August arrives, the summer commute into work becomes a sweaty
endeavor marked by crowded bodies, the stench of city garbage
and exacerbated FOMO ("fear of missing out") from
missing another perfect beach day.
imagine a weekday morning when, instead of rushing into the
office with a sweating iced coffee and pit stains to match,
you were calm. Confident. Even looking forward to your
experts think such a thing is possible, part of a movement
that prizes self-awareness and making small, conscious steps
toward a healthier, fulfilling life — like adjusting your
morning commute routine.
Manisco, a registered nutritionist and dietitian in Chicago,
believes that slight meal adjustments could drastically
improve commuters’ well-being before work. "The key is
to wake up early enough where you’re not running around,
stressed about getting to work on time, but pacing yourself
and eating a healthy breakfast before work," she says.
suggests a balance of protein and carbohydrates to keep you
full and energized until lunch. Her favorite breakfast?
"A protein shake made from organic soy milk, raw,
unsalted walnuts (they’re high in nutrient-dense omega-3
fatty acids), a variety of seeds, oat bran and either a stalk
of celery or a handful of spinach," Manisco says. For
sweetness, she recommends adding natural cocoa or a date.
skip the protein shake, Manisco recommends whole-grain toast,
a handful of nuts or seeds, and a cup of fruit. She warns
against coffee. "Caffeine will get your heart and
adrenals pumping artificially, and thus could have you feeling
unnecessarily anxious or depressed," Manisco says.
the only trick to incorporating wellness into your morning
commute. Paying attention to posture and movement can also
Kart, a practicing physical therapist for 10 years and the
owner of Core Physical Therapy in Chicago, says lower back and
neck pain are the most "common ailments" among his
working patients. "When you sit for a while, you turn
your postural muscles off and you start using passive
structures like cartilage, which breaks down easier,"
Kart says. "Humans are built to walk around and look for
food, so when you’re sitting, you’re not activating those
important spinal muscles, but instead causing a steady
breakdown of muscle tissue."
takes Metra to work each morning and notices the same behavior
causing neck pain among commuters: "text neck."
"Text neck" occurs when you lean your head over your
phone, straining your neck muscles and thus causing joint
pain. To alleviate this, Kart recommends a simple fix:
"If you’re standing on the ‘L’ or Metra, the
movement of the train helps you practice stability and balance
and work your postural muscles," he says.
car drivers who can’t stand during their commute? Consider
the headrest. "Bad posture is so common among drivers …
they should practice keeping their head lightly against the
headrest and avoid a slouch position," he says.
"This will gradually alleviate back and neck pain while
driving." At work, Kart suggests periodically moving
around to engage the postural muscles most commonly associated
with neck and back pain.
considering your stomach and your spine, think of your brain.
One of the most popular sectors of wellness is mindfulness.
Darrell Jones, general manager of Chill Chicago: Meditation
and Massage and a meditation instructor, meditates on the
train during his commute and recommends the practice to anyone
who wants to feel "calmer and happier" entering
by the loud chatter or the loudspeaker on the train?
"Incorporate those sounds and how they make you feel into
your meditation," Jones says. He recommends the guided
meditation on apps like Calm, or finding a piece of
instrumental classical, jazz, world or new age music and
taking deep breaths while asking yourself questions such as:
"Who do I want to be, regardless of what does or doesn’t
happen today? Do I want to be a jerk, or a kind soul? Do I
want to embody possibility, or show up exuding impossibility?
easy meditation game you can play is taking a deep breath,
with your eyes closed, each time the train door opens, and
exhaling when it closes," Jones says.
important thing, according to Jones, is cultivating a calm,
positive mindset before launching into a routine. "If we
can prioritize our wellness in small ways, or create a mindset
of possibility before reading a horrible piece of news or a
frustrating work email … that could improve your whole
day," he says.