The first hour after you wake up can set the tone for the rest of the day. Little things like accidentally shattering your oatmeal bowl on the floor or stepping in your cat’s water dish with fresh socks can sour your morning and throw off your energy. But the opposite is also true: Building a positive, purposeful morning routine may help you thrive throughout the rest of your day.
Nike Master Trainer Holly Rilinger uses the morning to set the foundation for the rigorous workouts and training sessions packed into her day. “The way I wake up and the way I approach my day with my morning is going to dictate the kind of day I have,” says Rilinger.
Known for both intense yet motivational workouts, Rilinger is a seasoned veteran in the fitness world and a former professional basketball player. Her recently published book LIFTED focuses on strengthening the mind and spirit to enhance the gains you make in the gym.
Leading classes that inspires others to stick with it to the end takes effort: “I need to inspire myself first,” says Rilinger. “I need to get myself grounded and ready to go.”
Here are the critical elements of Rilinger’s morning routine for a successful, fulfilling day:
1. Meditate first thing
It’s easy to be intimidated by meditation and think of it as something you have to do barefoot on the floor for 45 minutes, but meditation can be as simple as setting aside five or 10 minutes. Find out how Rilinger squeezes meditation into her schedule here.
“[Meditating] creates space and a foundation of calmness that carries out through my whole day,” says Rilinger. But she’ll be the first to admit she’s not perfect: There are definitely days she slips up and falls prey to the lure of checking her Instagram. (Ahh, motivational wellness gurus: They’re just like us.)
Rilinger also prioritizes her sleep. “I’m a solid seven-to-eight-hours-a-night sleeper, and if I don’t get that much sleep, I’m not going to be ready for my day.” Getting enough sleep has benefits beyond improving your mood or energy levels. (Here’s how sleep affects your workouts, how sleep helps reduce stress, and how sleep aids in your body’s everyday functions. Oh, and here’s how much sleep experts recommend.)
2. Stay away from your phone
It’s tempting to check your notifications in the morning, but Rilinger wants to break that habit, which she says often “sets the tone for a hectic day.” Instead, she skips the social media and heads to her coffee machine.
3. Dress the part
A key part of Rilinger’s morning: selecting out her workout swag for the day from a closet that would make any gym-goer drool with envy. (Think rows and rows of leggings, tanks, and shoes in bold and flashy colors.)
4. Split breakfast into two meals
Rilinger doesn’t like to lead her group fitness classes on a full stomach, so she typically eats a light breakfast before her workouts, like coconut yogurt with berries and granola. (Here are more tips from Rilinger for the best pre- and post-workout snacks.) Then, after one or two high-intensity classes, a bigger breakfast is in order. “My go-to meal right after I work out is a smoothie, and I typically use some sort of green—a lot of times kale—ice, almond milk, some type of protein powder [like collagen], and then I usually add one fruit, like a banana or strawberries,” says Rilinger.
5. Pick the perfect music
During her first mini breakfast, Rilinger uses that nosh time to tweak her playlists for her day’s workout sessions. “Playlisting,” as she calls it, is such an important thing for any group fitness instructor. “Music to me drives a good class,” says Rilinger. “Music to me drives a good life.” (No wonder her NYC-based classes are so highly coveted.) Not in NYC? You can work out with Rilinger at home. Here are four moves for stronger arms and a six-minute abs workout.
“As an athlete, my rituals got me ready to play my game,” says Rilinger. “And now as a trainer, my ritual grounds me and gets me ready for my day.”