Remember how I did Alcohol-Free August? And then the half-assedly-titled Get-Smarter-In-September? Well, I did a little month-long habit forming challenge in October, too; I just didn’t write about it till now. For the month of October, I vowed to wake up earlier every day.
With my job, it’s really difficult to work out at night. I never know if I’m going to get to leave the office at 6pm (OMG early day!) or 10pm. Even if I do get out early, I also never know if there’s going to be some kind of team dinner planned – in which case I’m not going to get home until 10:30pm anyway. As much as I would like to think I have control of my work-life balance, when there is a team dinner, it’s pretty much mandatory to attend, and “I need to work out” is not an excuse.
What I can control, though, is what I do with my mornings. I have to meet my coworkers at 7:30am to head to the office by 8, but generally the hours between midnight and 7:30am remain untouched. So for the month of October, I decided I was going to use those early morning hours to make myself happier.
I knew before I even started that it would be very difficult for me to get up super early if I was forcing myself to work out – that’s just too much challenge at once. Around New Year’s resolution time, so many sources tell us to just pick one goal to focus on rather than many; while I usually ignore that for my New Year’s resolutions, this time I decided to heed that advice. For the month of October, I decided that I was going to just focus on getting up early. Not getting up early and working out, not getting up early and reading, but just getting up early and being awake. That’s it!
Let me tell you, it took so much pressure off my 5am alarm to wake up and know that the next two hours were completely open, unplanned, and all mine. As silly as it sounds, it gave me such a sense of freedom and excitement to wake up and realize that I had two hours all to myself and get to do whatever I pleased. Some days I did work out, but other mornings I lounged around in bed and read blogs. Or I might shower early and then go to Panera to sip coffee and read a book. No matter what I chose, it felt so luxuriously decadent to not have any demands on my time, and it helped me to (almost) always start my day in a good mood.
I’ve heard many times about the study where dieters had to practice exercising their willpower to resist junk food and subsequently performed worse on a puzzle. In that study, the participants’ willpower got used up by the initial challenge and they found it that much harder to use their mental strength for another task. Similarly, when I got to wake up early and have a block of time to myself in the morning, it made me much more tolerant of the many demands that cropped up on me during the day.
And while I didn’t initially set out to use that morning time for exercise, I gradually became more used to waking up that early (and also getting used to going to bed at a grandmotherly time). After a few weeks, I would wake up ready to conquer the day – and even hit the gym. 6am Flywheel classes became my new favorite activity, and I couldn’t get over how great it was to get to work and already feel so accomplished. I had sweated up a storm already, and it was only 8am! This habit, achievement, and positive feeling helped me achieve the flow I talked about on Tuesday, and now I can definitely see the truth to the psych studies that say early risers are happier, healthier, and more productive.
I’ve since started looking for other great early morning classes in the Dallas area, and came across a really neat one thanks to a Living Social deal – Tread Fitness. Yesterday was my first class, so I don’t really feel qualified to write a full review yet, but I can already tell it’s going to be a keeper! Basically, the class was circuit training: six minutes of weights (broken up into 60-90 second intervals of different exercises) followed by six minutes of treadmill running (again, broken up into 60-120 second interval sprints), and repeated with variations until an hour was up. This class kicked my butt! I might have thought I was a decent runner before, but two minutes of 7.5mph sprinting at an 8% incline made me sweat like nothing I have ever done before. And burpees immediately after didn’t exactly help me recover! This is one boutique concept that I think needs to make its way up to NYC from Dallas. (At the risk of sounding like a total New York snob, who would have imagined that? It seems like most great classes these days originate in NYC or LA, though I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, as I do love my Dallas-originating Vbarre!)
Are you an early riser? Have you ever tried changing your natural sleep schedule?