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The Secret to Becoming an Early Morning Exerciser

You’ve heard of those people who get out of bed with a pep in their step — no caffeine necessary — and tackle the day head-on. They even get in a workout when most of us are still tucked snuggly in our beds, then they eat a well-balanced breakfast and arrive at the office early and get a head start on their to-do list.

This isn’t a myth; these people are real. You can become one of them. First, you need to get enough sleep — at the right time.

WHEN AND HOW LONG TO SLEEP

Both when and how much you sleep matters equally. Being in tune with your body and knowing when to cut out sleep deterrents, such as blue light and caffeine, goes a long way in assisting your circadian rhythm.

As sleep science has become more sophisticated we are learning that the quality and the length are both critical to optimizing our sleep,” explains Wayne Andersen, co-founder and medical director of Take Shape for Life. “In general, an adult should have 7–9 hours of high-quality sleep per night.”

Andersen says the optimum time to go to sleep is between 8 p.m. and midnight, but understandably, our schedules don’t allow many of us to lay down quite that early. Should you want to adjust your sleep habits, do so in small increments by going to sleep 10–15 minutes earlier each night. Also, don’t stray from that schedule on the weekends, at least as you are adjusting your sleep cycle.

“Regardless of when you chose to sleep, it should be consistent,” adds Pete Bils, vice president of sleep science and research for Sleep Number. “Recent studies have shown that those who deviated an hour or more on their ‘days off’ have higher triglycerides, lower ‘good’ cholesterol, larger waists and have trouble with blood sugar/insulin management. Coined ‘social jetlag’, these inconsistent sleep routines create similar issues as traveling through several time zones, throwing our body’s rhythms off.”

A great way to learn your body’s rhythm is to go to bed a few nights at the same time and see what time your body wakes up without an alarm. From there, you can use Andersen’s incremental method to adjust the time you go to sleep.

TRAITS OF EARLY BIRDS

It turns out that there are a few differences between early birds and night owls, however, your sleep choices can have an effect on which you ultimately are.

“Studies show that the brains of early risers are structurally different, with an increased white matter in their brain as compared to late risers and intermediates [those in-between the two],” Andersen notes. “Although, to be fair, night owls are usually more productive, have more stamina during the day and have greater reasoning and analytical abilities.”

Andersen also references the ‘social jetlag’ that Bils mentions, which often involves eating more, fatigue and being more prone to alcohol intake. Night owls aren’t doomed to be late to rise forever, however, and can adjust their schedule regardless of any genes that may be at play.

So if you want to become an early morning exerciser, consistency is key.


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BECOMING AN EARLY MORNING EXERCISER

“As a marathoner, I’ve learned that my best long, difficult workouts are most effective in the morning, so I gradually shifted them in that direction,” divulges Bils. “I did this for a practical reason, too. Many people lose control of their day as it unwinds. Having morning workouts guarantees they will happen.”

If you’re getting adequate sleep, morning workouts are fantastic. But don’t cut short your sleep to squeeze in a morning workout — that’s misses the point. You don’t have to skip your workout; Andersen recommends modifying the duration and intensity of your workout to avoid injury or excessive fatigue on mornings when you’re crunched for time.

Exercising in the morning will help and has so many other benefits on our overall health and well-being. Together these things help our productivity and set us up for cognitive, emotional and relational coherence throughout the whole day.”

Again, none of this is possible without that solid night of sleep. Adjusting gradually and staying consistent is what will help get you there.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

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Life, Death & SoulCycle with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King

Why do you run? Why does Michael Phelps swim? That’s what we take on in “Why I…,” our series in which we explore the passion of athletes — from all walks of life, at different levels and with diverse interests — in their own words. Finding your passion is key to staying motivated to live a healthy lifestyle.

For this stop in our series, we check in with Peter King, dog lover, grandfather, legendary football writer and editor-in-chief of The MMQB, Sports Illustrated’s pro football microsite. When he’s not working on his weekly 8,000-word column, he’s working out. Here’s why…  

My ulterior motive is to avoid death.

