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Adrienne Herbert: ‘Don’t underestimate the impact really small changes can have on your life’

Cold showers, fast nasal breathing and movement first thing: Power Hour podcast host and wellness guru Adrienne Herbert shares her secrets to getting s*** done in 2021, as told to Rosie Fitzmaurice

Adrienne Herbert began her morning power hours while training for her first London marathon
Adrienne Herbert began her morning power hours while training for her first London marathon / Mikolaj Wawrzyniak
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drienne Herbert, better known to her 70K+ Instagram followers as Adrienne LDN (@adrienne_ldn), exudes infectious energy. Spending just a few minutes with her is enough to persuade you to *attempt* whatever it is she does to look and feel as well as she does - even if that means getting up at 5.30am every day.

But like so many things in life, Herbert’s lightbulb moment for her “power hour” or strategy for achieving her life goals - which inspired her hugely successful podcast, with well over one million downloads to date - was born out of pain, having gone through three years of trying for a second child, IVF treatment and a miscarriage. “I haven’t really spoken about it a huge amount before because when you’re going through something like that I think you feel like you just need to get through it. When I reflect on that year about why I decided to make changes to my life, habits and routine it was because, honestly, I just needed to feel good again,” she says. “I felt so low that I was like I’m done, I need a fresh start.”

Her new book Power Hour  is essentially a bible for making the most of your mornings to make steps towards achieving your goals big or small, and after the past year we’ve all had, the timing is apt. “This year there’s been such a global shared challenge, everyone’s had so many things to deal with that I think we’re all ready to just say ‘OK let’s move forwards now,’” Herbert says. 

Adrienne’s top tips for reclaiming your morning

Adrienne Herbert rises at 5.30am to devote an entire hour to herself / Nathan Gallagher

“The Power Hour is all about reclaiming some of your time in the first hour of your day before the rest of the world needs your love, attention and energy. Being constantly connected can make it hard to own your own time. Personally, my life has just got faster and faster, there are so many more demands on my time these days that without me creating this non-negotiable hour to myself, I felt like I was never going to get anything done for me. Use the power hour to do something that’s intentional - it can be anything you want, something that you don’t usually have time for or something that will set you up for the rest of the day,” she explains.  

Creating your own power hour

“When I started my morning power hour back in January 2017 I had just been given the life-changing opportunity to train for my first London marathon, so I decided to wind the clock back by an hour before my son usually wakes up. If that feels like way too much, you could start by doing it for half an hour every morning or giving yourself a power hour once a week - you don't have to jump straight in! Let your flatmates, partners or kids know that you’re not going to be available to them in that time and that it’s important to you, and hopefully they’ll support you. There’s nothing selfish or self-indulgent about taking an hour to sit reading in bed or walk around the park with your dog.”

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Prepare to succeed

“There is variability in my routine but the two non-negotiables are that my power hour is always first thing and I avoid my phone so I don’t lose 20 minutes of it to social media. My alarm is set for 5.30am (I know!) every day. I wake up, go into the bathroom and splash my face with cold water, then do 90 seconds of fast nasal breathing exercises to get oxygen into my body and wake myself up.

“Little hacks I've learned over the years are things like checking the weather and planning my power hours for the week ahead every Sunday so I know exactly what I’m doing each day and I don’t have to make decisions when I’m tired. I’ll lay my clothes out (and even face cream!) the night before, and make sure my headphones are charged - the small things matter, anything you can use as an excuse not to do it.

The power of movement

"I’ve interviewed 100 people about their morning routines on my podcast Power Hour, from business founders to Olympians and psychologists, and most of them start their day with some form of movement, not just because they value their physical health but because they say that if they don’t do it first thing it won’t happen later on because they’re too busy. 

“Movement is an important element of my power hour and I have a whole chapter in my book dedicated to it - I call it that and not exercise because some people have barriers associated with exercise, whereas movement is instinctive to us. As we get older, we become more sedentary, but having worked in the fitness and wellness industry for almost a decade, I’ve seen first-hand how transformative movement can be, not just in how it can impact the shapes and sizes of our bodies, but how it can influence everything from our mental health to our belief in ourselves.”

Find your tribe

“There’s no one universal discipline that suits all, whether it’s strength training or mastering the crow pose, but there’s something really powerful about being able to focus on a goal, work towards it and see progress. If I had to pick one form of exercise for the rest of my life it would be running, because it ticks all of the boxes for me. I can get outside, it gives me solitude and I can double up the time by listening to a book or podcast. I run three times a week, so if I'm running that morning I’ll grab my kit and head torch and get going. If it’s not a running day, I'll roll out my mat and do some mobility work and stretching. I’m obsessed with Pilates on the Fiit app and sometimes do 10 minutes before my run to activate the right muscles before running in the cold, it’s a total gamechanger!

“I teach lots of HIIT on Fiit but I couldn’t do it every morning - it would be completely overwhelming. I take HIIT as a shot of caffeine or energy, something I do when I really want to break a sweat, and then I really go for it.”

“One other morning ritual that comes up a lot with my podcast guests is taking cold showers first thing, it’s a great thing to do if you’ve had a poor night’s sleep. Do it for around two minutes, making sure you hit the forehead, chest and back with the cold water while taking deep breaths to calm the nervous system - it can really help aid recovery for endurance athletes, too.”

Sleep to win

"I have another whole chapter in the book dedicated to sleep - it’s really important  to stress that having a power hour does not mean going without sleep, sleeping less will never help you achieve more. To be able to perform at your best you need to recover, rest and prioritise sleep, it’s not about ‘powering through’. I say in the book ‘sleep to win.’ I do actually find it harder to go to bed early than getting up early but I usually go to bed around 10pm. I’m upstairs where there’s no tech or TV and plug my phone in the hallway so once I’m in my bedroom it feels like there are no distractions. I don’t wear a sleep tracker and tend to go more off how I feel, for example, in the last week of my cycle I need to sleep more and feel more fatigued, it’s the obvious and simple stuff.

“No one can stick to a perfect routine all of the time, there’s natural variation in life, but the power hour is about making habits that you can come back to, reset and go again. Don’t underestimate the impact really small changes can have on your whole life.”

Power Hour: How to Focus on Your Goals and Create a Life You Love by Adrienne Herbert (Hutchinson Books, £14.99) is available now