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In defense of waking up at 4:30 a.m. to carve out “me time”


Welcome to My Morning Routine, where Kerri Walsh Jennings and other good-life gurus share their personal (frequently surprising, often healthy) morning rituals—to help you make your a.m.’s more awesome.  

Kerri Walsh Jennings
Three-time Olympic gold medalist and pro beach volleyball player

I just changed my morning routine; I feel like 2016 has been a turning point in my life. I was listening to a lot of podcasts—Tim Ferris, Michael Gervais—and everyone who’s kicking butt is waking up between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. to meditate. So I’m doing that. 

The first thing I do is meditate for between 10 and 15 minutes. I’m doing Abraham-Hicks [meditations]…there’s a spiritual element to it, but it’s mostly about positive energy. And then I’ll write in my gratitude journal, where I list three things I’m grateful for every day. I also listen to music—something mellow, like country—and read a book. I just finished Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance, which is part historical fiction mixed with current events, nutrition, mindset…it’s amazing.

Before I did this, one of my kids would wake up at 6:30 a.m. crying and I’d get up and go, and I wouldn’t have a good attitude because I was overwhelmed. So now I have at least an hour to myself. I’m such a better mommy and I complain less…and in really competitive, tense situations on the court, I’m a different person because I’m mindfully responding instead of mindlessly reacting. 

At some point, my kids will wake up and I’ll start making breakfast. Every morning, I have lemon water with apple cider vinegar and chia, and then pre-practice I have my standard protein shake. I use my Vanilla Almond Breeze Unsweetened—that’s the base of it, the calcium content is wonderful—and then I use Designer Protein, either plant-based or, if I know my day is going to be gnarly, whey. This morning I added blueberries, kale, spinach, flaxseeds, and coconut oil. I kind of like my shakes to be “crunchy.”

Generally around 8 or 9 a.m. I go to the beach for between two and three hours with my coach. And then after practice I’ll either have Pilates or a weight training session, some thoracic spine and hip work, physical therapy, brain training, and then I see my sports psychologist. [Being an athlete is] a full-time job!

See how other Olympians unwind when they’re not competing—check out the surprising ways tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, soccer player Hope Solo, and swimmer Natalie Coughlin spend their downtime.