Both of my brothers died way too young. My older brother, Ken, wasn’t in great shape, but he walked a lot. He was 64 and had a tumor on his liver they didn’t discover until after he died. My other brother, Bob, who died of a faulty heart valve at 55, was an avid bicyclist, ran many marathons and was a lot healthier than me.

When I was 18, I was disciplined. As captain of my high school soccer team, I knew I had to run a certain number of hills every day to be in shape. But now my goal is to not get fat. I want to be able to cash in some of the chips I’ve earned over the years and have a pretty good life in addition to what I do.

When I came home from covering Super Bowl XL in 2006, I weighed 288 pounds. For 25 years of my life, I never worked out. That’s a lot of time to be idle. That year, I was determined that, for the next six months, the only thing I was going to do was work out 56 days a week and eat five small meals a day. When I started my training camp trip that summer, I weighed 217 pounds. People were positive I’d had gastric bypass surgery.

I weighed 228 pounds this morning. I ran for 30 minutes on the treadmill and did some other work with my trainer. I’ll be at the gym almost every day this week, SoulCycle on Saturday and take Sunday off. I live four blocks away from both places here in Manhattan. I feel a lot better walking away from the gym than I feel walking to the gym.


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I’ve done so many different forms of exercise: the elliptical, the cross-country ski machine, the recumbent bike. I consistently do SoulCycle once a week. I love it because I walk in there and 45 minutes later, I’m drenched in sweat and feel like I’ve been part of some sort of team activity.

I’m indoors now, but when the weather gets better, I’ll either be in the gym, in Central Park or Riverside Park. There’s a 10K most weekends in Central Park, which is basically one loop around the park. I’ll pick one and do that.

I can’t say I like running. I like having run. But if I don’t do it for a while, I miss it. And I start to feel creaky. I’m 59 years old. The way to feel 59 is not get any exercise.

— As told to Danny Bonvissuto

Raised in: Enfield, Connecticut
Roots for: Boston Red Sox
Dream job: Owning a minor league baseball team
Travels for work: 60–70 days a year
Number of readers per week his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column draws during football season: 2 million


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

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Blueberry Smoothie | Recipe

Blueberry-Smoothie-Blueberry-Council

Smoothies are a delicious and refreshing way to enjoy frozen blueberries while adding more fruit to your diet. This simple blueberry smoothie is perfect for an on-the-go breakfast or a refreshing dessert.

Blueberry Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 1 container (5.3 ounces) peach Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 banana
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Optional Toppings

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced frozen peaches, thawed
  • 1/4 cup granola
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons flaked coconut, toasted

Directions

Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into two glasses, dividing evenly.

If desired, add optional toppings to create a smoothie bowl. Recipe makes 2 servings.

Nutrition (per serving without toppings): Calories: 230; Total Fat: 5g; Saturated Fat: 2.5g; Monounsaturated Fat: g; Cholesterol: 10mg; Sodium: 35mg; Carbohydrate: 44g; Dietary Fiber: 5g; Sugar: 34g; Protein: 7g

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 289mg; Iron: 4%; Vitamin A: 3%; Vitamin C: 30%; Calcium: 11% 

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Is Eating Tuna Poke OK?

“I could eat my weight in poke every day,” I said as I dug my toes into the powdery white sand of a Maui beach and shoveled the lovely seafood salad into my mouth with a spork.

I’m not alone. From Poughkeepsie to Palm Springs, poke is the “it” dish of the moment with everyone from high-end chefs to food carts dishing it out.

If you’re not familiar with poke (pronounced po-KAY), here’s a quick explanation: Poke is a traditional Hawaiian salad made of cubes of raw or cooked fish (the name in Hawaiian means “to cut” or “chunk”), soy sauce, sweet onions, sesame oil and sometimes nuts and/or seaweed. It’s most commonly made with yellowfin tuna (also known by the Hawaiian name ‘ahi’), but there are numerous variations including cooked octopus, salmon and even fish roe. It’s quick, it’s protein-packed and it’s delicious.

But as I enjoyed the pearly pink ahi salad, there was a nagging voice in the back of my head asking me some rather pointed questions about my new favorite food.

Is eating raw fish really safe?

