The Morning Routine of a Six-Figure Health and Fitness Writer
A science-backed way to start the day for success—and how I grew my own business as a freelance writer
When I used to work for a corporate firm, I felt like I had signed my life away. The majority of my day was spent in the office, and when I wasn’t there, I spent my time thinking about it or preparing for it. I didn’t take holidays, and weekends weren’t relaxing. A huge reason for quitting was wanting to have my time back.
I decided to become a full-time, freelance health and fitness writer, and promised myself I would create a life that didn’t feel engulfed by ‘work’. I can’t believe I’ve made it to six-figures, while rarely feeling overworked. Here’s my daily routine.
7am - 7.30am - Wake up
I am more than aware of the 5am club and all the entrepreneurs *cough Mark Walberg* who wake up at the crack of the dawn to ‘crush the day’. But for me personally, there’s not a notable benefit of waking up earlier than I am naturally inclined to. My brain needs beauty sleep. So much so that I don’t set alarms. This might be a luxury for people who have strict timelines, but I work from home and am naturally a morning person so I have more flexibility.
I am an advocate of alarm-free mornings for a few reasons:
I create a bedtime routine - Any good morning routine starts the night before. I control the time I go to bed and ensure I have at least 8 hours sleep, so I typically wake up at the same time in the morning.
I listen to my body - If I sleep in longer, it’s usually a sign my body needs it.
I let myself finish my sleep cycle - Waking up during the deep sleep or REM stages of your sleep cycle can make you feel more tired, even if you’ve had the same amount of sleep. I let myself wake up naturally, which helps me feel well-rested and energized in the morning.
I don’t want to spike my cortisol - A 2016 study published in Noise & Health has shown that blaring alarm clocks cause cortisol spikes. Cortisol is your stress hormone, which is naturally highest in the morning, but a loud alarm keeps your cortisol elevated for the entire day. The aforementioned study found that participants who woke up with an alarm clock had higher cortisol levels and a higher heart rate for the entire today - the two main ways stress presents physically.
I then go on my phone and check Medium. I read around one to three articles before getting out of bed. This helps to gently get my mind going, and I’ve noticed this can help to boost creative thinking in the morning. I do not ever go on social media for at least the first hour of the day.
Approx. 7am - 8am - Get up
After getting up, I throw on a hoodie and sweatpants that I leave lying next to my bed. I do not want to waste brain energy by deciding what to wear. I brush my teeth, wash my face, do Gua Sha, drink water and listen to a podcast. The podcasts I listen to in the morning have to be motivating and in some way related to business, writing, or self-development.
I then make coffee, and sit in my office. I put my noise-blocking earphones in and listen to binaural beats. Binaural beats aka auditory beat stimulation (ABS) is when two tones with a different frequency are played into each ear. sound waves within a close range are presented to each ear separately. As a result, your brain processes a beat at the difference of the frequencies.
For example, when the 420 Hz tone is presented to the left ear and the 460 Hz tone to the right, a beat of 40 Hz is perceived. The benefits of doing this have been revealed in some preliminary studies. A 2015 study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that binaural beats can improve cognitive function, reduce anxiety, and improve your mood.
While listening to binaural beats, I journal or meditate. When I journal, I write manifestations in the present tense e.g. I have a constant flow of money coming to me, I am abundantly wealthy.
Alternatively, I meditate on my manifestations, or try to find peace. I have anxiety and so sitting still, meditating in silence with a totally clear mind is very difficult and ineffective for me. I get better results when I’m thinking of something specific or focusing on breathing deeply.
The final part of this is writing my to-do list for the day.
8am - Workout
I can’t emphasize this enough, writers! If you want to write high quality work and sustain your level of concentration throughout the day, you NEED to workout! I wrote a whole piece about this, so check it out if you want to understand the science behind this: https://writingcooperative.com/the-science-behind-the-10-minute-workout-to-break-writers-block-b7c08a9ec9ba?gi=b06c5449d076
But in short:
More blood flow and oxygen to the brain
An enhanced hormonal environment - stress relief and mood improvements
Improved cognitive functions - rational thinking, concentration, alertness and less brain fog
Getting into flow state more easily
I workout at home and limit my workouts to 45 minutes. 45 minutes has been shown consistently in research and anecdotally to be the goldilocks of workout durations. It has a positive effect on energy levels and the outcomes listed above. The longer the workout, the more draining it is, and the more recovery required. A little boost is more than enough.
