the fact I may be in a different location and time zone.”

—Kayla Itsines, a personal trainer from Adelaide, Australia, creator of the BBG program, and a trainer with the SWEAT app

Meditate, Then Headlines & Emails

“I wake up at 5:45 a.m. most mornings, and immediately make my morning coffee. I sit with a cup and meditate for 20 minutes, focusing on gratitude and blessings. Next, I read/scan three publications: The New York Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. I always make a NutriBullet drink every morning, which consists of turmeric, apple cider vinegar, oil of oregano, fresh ginger, a whole lemon (skin included), with a spring water base. Then I either add fruit or greens depending on my mood for the day. The last thing I do before I leave the apartment is scan my emails for anything urgent that needs my response. I love to walk to exhale to teach or take Barre class. Walking is the best form of moving meditation—when you walk and focus on your breathing, it clears your mind so you can start your day with a positive attitude!”

—Fred DeVito, exhale’s VP of Fitness Classes and Training

Call Mom & Dad

“Once my alarm sounds at 7 a.m., the first thing I do in the morning is use the restroom and weigh myself, whether I want to or not! Then, I go downstairs and make a cup of coffee before getting on the computer to respond to morning emails. After checking my emails and having a cup of coffee, I work out for 30 minutes on a cross trainer machine in my garage while watching Good Morning America. Once my workout is over, I shower and get ready for my work day. I try to start my day with a healthy breakfast of watermelon (if in season), oatmeal, or an egg with sourdough toast (no butter). I may have 15 minutes of more computer time to check social media or respond to editors’ requests to answer questions for articles. As I drive to work, I always call my parents to say good morning and see what their plans are for the day. I arrive to my office anywhere from 9:15 to 9:30 a.m. during the work week.”

Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN, and Women’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.

Give Thanks

“I get up really early—4:30 a.m.!—so I’m in bed by 9:45 p.m. A successful morning starts with a consistent night routine, so I keep my room cozy and clean, with a collection of mini room sprays on my bedside table, as well as water, my alarm clock, a calming white candle, and a tiny notebook for capturing dreams and last-minute thoughts. The very first thing I do when I wake up, before my feet even hit the floor, is give thanks and remember my purpose. Then I take a quick, warm shower to give myself some time and space before jumping into the day. Post-shower, I drink a big glass of water with lemon and a tiny cup of espresso (’cause I’m still human!). If I’m under the weather or feeling run down I’ll add a shot of apple cider vinegar in water to my routine. Next, I spend some time laying on my back on the floor doing a mix of Alexander Technique and simple stretches and then 10-20 minutes of self-guided meditation before looking over my day, often surrounded by crystals, candles, my dream journals, and my Yantra cards. I sit in that same space as I look over my day planner and in that same restful meditative state make note of the most important tasks and objectives of the day. Before I know it, it’s time to open up shop at 6 a.m.!”

—Lara Land, owner of Land Yoga, an Ashtanga yoga studio in New York City

Energizing Yoga

“I get up and do yoga from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.—I love it. Every time my alarm goes off at 6:10. I think ‘I want to stay in bed’ but by the end of class I’m so energized and feel so positive about the day ahead. I then walk to work with my husband and our dog, Austin, stopping at one of our cafes for breakfast or a quick meeting on the way to the office. Breakfast is either our crunchy nutty granola with coconut yoghurt and my new favorite slow-cooked pineapple compote, a bowl of almond milk porridge with peanut butter and banana, or sourdough toast with smashed avocado and arugula.”

—Ella Mills, founder of Deliciously Ella and author of Natural Feasts