Growing up, I always thought I was a “night owl,” as my mom would say. I stayed up late every night -- on AIM, watching TV, on the phone, etc. My parents had to come into my room at least three times per morning to make sure I was actually out of bed (spoiler: I never was). I was late or nearly late to school almost every day of my childhood. I was never up early enough to actually eat breakfast at the kitchen table before school (did people really do that?!). In college, I tried to stay away from morning classes, believing myself to be someone who stayed up late. Once I started working, I still didn’t get up earlier than I had to to get to work on time. I worked out after work (when I made it), ate dinner late, and went to bed late. This was my life until I went to business school.
Before I left for school, I had started to hone in on the fact that I was MUCH more productive in the mornings at work. I started organizing everything I had to do from hardest to easiest, always tackling the hardest tasks as soon as I got to work. This is how I started to realize that I really worked best in the morning: I was more focused and more energized than in the afternoon. I could tell it was a busy day if I was still productive after 4:00 pm. In spite of this, I still stuck to my routine of working out at night, eating late, going to bed late, and getting up shortly before I had to leave for work. But, I became a morning person, and you can too!
During business school was when I also started to realize that working out in the morning is 10000% more enjoyable to me than working out later in the day. There is nothing better than taking an early SoulCycle class, grabbing a coffee, showering, and getting ready all before 7:30 a.m. BLISS. Getting a workout in first thing makes me feel like I'm on track for a great day (thanks, endorphins!).
I also started reading about morning routines of highly successful people. Of course, Anna Wintour wakes up at 5:45 a.m. to play tennis before work! Of course, Jennifer Aniston wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to drink lemon water and meditate! If you read about a successful person’s morning routine, it will consist of getting up early and working out before work. It just will. This knowledge, coupled with the fact that I realized I myself was actually at peak body and brain performance in the morning, convinced me that I too should become a morning person.
How I Did It
Step 1: I revamped my workouts. There are certain workouts that I love -- yoga, SoulCycle, the occasional Barry’s Bootcamp, etc. To motivate myself to wake up early, I plan these workouts for the wee hours of the morning: 5:45 a.m., 6 a.m., 6:45 a.m.…If you’re a runner, this would mean planning for an early run. The best part about working out so early is that there is nothing that can prevent you from making it to class, except for lack of sleep, which brings me to...
Step 2: I got to bed. This takes some time -- I had to basically redo my whole routine. I started working backwards from when I needed to go to sleep in order to get 7-8 hours of sleep before my classes, and then tried to get in bed right around then. Until you’re in a routine of going to bed early, it can be hard to fall asleep, but I promise that if you get up at 5:15 a.m. two days in a row after going to bed too late, it’ll be much easier to fall asleep early! A nighttime routine (e.g. getting in bed and reading a book) can also help train your body that it’s ready for bed. Adopt one if you haven’t!
Step 3: Repetition, repetition, repetition. Do your best not to break your routine. Try not to vary your sleep routine even on weekends. I won’t do a 6 a.m. workout class on the weekends, but I find that I’m up by 7:30 a.m. 99% of weekend mornings without an alarm, so making it to an 8 or 9 a.m. class is never a problem.
My wake-up time depends on the day and time of my workout. I’ll set an alarm for 30 minutes before my class starts (I use a vibrating alarm so don't wake up my fiance!), which means I'm waking up between 5:15 and 6:15 a.m. on weekdays.
After my workout class, I’ll shower, prep my food for the day (I bring breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day in the bottom of my backpack!), and head out the door.
At night, I try to have finished dinner by 8:30 p.m. At 9:30 p.m., I’m in bed or getting ready to be in bed. Between 9:45-10:00 p.m., I’m trying to fall asleep to do it all again.
My routine might sound lame, but I truly love it. I feel so much better getting up early and not having to rush out the door. I am never forced to skip a workout, no matter how insane things get with work. I finally understand the appeal of the early wake-up. And who knows, maybe in a year I’ll even be able to incorporate lemon water and meditation into my morning routine.