Why Should I Have Routines?
Consistent routines are important to good health because your circadian rhythms affect your blood pressure, sleep/wake cycle, hormone release, hunger, digestion and body temperature among other things. Circadian rhythms are the natural cycles that your body and mind naturally operate on, regardless of external stimuli. The word, circadian, is related to “circle”, as in the 24-hour length of time in a day. These cycles are so important to good health that the discoverers of their importance won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2017. (1) (2)
Although we each have our own unique rhythms, they can be affected by our habits. When we allow our lifestyle to interfere with our natural rhythms, our health will be impacted. It’s almost like we are rowing upstream. Our bodies have a preset program to function well and accomplish all of the tasks that are required for good health. When we work with our natural settings, we will naturally flow easily downstream. But, when we interfere with the ebb and flow that comes naturally, we are fighting the current. It’s kind of like we have beached the canoe that was allowing us to glide along easily and started hacking our way through the underbrush with a machete. We can still get to our destination, but the trip will be MUCH harder!
The most important routine of all is your sleep schedule. This is the most difficult routine to establish for most people because of our busy lives. We tend to try to do “just one more thing” before we go to bed and the next thing we know, it’s way past our bedtime. The truth is, the later you stay up, the less productive you become. Let things wait until tomorrow. You will be able to accomplish more in less time if you are well-rested. The later you stay up, the slower you get.
Quality sleep impacts hunger hormones positively and makes you less likely to binge on unhealthy foods. It also improves your immunity. People who sleep 6 hours or less each night are more than FOUR TIMES more likely to catch the common cold than those who sleep 8 hours. Sleep is important to heart health. In a study at Harvard University, it was noted that when your sleep schedule deviates more than 90 minutes, the risk of cadiovascular disease DOUBLED over the next five years. That should motivate us all to prioritize sleep. Set a time that is realistic for nodding off and stick to it. If your sleep time deviates between 60 and 90 minutes, you have a 14% increase in the risk for metabolic syndrome. If your schedule deviates more than 90 minutes, your risk rises to a dramatic 58% and increases your risk for diabetes and obesity. As tempting as it is to sleep in on days when you have the opportunity, it’s still better to stick to your routine. (3)
Having routine times for your meals will improve your health by providing your body with a steady stream of energy. You will most likely eat healthier when you have set mealtimes, because you will prepare for your meals instead of just grabbing whatever you can find. I know people who simply refuse to buy groceries and cook. They won’t even have ingredients for a healthy salad or wrap at home, insisting on eating every meal out. These people will eat practically anything that they can find that is FREE. Doughnuts and cupcakes at work and the candy bowl at mom’s house all call their names because they are always RAVENOUS.
All of this chaos around food sets us up for binge eating and eating lots of empty calories. It’s a sure-fire way to increase your chances of metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. If you really hate to cook, you can still have regular meals. It takes about 5 minutes to make a steaming bowl of oats with healthy fruit, nuts and seeds. You can have a cup of high protein, 0-sugar Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit or a protein shake. Meals don’t have to be complicated. Lunch can be a jar salad, prepped the night before. Load it with the protein of your choice and low calorie dressing. Add an apple or carrot sticks on the side for some healthy carbs. Dinner can be done in less than 30 minutes when you simply pan sear your protein, bake a potato (sweet or white) in the microwave and add a salad. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy.
When I first began strength training, David told me to decide when I was going to work out and do it like it’s my job. When we think of it like that, it gets done. If we have set times for working out, we don’t have the anxiety that accompanies missed workouts and the biochemical fluctuations that come with that. Nothing dissipates stress better than a hard workout of your choice. You don’t even have to “feel like it” for it to be beneficial. All that’s required is to get it done!
It can be challenging to schedule time for hard, effective workouts after you reach a higher level of fitness because a 20-minute stroll simply won’t be enough, but when you first begin exercising, a 20-minute walk will do you a lot of good and anyone can schedule that. As your fitness increases and you need more, you can have a routine of making sure that you get all of your workouts in within a specified window adapted to the current demands of your schedule. As long as you get them all in, you will benefit. It’s better for them to be slightly irregular than to be inadequate or missing altogether. If you don’t have the time for an extensive workout on a given day, look at your schedule realistically and pencil it in as soon as possible. In my case, I need 4 lengthy strength training routines every week and 150 minutes of cardio. Since I have a packed schedule and my workouts are longer now than when I first began lifting, I squeeze them in strategically. They have to be a priority.
Tools of the Trade
Routines are so much easier to establish and maintain when you use planners! A main problem with using your phone to schedule anything is that every time that you pick up your phone, you are likely to get side-tracked Do you even realize how long you can sit and stare at Tic Toc?!? Some of these social media apps are the main reason that people cannot seem to get their lives together. If you sit and stare at your phone for 6 hours a day, you will not be able to work out or meal plan. You will probably not have a regular sleep schedule because you sit in the bed and stare at your phone. Buy a paper notebook planner, the bigger the better and USE IT to schedule every aspect of your life.
Learn to set your alarm clock to wake up and to remind you of important times during your day. Establishing routines are a measure of work, hard work for some of us, but they are well worth the effort. Begin today and you will be amazed at how the quality of your life improves almost immediately.
Get into the ROUTINE of establishing routines, the most important one being putting your health before EVERYTHING else. Let every decision be made based on what your healthiest option is at that time.
That one routine will improve the quality and length of your life more than anything else.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Make It Happen.