My running/blogging pal Chelsea over at The Dancing Runner recently posted something about how much she loves getting up early, which led me to think about how I love it too, which led me to write this post.
Some of you may not be morning people and do your best work at night. That’s great, and you should keep doing that if that works best for you. But for those who WANT to get out of bed in the morning but struggle with it, I thought I’d share my tips.
I’m not working at my day job anymore, which is actually… fine. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to sleep all day. I still wake up as early as I did when I was working – not because I have to, but because I want to. And because I would MUCH rather run in the morning than in the afternoon or evening. Depending on the workout I’m doing that day, I get up at either 4:15 or 5:30 am. Maybe 6 if I’m having a lazy, sleep-in kind of morning.
I should add: I’m single, have no kids, and don’t have to work late nights – all things I’m very happy about. If that’s not the case for you, it’s understandable that some of these things might pose a challenge. This is just stuff that works for me. Feel free to take from it whatever you can.
1. Clean up the night before.
“But what does that have to do with getting up early?” you ask. I don’t know about you, but I really like walking into a clean kitchen in the morning. It makes everything feel calmer, easier, and less stressful. If I had to face a pile of dirty dishes every morning, I would associate getting out of bed with having to do chores. No thanks. Instead, entering my spotless kitchen makes me feel happy. I have literally sighed with joy at the sight of an empty sink. If I can link good feelings with getting out of bed, I’ll be more apt to do it. Plus, who wants to wash dishes first thing in the morning?
2. Go to bed earlier.
Duh, right? This is a no-brainer, but probably the biggest change you can make to get up earlier. I struggled with this for years. I have to admit, not having a working TV for the past 8 months has helped a lot. With television, there’s always something on next. With Netflix, you have to actively choose what to watch, so it’s easier to make the choice not to press play. Having a set time to turn off the TV is key – maybe an hour or 30 minutes before you want to be in bed. And for god’s sake, log off Facebook. Your second cousin’s toddler’s outing to the space museum looks adorable, but you can comment on the pics tomorrow.
Reading in bed really helps me close my eyes. Set aside 15-30 minutes to read instead of watching TV and I guarantee you’ll be asleep before you know it.
3. Wake to a sound you actually like.
For the past few years – almost ever since I got the album – my wake up alarm has been David Bowie’s song “Blackstar.” I spent all of high school and college (and probably years after) waking up to a jarring “eh-eh-eh” alarm sound, sending me from a peaceful slumber to feeling like I was having a heart attack within a split second. If you have a way to set your alarm to a song, it’s a much gentler way to start the day.
Pick one you love that’s not so relaxing you’ll sleep right through it but not so loud it’ll jolt you out of bed like someone being doused with ice water. I like “Blackstar” because it starts with a few seconds of soothing sounds before the percussion kicks in, and I’m usually awake by that point.
4. Don’t bring your phone in the bedroom.
“But,” you begin until I interrupt with a firm “NO.” Just don’t. You don’t need it. Get it out. OUT. I plug in my phone to charge in the bathroom overnight (I know I know, you’re not supposed to do this but I like a full charge in the morning), which is just outside my bedroom door. I turn up my volume so I’ll hear my alarm with no problem.
Keeping your phone outside the bedroom accomplishes two things: it doesn’t keep you awake, your eyeballs fixated on a glowing rectangle of light and endless scrolling. And, if your alarm is your phone, it puts your alarm out of reach.
5. Don’t have your alarm within reach.
If your phone is your alarm, put it outside the bedroom but within earshot.
If you have an alarm that isn’t a phone (I still have a soft spot for clock radios, my old one currently sitting atop my fridge like an old fossil in a museum display), don’t keep it next to your bed. Basically, you want your body to get up and move in order to turn off your alarm. Once you’re up and moving, it’s harder to roll over and go back to sleep.
Another benefit to putting my phone/alarm in the bathroom: as I turn off the alarm, I am standing at my sink. So I might as well brush my teeth and wash my face. Once I’ve wiped my face with a towel, I’m AWAKE, baby. Besides, my bed is so far away at this point.
6. Wash your mouth and face.
Not only do I have an overwhelming urge to do this first thing (either before or after I pee, depending on how much water I drank the night before and whether or not I got up to pee in the middle of the night), brushing my teeth and washing my face honestly does wake me the heck up. So I highly suggest doing this. Especially if you have someone to kiss. Truly the most disgusting part of any romantic relationship is being kissed before we’ve brushed our teeth in the morning. I’d rather eat garbage from underneath a NYC subway seat. Speaking of which…
7. Eat something.
This is a totally subjective thing – everyone has different opinions about what and how much they like to eat first thing in the morning, so of course, do what works for you.
I spent many years not (or barely) eating before my runs, and I slowly started eating more and more until finally discovering the perfect formula. Eating first thing makes me more energetic and less impatient on my runs. Lately, my go-to breakfast is a big glass of lemon water and a bowl of oat bran topped with a salt-and-peppered soft fried egg. I throw a little salt in the oat bran, too. I used to make my oat bran sweet, with cinnamon and maple syrup (and sometimes peanut butter), but making it savory seems to satisfy me more (and I get enough pre-run sugar from Clif Bloks).
Knowing that I’m going to eat immediately without having to wait for my run to be over makes me genuinely excited to get up. In case it wasn’t already clear, I love to eat!
8. Get a dog.
I realize not everyone has the ability or even desire to do this, but it really helps to be in charge of a creature who relies on you in order to eat and pee. I guess having a kid does this, too. From what I’ve heard.
I’m certain I would get up early regardless of whether or not I had a dog, but it’s a good incentive. I walk MacGregor before my runs, which gives me a nice, gentle warm-up as well as time to digest my delicious breakfast.
9. Learn to love the peace of mornings.
I love quiet. Mornings are quiet. I love that. It’s so nice to be awake when most of the world is still asleep. It makes me feel weirdly powerful, like I know things that others do not.
10. Have a really good reason to get out of bed.
I mean, of course. That’s the whole point. Why DO you want to get up early, anyway? Is it to run? Go to the gym? Write? Meditate? Make beaded necklaces for your Etsy shop? Whatever it is, make sure it’s important to you. In my case, I really really really want to be as strong as I can be, as healthy as I can be, and the best runner I can be. That alone is what drives me to get out of bed in the morning. Make sure you have something you really really really want. As you make it a habit, hitting snooze and going back to bed won’t even seem appealing – the thing you really want is out there. Not in your bed. Unless you design those beaded necklaces in bed. Then it’s fine.
Let me know if you have any other tips for getting up early, alarm songs, breakfasts, or anything else. Okay, good night. I’m going to bed.