As someone who doesn’t open her eyes without wishing that today is the day my cat will finally bring me my coffee, I get it: energy is tough to muster. Between the options of sleeping in, guzzling enough caffeine to #powerthrough, or actually, y’know, taking steps to get more energy, it’s really easy to just shrug it off and say, “welp, I’m never going to be a morning/afternoon/anytime person.”
But at the risk of sounding like a Pinterest board gone rouge (which is the risk you take when you worked in the fitness industry, as I did for 4 years), that’s not true. You really don’t have to go from 0 to 90 to get more energy, but there are ways to inch closer toward being that person — the one who’s always down to try any new adventure. Because that’s where life begins.
It doesn’t take large, sweeping notions, either. Sometimes making things that much easier for yourself is all you need. And in order to do that, there’s a few small tweaks you can make to your routine, your habits, and your life. It’s a domino effect. One shift will lead to another, and that’s how you find the energy that’s been inside all along.
1. Just. Move.
I know it seems counterintuitive, but studies prove that the more you move, the less fatigued you feel. Whether it’s because the endorphins are coursing through your body, or you suddenly become alert in the middle of your morning workout and realize, oh, this isn’t my bed, that boost is going to stay with you throughout the day. The more energy you expend, the more you have.
You get what you give in this life. That’s always how it works. An object, once in motion, tends to stay in motion, after all. But if the idea of hitting the gym at oh my god o’clock makes you angry, don’t worry: there’s actually no “best” time to exercise — the best time is whatever time is best for you, as long as you do it. (And unless you’re super sensitive to endorphins and an elevated body temperature, chances are that workout will actually help you sleep better.)
You don’t even need to think of exercise as it’s classically shopped to us, either: walk to the coffee shop in your neighborhood, take your lunch to a park near your office, go for a walk with a friend — all you need to do is start moving. Tell yourself you can stop after five minutes if you really need to kick yourself out the door. (But chances are, you’ll keep going.)
2. Give your body the fuel it needs.
Instead of completely overhauling your diet like, yesterday, try this on for size instead: commit to eating one meal a day in which you eat well. Forget the other two (or however many you eat) for right now. Just focus on one.
An easy place to start is committing to packing a better lunch. That way, if you have a less than stellar breakfast, you can balance it out with lunch, or if you’re headed out to a more decadent dinner, you can premeditate it with healthier choices earlier in the day. And as soon as you start grounding your meals around that one healthy lunch, sure enough, your other meals will shape up to reflect it — for the better.
Or maybe you decide you want to eat well for breakfast, or you make your snack choices healthy ones, or you make a concerted effort to eat well for dinner. (Be careful with this one, though; it’s harder to stick to your guns as your willpower gets tested through the day.) Reassuring yourself that you’ll get those vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and protein that you need at least once a day is a small start. And sometimes that’s all you need. It’ll steamroll into something bigger. It always does. Remember the part about the object in motion and how it tends to stay in motion?
3. Make the night before work towards the next day.
Brew iced coffee in your fridge, or measure the grounds and set your coffee timer to go off right when you wake up. Set your breakfast aside so you can just grab it and go. Pick what clothes you’re going to wear the next morning, pack your gym bag if that’s your… bag (I’m not sorry, either for the pun or for hammering this whole “moving” thing home), plug your phone in on the other side of the room so you don’t look at it, and set some time aside to unwind. It sounds like a lot, I know, but hey, if it’s good enough for Oprah…
The thing is, the sleep you do get isn’t going to be as good if it’s constantly interrupted, if you lay awake wondering if you’re prepared for the day ahead, or if you constantly hit snooze (which is counterintuitive, because you’re “getting” more sleep, right? Wrong.) If you make a plan to tackle the next day like a boss, you’re going to be more at peace with whatever you’ve got planned for the next day — from that meeting at the office to the 20-mile mountain bike excursion you’ve been plotting for the last forever.
That’s energy. That’s good energy. That’s what’s in the world around you. All you have to do is actively harness it. And that involves three little steps. Three small starts. And tons of energy in return.