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” —Arianna Huffington, author and businesswoman
8.45am - Shower
The release of endorphins, dopamine, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor from my workout leaves me feeling energized and positive. In the shower, I find that my mind wanders into creativity. Some of my best ideas come in the shower.
On some days, my mind starts racing about my to-do list and I start to feel anxious. If this happens, I try to remain more present. I practice a mindfulness activity that involves focusing on the sensation of the water hitting my skin.
After the shower, I put on a ‘uniform’. It’s not a real uniform. It’s an outfit style that I repeat with different items. For example, leggings and a t-shirt. It involves less thinking.
9am - Start work
By 9am I’m starting my first piece of work for the day. I work with private clients in the health and fitness arena. I write articles typically around 1,000 - 2,000 words. For a 1,000-word article, it usually takes me between one to two hours.
Here are my tips for lasting focus throughout the day:
Do the hardest task first - If I have one article that I am dreading, or one article significantly longer in length than the others, I’ll do it first. Once it’s done, I feel a great relief and the rest of the day is easier. Plus, my mind is sharper in the morning so I can get it done more quickly.
Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ or airplane mode - Nothing distracts me more than the flash of a notification. Even if I don’t look at it, it makes me lose my train of thought! A study at the University of California, Irvine, found that workers have focus periods of just 11 minutes on average in between interruptions. So your goal should be to limit interruptions as much as you can to extend the duration of concentration.
Avoid getting up - Make sure you have what you need at your desk. Whether that’s water, coffee, snacks, pens, laptop charger, whatever. Avoid needing to get up and face distractions.
Silence - Some work best with music, I work best with 100% complete silence. Research supports the benefits of working in complete silence. In fact, a study published in Brain Structure & Function found that prolonged silence produces the growth of new neurons. It can take some getting used to, but give it a try.
Don’t go on social media - The second you open the app, your ability to concentrate starts its decline. A study found a link between social media usage and attention span in college students. There’s just something about the overwhelming multi-tasking nature of social media that drains your brain’s energy. Don’t open the app for as long as you can into the day.
10.45am - Breakfast
I practice intermittent fasting. It helps me focus in the morning. After a few weeks, your body adapts and you won’t get hungry in the morning. There are a plethora of benefits of intermittent fasting, here’s just a couple:
Ketones increase brain mitochondria - In the absence of food, your body shifts into ketosis. Being in a state of ketosis shifts from burning carbohydrates - the body’s preferred fuel source - to burning fat, producing ketones.
As discovered in a 2004 study, ketones increase the number of mitochondria in brain cells, enhancing cognitive functions like memory recall and attention span, an effect particularly pronounced in the hippocampus.
The production of BHB - B-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is produced during fasting. This upregulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) - a protein that promotes the survival of neurons, synaptic plasticity, and provides resistance against cellular stress.
This is supported in research, with one such study published in 2019, stating that BDNF is the “key molecule” for a healthy brain.
When we fast, we cause a level of metabolic stress due to the drop in blood sugar that helps cells to work harder, promoting autophagy, cell apoptosis and the growth of new, healthy cells.
This also helps to fight free radicals and oxidative stress by promoting the death of dangerous, mutated cells and encouraging healthy mitochondria growth; this reduces inflammation, one of the main causes of all disease.
Fasting is linked to a decline in levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and insulin, which creates an optimized environment for fat burning as high levels of these hormones are associated with fat storage.
Here’s how you do it:
Only consume water or black coffee in the morning. Stay hydrated - you can drink as much water as you want.
Eat your first meal around 10 or 11 am.
Eat normally until 6 or 7 pm. This is your eating window, known as a 16:8 fast.
Don’t eat past your eating window.
It’s pretty simple, and effective. Give it a try.
This morning ritual is rooted in science. I try to align my daily habits with my long-term goals. It’s not a complex routine, but it does work for me as a freelancer working from home, trying to run my own business.
Take care of your brain, protect your energy, and create an environment that cultivates productivity.
Recent update: I am now seven months pregnant and my morning routine has greatly changed!