Starting your day with a run or other physical activity is one of the best ways to build positivity & self-confidence, reduce stress, and bring overall well-being into your life. When you begin your day with movement, it sparks creativity and inspires patience. Seriously, it is like a miracle drug paving the way for fulfillment.
Unfortunately, our psyche has a nasty habit of trying to interfere and the best laid plans get waylaid. Excuses build and getting up early becomes a challenge for many of us. Have you ever told yourself, “I really just need sleep because sleep is so important”. Sounds plausible right? And sleep is indeed important? But is it really a good excuse to skip a planned morning movement session? Better to rework your schedule to skip that late night Netflix binge and go to bed a little earlier and make waking up your priority.
Determining your priorities and honoring them is part of the trick. Over the years I have tried and failed many times to implement an early morning routine. After many failed attempts and a stubborn persistence to keep trying, I can finally say I have figured out the magic combination for myself that has had me successfully rising early on a regular basis. In fact a little over a week ago, I got up at 2:30 am in order to get my long run in before my boys woke up for the day because running was important and so was spending time with the kiddos!
While I don’t recommend a 2:30 am wake-up call every day, here are 9 strategies I use to help me get going each day before the sun rises:
1. Go to bed early – Maybe it goes without saying, but sacrificing a good night’s sleep in order to rise early is not a good long term strategy. Like a diet of all watermelon, it might work the first day or two through sheer strength of will, but I promise you it won’t last. Determine what time you want to wake up and then count back 7-8 hours. That’s your bed time. I rise at 4:30 or 4:45 most mornings. This means a 9pm bedtime for me and I honor it. Don’t let sleep be your excuse.
2. Make a date with friends – Convince some of your other crazy friends to get up early with you. It’s much easier to roll out of a warm bed and get moving when you know you have a friend who will be left alone waiting (and super pissed I might add) if you don’t show up. Additionally, you get wonderful social time, which is often otherwise difficult as life gets so busy. This is the best sort of multi-tasking.
3. Smile – When you walk in the bathroom to brush your teeth and get dressed, give yourself a big smile in the mirror, even if you don’t want to or feel silly. No one is watching but you and smiling has been shown to release endorphins, which act as a natural pain killer and mood lifter. Smiles are also contagious, like a yawn. It is hard to be around someone smiling without feeling some joy. That smiling someone can easily be you. I can’t say enough about the power of a smile!
4. Drive to a favorite running spot – Driving to a favorite running spot seems counterintuitive, but if it means meeting friends or running in a place that brings you joy, you will look forward to your run rather then dreading another circle around your neighborhood. Unless you are lucky enough to have a favorite running spot out your front door, treat yourself at least once a week to a run in your favorite place.
5. Give yourself enough time – When deciding what time to wake up, be sure to give yourself enough time to get everything done that you need to before heading to work or getting kids to school or whatever your day holds. If your morning becomes a frenzied rush from one action to another, it will create more stress. You run to feel good and if your morning becomes toxic because it is so hurried, you won’t enjoy it anymore. If you just can’t bring yourself to wake up 15 minutes earlier, try getting stuff ready for work or school the night before. Cut out unnecessary beauty routines (like washing your hair every day – totally unnecessary folks and dry shampoo is incredible) or readjust your work schedule slightly.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice – We have all heard about building muscle memory for our physical body. Think riding a bike. Once you learn, your body will always remember. The cool thing is the same is true for our brains. The more you do it, the better you get at it because it becomes routine. We all are designed to be creatures of habit at least to some degree so make it a habit to get up early even if you aren’t going to exercise that day. A chance to sip a cup of coffee and read a good book is enjoyable too.
7. Implement the Old Standby – If nothing else, go for at least 10 minutes, or change a run to a walk. Once you’re out there, 9 times out of 10, you will decide that 10 minutes isn’t enough or you really do feel like a run. Before you know it, you whole planned workout is complete. For those times that you do end your movement after 10 minutes, you practiced getting out of bed which is valuable in itself (see #6).
8. Plan Your Attack – Plan the night before where you will run, what time, with whom, what you will wear, etc. Our brains don’t make wise choices when we are tired so don’t leave any choices for the morning when your brain is still waking up. I promise you – your brain will try to tell you that staying in bed is the wiser choice. Don’t let it. Must…Be…Robot.
9. Build the Pavlovian Response – Think of getting up early in the same way as training a dog. I know it sounds funny, but bear with me. When you teach a dog to sit, you give them a treat every time they sit – right? It’s the Pavlovian Response. Eventually they sit every time you say “sit” because they believe they will receive a treat, even when it isn’t always there. What’s a special treat for you? A fresh roasted cup of coffee, a yummy breakfast sandwich, a hot bath, climbing back in bed for extra snuggle time (or sex…running is an aphrodisiac after all!)….Reward yourself for your accomplishments, especially in the beginning as you build that muscle memory of the brain. (Caution: Don’t over indulge…a brownie bite might be okay, but probably not the whole pan.)
By implementing these tips, I have been able to revolutionize my way of looking at my world, myself, and my physical fitness. When you start the day in such a positive way, you feel like you can take on anything big or small. You feel like a Bad Ass!!! Try it and you will see for yourself.
And one final BONUS TIP : Move to Phoenix (at least for a summer) – lots of these tricks were hard for me to implement until living in Phoenix through the summer months when running any other time than o’dark thirty is not an option because it is so darn hot. Helps when you don’t have any other choices. You either go or you don’t run at all. While maybe Phoenix isn’t the place for you, you can recreate this in other ways by making plans for the evening or building your schedule in such a way that the choice is no longer there. It’s amazing what we can all do when we have no other option.
What tricks do you use to get yourself up and going each day? Please share in the comments below!