Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

ONE minutes of silence – a chance to listen to the wind and the waves crashing into the gravel, and look over Solent to the lights of a cruise ship in the distance – and then we leave in the water, even though some of us (me) are more tentative. There are screams and gasps from the shock of the cold; grimacing, grinning faces lit by a portable searchlight.

It is almost 6 o’clock and still dark. It’s also the windiest, rainiest weather this group has ventured out into, but an impressively hardy 12 has emerged. On a good day, about 30 meet every Friday at 5.30am in Gosport, Hampshire, for a two-mile walk along Stokes Bay, followed by a dip in the sea. “It has changed my life,” says a man who has come since the group started last year. He says meeting strangers and the welcoming atmosphere have allowed him to open up about his mental health and seek help. Kerry started coming in October last year and says the weekly meeting has helped alleviate the seasonal affective disorder she usually suffers from at this time of year. “I used to sleep for 10, 11 hours,” she says. “If you had told me last year that I would get up at this point every week to do this, I would not have believed it.”

The group – Wind Morning, Wind Day – was created in August last year by Chris Reeves, a Royal Navy training instructor. He had struggled with isolation and lack of structure to his days during the first lockdown, and knew that others must feel the same. After hearing a podcast with mixed martial arts fighter Mark Scanlon where he talked about the circuit training sessions at 5.30am and swimming in the ocean, Reeves decided to create his own. Scanlon used the phrase “wind in the morning, wind in the day,” which is what Reeves decided to call the group. It is a mantra popular by American entrepreneur and productivity guru Tim Ferriss, which has become popular in motivational circles. Ferriss interviewed a host of high-performing people about their morning routine with the thought that if you make your morning fit (if you “win” it), it’s a great start to the rest of the day. His own morning rituals include making his bed and journaling; for the Gosport group, it’s more about walking, talking, stripping off, taking a quick dip, then having coffee and more chat afterwards.

In the first week, just over a year ago, 60 people showed up to join Reeves. His group has since spawned others in Surrey, Kent, Preston, Cumbria, Manchester and the Southsea, across the water in Portsmouth. There is one in Gibraltar, he says, and another in South Africa. Two people have been in touch with Reeves this week to talk about setting up groups. It looks like a little park run, the 5 km long run that takes place in parks around the world every weekend – a simple idea, organized by enthusiastic volunteers.

Wind, wind ... The Gosport group enjoys an early splash after a walk.
Wind, wind … The Gosport group enjoys an early splash after a walk. Photo: WTMWTD

Why does Reeves think Win the Morning, Win the Day is gaining momentum? “It’s free, I’m not selling anything, and it’s a welcoming environment for anyone who wants to step outside their comfort zone,” he says. “I do not like the sea, I do not like cold water. But the reason I do this is because it puts me outside my comfort zone. “Challenging yourself, he believes, develops mental resilience, even though the sea swimming element is not essential. People in inland areas have been in contact with setting up their own groups. It’s more about getting out of bed and meeting others.

Wind morning, wind day has connected people at a time when many may have lacked contact with friends and family, and provided a space where the emphasis is on mental health and friendship, not physical fitness or tough challenges. Reeves makes it clear that no one should go to sea if they do not want to. “I have and suffer from poor mental health,” he says. “I know my triggers for it, and I know how to take care of myself. Some days are OK, some days are bad days, and that’s fine. ”

Hearing about Scanlon’s group on that podcast “just triggered something, and I thought, ‘I knew this.’ On the two-kilometer trip, I have had deeper conversations with people I have never met before than with friends of 20, 30 years, “he says.” People have made friends, some people have stopped drinking. Some people would previously did not go out of the house, some people did not like groups.I am enormously proud, not of myself, but of everyone who has made it what it is.I do not force people to be kind and to be sweet and positive. That’s just what we’re attracted to. “

The is kind of: when it’s clear that I have drastic underwear for the weather, a member, Paul, lends me waterproof. And when necessary, when swimming outdoors in the dark, take care of each other.

