Health and Wellness

Ex-Navy SEAL says this 5-minute morning workout gets him 'mentally pumped' for the day

Shawn Ryan

Mornings aren't for everyone. For some, it comes naturally. For others, it may take a lot more than just caffeine.

First, it helps to have something to look forward to. I've gone from being a U.S. Navy SEAL to C.I.A. contractor to starting my own company, Vigilance Elite, where I get to train law enforcement and civilians and even actors on movie sets. Each and every one of these jobs has allowed me to wake up feeling excited and motivated.

Second, it's important to have a workout routine that gets you mentally and physically pumped for the day. Every morning, I do at least five minutes of pyramid training to get an instant energy boost. It's quick and doesn't require a ton of space or any special equipment.

What is pyramid training?

Pyramid training is an incredibly simple workout structure where you follow consecutive repetitions of a specific exercise. The goal is to work your way up from each subsequent set and build strength over time.

Too many people try to chase after that one big win and fail to realize that it takes several small wins to get there.
Shawn Ryan
founder and CEO, Vigilance Elite

(Note: If you have any serious health conditions, consider checking with your health care professional first to see what's right for you.)

Let's begin

1. Pick an exercise of your choice.

Stick with something that will work your core and major muscle groups (back, legs, chest). It can be squats, squat jumps, pull-ups, box jumps — whatever you prefer, as long as it challenges your mind and body.

You can also designate certain days of the week to train specific muscle groups. There's no "right way" to do this form of workout, so you can tailor it any way that works best for you.

2. Set your timer for five minutes and start with the lowest number of reps.

We'll use squat jumps as an example. Your starting number of reps will vary depending on your current level of physical strength. If you're a beginner, try starting with a rep of 10 squat jumps. Remember, the goal isn't to start at a super intense level. Go with what you feel most comfortable with and focus on building your strength over time.

3. Move on to a rep of 15 squat jumps.

Gradually increase the number of reps you do in that five-minute time frame. After a rep of 15, you can move on to 20, then 25 and so on until the timer goes off. Of course, you can always take a rest if needed, but keep in mind that the timer doesn't stop.

4. Record your results.

It's important to have a pen and paper handy so you can write down what you completed that day. You'll want to beat your previous record each time, but don't be too hard on yourself if you don't. As you continue to do this workout over time, you'll gain a true sense of your fitness level and know how to beat your last record. The feeling of accomplishment after each workout is priceless.

Build your mental toughness

You can't go wrong with adding some physical activity to your life. A number of researchers have noted that even small amounts of exercise could have a positive effect.

A 2019 study, for instance, found that people who work out even once a week or for as little as 10 minutes a day tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise. Other benefits include improved memory, concentration and mental health.

The more you find yourself consistently beating your own records, the more you'll increase your mental toughness. Take it one day at a time. Too many people try to chase after that one big win and fail to realize that it takes several small wins to get there.

Shawn Ryan is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and C.I.A. contractor. Currently, he is the founder and CEO of Vigilance Elite, a program that provides tactical training for civilians and law enforcement sectors. As a special operations outreach consultant for Veterans Advocacy Services, Shawn also works with veterans to help facilitate the complex and difficult transition from elite warrior to civilian life.

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