You’re busy, stressed and can barely get to the end of Tuesday without a crisp glass of Chablis. Don’t worry, help is at hand in the form of the Power Hour: an early morning ‘me time’ that draws on the success of Tabata — four minutes of intense interval training — to change not just your body, but your mind.
Championed by American life coach Tony Robbins — a man whose following includes Hugh Jackman, Serena Williams, Eva Longoria and even Bill Clinton — it is the idea that if you get the first 60 minutes of the day right, only good things will follow.
There are Five Pillars to the Power Hour: 1) Leap gladly from your bed the moment you wake. 2) Do some contemplative breathing. 3) Take some uplifting exercise. 4) Create and repeat incantations to guide you through your day (he suggests: ‘All the love I need is within me now,’ though you could tailor it to something like: ‘Doesn’t my bum look great in these shorts’). 5) Give thanks — for the sunny day, for your hot lover, for every breath you take.
Already popular in the States, and now reaching London, I’m introduced to the idea by Trudy, who’s in a senior position at a large cosmetics house. She looks terrific, radiant, with a proper Vaseline-on-the-lens 1950s film-star glow. What, I beg, is her secret? Riffing off Robbins’ ‘hour of power’, she tells me she divides the first 60 minutes of each day between meditation, giving thanks for things in her life, eating a ‘clean’ breakfast (via Gwyneth Paltrow, more of which later) with no distractions, such as email or newspapers, and dancing to her favourite music. How on earth, I wonder, does she carve an extra hour from her day? Apparently the deeper sleep and the improved focus of her day more than make up for the time she spends doing it. I want in.
The thing is, there’s a ritual to my mornings: a pleasing drift into consciousness with the Today programme, my husband and, sooner or later, our one-year-old baby; espresso; then a fast-forwarded getting up so that the three of us leave the house together. So my spouse agrees to look after our daughter every morning for a week, and I set about my 60 minutes of self-improvement. The joy of the Power Hour is that, as long as you divide the criteria as per the five tenets, you can choose how you’d like to exercise, breathe and so forth. I spend Sunday planning how best to make mine count.
Day one kicks off with a glass of warm water and lemon, then ten minutes of mindful breathing (attention focused on the in and out breaths). Then yoga: Sun Salutations, including a variation with the stretch I promised a physio I’d do each day to avoid knee pain. Ten minutes of gratitude. So far so zen.
Now a bit more uptempo. Following Trudy’s lead, on goes the feel-good music, Pharrell, to accompany some Bodyism-approved mini-band glute exercises, and a selection of arm whirling and rotating exercises (wisdom from a Wildfitness course goes that since we are all descended from primates, we now don’t do nearly enough to use our shoulder rotators — leading to all kinds of back trouble). And yes, 30 minutes in, I feel great.
What about breakfast? Gwyneth’s ‘clean’ approach echoes the latest advice to avoid sugar. No alcohol (easy at 7.45am on a weekday), no caffeine (rather harder) or wheat. In preparation for the first day, I’d soaked chia seeds in almond milk overnight. It’s… OK. The rest of the week I enlist the help of The Pure Package, a home-delivery company with a range of tailored meals from £29.95 a day (purepackage.com). It’s heaven: start the day with a delicious roast tomato and feta omelette, or rye bread with smoked salmon and avocado, and you don’t get hungry again until mid-afternoon.
I fall easily into the routine, only switching so that gratitude comes after breakfast: 10 minutes breathing (with some mantras thrown in); 30 minutes exercise; 10 minutes breakfast; 10 minutes gratitude. There’s a relaxation to doing the same thing, to starting the day in the same way. I find myself planning my morning better: 60 minutes of newspapers and email only before settling down to write until lunch — a routine taking away any distractions, or the constant deciding what to do next, which apparently wilts your ability to choose wisely when making more important decisions.
After a week, I am standing straighter, aware when I start to slouch. My flexibility is better than seven days ago. The gratitude stays with me each day. And it is a joy not to be reaching for biscuits at elevenses. But is it tenable? Not for a whole hour every day. Luckily, Tony Robbins also offers 15 Minutes to Fulfilment (five minutes each of breathing with movement, incantations and gratitude).
Even in the morning rush I can easily do a few moments of breathing and stretching; switch an espresso for warm water and lemon; on the walk to the nursery I repeat expressions of gratitude. Some meditation can be slotted in on the Tube on the way to work. And breakfast: I’ve at last resisted the temptation of granola in favour of the egg and avocado pots at Crussh, combined with rye sourdough from St John Bakery. I think it works. The only remaining question is: how soon will I turn into Eva Longoria?
Original article published in ES Magazine, in October, 2014