Meeting early to work out is hardly a new idea, but Win the Morning, Win the Day has a catchy name, a growing community (the Facebook group has more than 3,000 members) and an easily replicable format. Michelle Tucker set up her group in Surrey – they walk, then swim in the Thames – in October last year, after watching Reeves on a BBC clip and contacting him. “I think that’s the simplicity of it – bringing people together, meeting early, starting your day right,” she says. “People are open and honest and share some really intimate things – they may be struggling with their mental health, isolated, and they are just talking to each other.” Or it’s simply fun and “a really liberating thing to do” to swim in the dark at 6 o’clock. ”You feel like a child again because you are doing this fun activity. The inhibitions have gone out the window. ”

There’s a clear sense of accomplishment – it’s good to know you’ve done something healthy (walking, socializing and evidence growing for the benefits of immersion in cold water) before most people are out of bed – and the knowledge that, that no matter what happens during the rest of the day, at least it is achieved. But the emphasis seems to be on mental and physical well-being, not necessarily on optimizing productivity and getting up early just to cram more into the day, which is what characterizes so much fitness propaganda early in the morning.

Chris Reeves: 'It's free, I'm not selling anything and it's inviting for anyone who wants to step outside their comfort zone.
Chris Reeves: ‘It’s free, I’m not selling anything, and it’s welcoming to anyone who wants to step outside their comfort zone.’ Photo: WTMWTD

There are many books and large online communities devoted to early morning rituals for successful CEOs, politicians, artists and other high achievers, with the implication that if one could just get up at. 4, similar success — or at least the ability to get a little more done — would be within reach. But what if they get up early because they are CEOs, rather than becoming CEOs because they got up early?

Fiona Buckland, a leadership coach, notes that some of the “externally successful people” she works with need to be up early to handle the amount of work that needs to be done, and “the early starting mantra makes a virtue of necessity. incredibly ambitious and is also under tremendous pressure from investors and shareholders to produce results, so stress can be a big motivator to find several hours a day. ”They also say she“ tends to be attracted to extremes and risk-taking rather than moderation and self-care, and some of the extreme early-rising routines are more of a symptom than a cause of their drive. ” , alcoholism, depression, mental illness, relationship breakdown, insomnia, high blood pressure and heart disease, “she says.

While Buckland is all about “optimizing your performance, let’s include a few more ideas so people have a wider range of options and practices and can discover what works for them”. This may not include an early start. She advises by experimenting to find out when you are best, to work on the projects that matter most. “For example, I know when my peak times for good, fluid, creative thinking are, and I protect this. It is not five o’clock, especially in the winter when it is dark, ”she says.

We each have a chronotype – loosely defined as a lark (a morning person) or owl (more attentive in later hours), although few of us are 100% one or the other, and the balance may change with age – and it would be “Stupidity,” says Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at Nuffield’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Oxford University, to an owl type: “You have to get up early and be productive then. It goes against their natural sleep-wake rhythms.”

The best way to have a good day is not necessarily to jump into the sea – or wake up at 2.30 and then pray, exercise, play golf and have “cryochamber recovery” as actor Mark Wahlberg does – but simply to get a good night’s sleep, says Espie. “It is the primary fuel for alertness, concentration, productivity, emotional function, mental health and so many physical things like immune function and cell regeneration. Make sure you get enough sleep, because even small amounts of insomnia create difficulties for the brain and with concentration, productivity and emotions. “Trying to go against your chronotype” will be more likely to be counterproductive. Whose [an owl type] forcing themselves to get up early, they may have difficulty getting to bed earlier to get that sleep at the other end. Therefore, they are going to lack sleep and it will do more harm than good in terms of emotional health and productivity. ”

So do not feel bad if you are not until 05.30 social gatherings and outdoor swimming – blame it your chronotype. But I’m a lark, and – after being warmed by layers of dry clothes and quite a bit of complacency – I can see the appeal. The rest of the day I feel the memory of the cold sea water on my skin, I’m in a good mood and it feels like I ‘win’ on something, no matter how elusive it is. Reeves says, “It’s not about influencing everyone, but the one message I get most days is, ‘I really needed it today.’ That’s my job. ”

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