What about the high-mercury content in tuna?  

If this trend continues, will there even be any tuna left in the ocean?

IS EATING POKE SAFE?

The FDA requires that seafood sold for raw consumption must first be deep frozen to very specific guidelines to kill any parasites in the muscle structure of the fish. So, as long as you are getting fish that has been handled and distributed with raw consumption in mind, parasites are not an issue.

As for foodborne illness due to spoilage or cross-contamination, poke is relatively safe, says Katie Sullivan Morford, a registered dietitian and blogger at Mom’s Kitchen Handbook. “If you’re a healthy adult with a healthy immune system and you’re being smart about where you are dining, I feel comfortable saying ‘go for it’,” she says.

Use the same common sense you would when choosing any restaurant. Dine at reputable places that are busy so the fish is always fresh. Never eat fish that smells overtly fishy or has an off aroma, and steer away from places that don’t serve much fish. That lonely mini mart on a back road in Oklahoma isn’t likely the best place to feed your poke craving.

If you are making poke at home, tell your fishmonger you’ll be consuming the fish raw so they can steer you toward the right fish. Keep in mind that labeling terms like “for sushi” or “sashimi grade” are not regulated, so it doesn’t mean much from a safety standpoint. When in doubt, ask.

That said, not everyone should eat raw fish, cautions Morford. “Anyone with a compromised immune system — anyone who is unwell, undergoing medical treatment that affects the immune system, pregnant women, the elderly and young children should opt for cooked fish rather than raw.”


READ MORE > WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH FISH OIL?


WHAT ABOUT THE HIGH-MERCURY CONTENT IN TUNA?

Methylmercury is the heavy metal that’s present in high concentrations in large predator fish like tuna. Studies have shown it’s a neurotoxin, especially when the brain is developing.

The evidence is limited and conflicting on the effect mercury consumption has on adults. The FDA has no specific guidelines for how much tuna is acceptable for most of the population, but it does recommend pregnant women, those breastfeeding and children ages 47 eat no more than 1 serving (4 ounces for adults and 2 ounces for kids) of ahi tuna a week.

“It’s interesting because the thinking on mercury and fish consumption has shifted in the last couple of years,” says Morford. “Studies are showing that when fish high in mercury are also high in selenium, the selenium offsets the potential negative effects of methylmercury in the fish. And then there’s all the omega-3 fatty acids, which are so good for your brain.”

The takeaway among experts is the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks. The key is moderation and diversity in your diet, eating ahi poke one meal and then choosing a smaller fish like sardines or wild salmon the next.


READ MORE > 10 TASTY, LOW-CARB LUNCHES UNDER 350 CALORIES


WHAT ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY?

So we’ve got the green light to eat tuna poke from a health standpoint, but if we all start shoveling ahi into our faces like sunburnt tourists in Hawaii, will there be any fish left for future generations?

“There’s definitely pressure on these stocks already,” says Ryan Bigelow, engagement manager for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program.  “But while poke is really popular right now, I don’t see that it alone would drive yellowfin tuna into extinction, at least for now,” he says.

According to Bigelow, a more important question to ask is: Am I buying the most sustainable fish I can?

“When you go to your favorite poke shop, ask them if the fish they buy is sustainable. That alone can be enough to influence a restaurant to make smart choices about where their fish are coming from,” he says.

If you are concerned and want to learn more, Bigelow recommends checking out Seafood Watch and choosing fish from its “best choices” or “good choices” categories. Or download its app for fish sustainability advice on the go.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions at restaurants, Bigelow says you can easily find restaurants and purveyors of sustainable seafood with the help of its Seafood Watch Partners list. The searchable database makes it easy to discover restaurants and purveyors near you who are fighting the good seafood fight.

SO IS EATING TUNA POKE OK?

Yes, it is fairly safe as long as you are eating at reputable, busy restaurants and you are healthy. No, the mercury in tuna isn’t going to kill you, but it’s a good idea to eat a variety of fish in any case.

Finally, the oceans are not going to run out of tuna just yet, but it’s a good idea to be mindful and ask questions about where your seafood is coming from so future generations can enjoy poke, too.

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