Rise & Shine Challenge, Week 1

Shake off those winter blues and welcome spring with this fun, invigorating challenge!

Alarm

Let’s face it: The Hollywood version of gently stretching awake in a sunny room is a myth for most of us. We grunt into semi-consciousness, smack the snooze button and once again wrestle enough bedcovers away from the snoring spouse in order to get another seven minutes of desperate shuteye.

But it is possible to make some small tweaks to your morning routine that will return maximum benefits. Just think of the sense of achievement you’ll get from checking off so many of your health to-dos before other people have even started their day!

This mix-and-match challenge will give you the tools you need for starting your day in a positive, powerful way. We will give you some exercise routines to choose from — a mix of cardio, strength/toning and stretching/relaxation — as well as some delicious yet easy breakfasts to charge your batteries for the day, and some motivation to get you kick-started. Pick at least one workout of each type, for a minimum of three morning workouts per week, and schedule in a healthy breakfast every day. That’s all there is to it!

Before you begin, print out our weekly worksheet. On it, you will be able to schedule your workouts and breakfasts, and get your daily dose of motivation. Put it where you’ll see it first thing — even tape it to your alarm clock so you’ll have to reach under it to turn the buzzer off! (Just no hitting the snooze button.) Also, head over to the Community to participate in this Challenge there; you'll be able to compare notes with other participants and up the ante when it comes to accountability!

Eat your breakfast
Studies have shown that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less and are less likely to fall prey to impulse snacking than breakfast skippers.

The most satisfying breakfasts deliver a quick shot of energy (by raising blood sugar levels rapidly) and then a longer-term energy boost from high-fiber, complex-carbohydrate, protein-containing foods that slow digestion.

Below we offer some quick breakfast ideas, as well as fancier recipes to make your weekend special. Not a breakfast eater? Try a few grapes or a wheat cracker and half a glass of juice. After a few days, your body might naturally look forward to this a.m. fuel-up and you can try more substantial meals.

Quick ideas
  • Low-fat cheese and tomato slices on a whole-wheat English muffin
  • High-fiber cereal with fat-free or lowfat milk and dried or fresh fruit
  • Peanut butter and jelly on multi-grain bread
  • Low-fat yogurt and a grain-rich cereal bar
  • A banana and a small handful of peanuts or almonds
  • A smoothie made from fat-free or light vanilla yogurt with skim milk, ice cubes and berries
  • Egg whites scrambled in a nonstick pan with vegetables, served with light toast

Easy/Weekday Recipes
Individual Ham, Cheese and Veggie Frittatas
Eating one of these before you dash off to work tastes like a big step up from cold cereal or a dish of yogurt.

Slow Cooker Blueberry Coffee Cake
If your slow cooker has a timer, the smell of this cake alone would be quite a morning wake up call… Otherwise, make it after dinner and set it out to cool before bedtime.

Fancy/Weekend Recipes
Savory Vegetable Strata
What a great dish this is to make ahead and have warming in the oven when your brunch guests arrive. Either fruit salad or green salad on the side would round out the menu nicely.

Whole Grain Banana Pancakes with Blackberry Syrup
Since most of us don’t have pancakes too often, they really taste like a special weekend treat. This recipe especially — the whole grains, bananas and blackberries are fantastic together.

Get exercise wise
While there is no research that shows that exercising in the morning has any advantage over doing so later in the day when it comes to burning calories and overall weight-loss efforts, an a.m. burst definitely has its plus sides. Exercising in the morning:
  • Sets you up to continue good, healthy habits during the day
  • Gives you less time to think up excuses not to exercise
  • Helps you meet your fitness goal before a curveball derails the workout you’d planned later in the day
Weight Watchers recommends 30 minutes of activity per day to keep you healthy and fit while you lose weight, and help you keep the weight off once you’ve lost it. If you’re currently active, consider switching your workout to the morning or, better yet, add a 30-minute early-morning walk to your regular routine. (If you’re a beginner, remember to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.)

You can — and should, to avoid getting into a rut — mix up your activity routine. So to complete Week 1 of the Rise & Shine Challenge, don't do the same activity every day. Choose at least one workout that focuses on cardio, one on strength/toning, and one on relaxation and stretching. Keep it simple this first week, and go with what you know. Some ideas:
  • A wake-up stroll around the neighborhood
  • 20 minutes doing intervals of jumping jacks, crunches, lunges and squats
  • 30 minutes of gentle yoga
  • A 30-minute circuit of the toning machines at the gym
Subscribers can check our workouts section for more ideas.

As for when to have breakfast when you’re working out in the morning, registered dietician Jessica Smerling says that as long as you’re not going to have a prolonged, intense exercise session first thing in the morning, “it should be OK to work out on an empty stomach, as long as it doesn’t cause any adverse reactions.” Although it’s not likely to improve your performance, some find it helpful to eat a little something before a workout like a piece of fruit or a low-fat granola bar, while others may do better without.

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