Jocko Willink retired from 20 years serving as a US Navy SEAL in 2010, but his morning routine is as intense as ever.
Willink is the former commander of Task Unit Bruiser, which became the most decorated special operations unit in the Iraq War. In his new book “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” cowritten with his former platoon commander and current business partner Leif Babin, Willink writes that one of his guiding principles is “Discipline equals freedom,” and that discipline begins every morning when his alarm goes off.
We asked Willink to break down his mornings for us. Here’s how a typical day begins:
Wake up at 4:30 a.m. Three alarms are set — one electric, one battery-powered, and one windup — but he almost always only needs one. The two others are safeguards.
After a quick cleanup in the bathroom, take a photo of wristwatch to show his Twitter followers what time he’s beginning the day. It’s become both a way to hold himself accountable as well as inspire others to stick to their goals.
Grab his workout clothes, laid out the night before, and head to the gym in his garage for one of the following strength workouts, which last around an hour. The exercises can either be lower weight with high reps and little rest or heavy weight with low reps and lots of rest.
- Day 1: Pull ups, muscle ups, related exercises.
- Day 2: Overhead lifts, bench press, deadlifts, handstand push ups, kettle bell swings.
- Day 3: Ring dips, regular dips, push ups.
- Day 4: Overhead squats, front squats, regular squats.
Spend anywhere from a few minutes (intense bursts) to a half hour (steady) for cardiovascular training. This could include sprints or a jog.
Finish workout around 6:00 a.m. Depending on the day, go out to hit the beach near his home near San Diego, California, to spend time swimming or surfing. If the weather is nice, he may also do his cardio on the beach.
Shower and start working for his leadership consulting firm, Echelon Front, any time after 6:00 a.m. He doesn’t get hungry until around noon, and only has a snack like a few handfuls of nuts in the morning.
After work, Willink gets in two hours of jiu jitsu training and heads to bed around 11:00 pm.
Willink said that he recognises that everyone is different, and that not everyone would benefit from getting up at 4:00 a.m. for an intense workout. The key is that “you get up and move,” whether that’s jogging, weight lifting, or yoga.
The discipline comes in in setting a schedule and sticking to it so that your day begins with an energizing accomplishment, not a demoralising stretch of time where you lie in bed and hit snooze on your alarm a few times. Every morning should start off with a predictable routine.
“And that’s the way that you own it,” he said. “Because once the day starts, well, then other people get to have a vote in what you’re doing.”
You can follow Willink and Babin on Twitter.
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