For someone that lives a busy lifestyle, waking up early to work out is the only sure method of finding the time to get in a daily run. Waking up early can be difficult, especially if you are not a morning person and are not used to it. It can be difficult, especially in the Winter when the sun has not yet risen and the conditions may not be ideal for running.
Chris recently asked for some tips about how to get up early every day:
I am not a morning person, but as I keep working to extend my runs I realize that the only way to guarantee that I have time for them is to run before work every morning. How do I make getting up an hour or an hour and a half earlier less of a struggle? Do you have any tips or ideas for for me?
I was a teenager a pretty typical teenager, and I got up as late as possible before heading to school and would sleep until late into the morning or even the early afternoon on the weekends. After I got up one morning in the Summer, my step-father asked me how I could sleep so late. “You just wasted the best part of the day,” he said to me.
I thought about it, and I realized that he was right. Ever since then I began getting up earlier and while I would not have classified myself as a morning person I certainly made the most of my mornings from that point forward. I did not officially become a morning person until I got to college, when I was up at 5:45 every morning to run no matter what the conditions or what time of the year that it was. It took just over my first month in school before I was up a minute before my alarm every morning without fail, which made my roommates happy because my freshman year I didn’t live with runners and they appreciated me shutting the alarm off before it went off.
Post-college, it took me 2 years before I was even capable of sleeping past 6:30 or 7:00. A few years after that, I discovered something important about my body that I had learned while I was in school but was never really conscious of.
Our bodies like to get up at a set time every day. Mammals are not really “morning creatures,” but their bodies enjoy regularity in any form. If you wake up at the same time every day, your body is going to thank you by being healthier and by letting you know when you need to be sleeping and when you do not need to bother.
The first step to waking up early…
If you want to wake up early so that you have time to work out in the morning, then first and most important you need to choose what time that you need to get up to have time for your workout and to get through any other chores before work. You then want to get up at that time of day every day whether you need to or not. There should be no exceptions whether it is a work day, holiday or a weekend.
There are two huge advantages to this strategy. First, after a month or two you will find that it is extremely easy for you to wake up at that time and you eventually may not even need your alarm clock.
Second, once your body has gotten used to waking up at a set time it will expect to always get up at that same time every day. Your body will not be confused by different bed times every night and different sleeping schedules into the next day. As a result, you will not have to go to bed at the same time every night. Just be prepared to go to bed when you get tired and your body will make you tired early enough that you will get enough sleep and late enough that you will not lay around in bed staring at the ceiling for hours or tossing and turning.
Most of the time, I get tired around 9:30 or 10:00 and go to bed then. After I ran my first 50 kilometer trail race I required a little extra rest in order to recover, and I was getting tired around 7:30 or 8:00. I still got up at the same time in the morning, but for a few days I went to bed early and slept really well. Once my body had recovered enough, I was no longer tired as early in the evening and I began staying up later.
The second step is to avoid the babble box before bed…
My second piece of advice for sleeping well and being able to wake up early is to not fall asleep in front of the television. You should also try to avoid watching your television directly before going to bed.
If you actually fall asleep in front of the television, then chances are pretty good that you are not in an optimum position for sleeping. You are probably sitting or lying on a couch with your body contorted in some fashion. This can lead to neck strain, and if the television is still on your sleep will be fitful from the outside stimulous.
You want to avoid watching the television before going to bed because bright lights and concentrating on the babble box can lead to eye strain, especially if all you do is close your eyes and snooze right afterwards. The same can be said to some extent for looking at a monitor in front of your computer right before bed time. The television can also put your mind into overdrive and prevent you from calming down enough to fall asleep right away.
Ideally, when you go to bed every night you will crawl into bed and then immediately try to sleep. Any sort of personal grooming or reading should be done in another room.
While it is a better habit than watching the television, I still have the bad habit of looking at a magazine or reading a book for 15 minutes to an hour before going to sleep. I will lay in bed and read until I begin to feel my eyes drooping, whereupon I shut off the light and settle in right away. If I watch a movie right before going to bed, then my head is usually still full of loud noises and bright lights and I have trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep.
My wife has the worse habit of having to moisturize every square inch of her body after she has crawled under the sheets, which shakes the bed and causes her to bump into me frequently. This really interferes with my sleep when I go to bed before her!
The third step is to not go to bed hungry…
Most people will not eat before going to sleep. Two common reasons for this is because the person may not sleep as well, or because they are trying to lose weight and do not want to eat something and not have an opportunity to burn off some calories before going to sleep. You do not really need a lot of calories to sleep, after all.
For active people, though, you do want something in your stomach when you go to sleep, especially if you plan on working out in the morning. You will not require a full course meal, obviously; there’s no need for that. But a light snack such as a piece of bread or an apple an hour or 30 minutes before going to sleep can lead to better sleep and can make it easier to get up in the morning.
If I do not eat before going to bed, I tend to wake up with stomach cramps in the middle of the night. If I try to run in the morning without eating first, I won’t get more than a mile before I will be completely exhausted.
Your mileage may vary with this tip. Everybody’s body is different, and your body may not like eating right before you go to sleep. There is only one way to find out, though, and it is a good thing to know and learn.
The fourth step is to keep the alarm out of reach…
This is usually the easiest tip to implement when you want to get up in the morning. Keep your alarm clock across the room where you have to physically get out of bed in order to shut it off. You may find that it is easier to stay out of bed if you have to get up.
Some people can get up and shut the alarm off and get back into bed without even waking up, so this is just a small piece of the puzzle.
If you frequently hit snooze from across the room, you may want to build yourself an alarm clock that will run around. There are two ways to do this. If you have wood floors, then it is pretty easy to hack a clock with a small motor and some wheels to have it randomly jump off of your bureau and hide in a different place every morning so that you have to actually look for it.
The more conventional method is to get a cat. They like to be fed at regular intervals and they will come wake you up at breakfast time. My cat will lay next to my head and purr as loud as she can to wake me up, and it is hard to get mad at her for that. If I do not get up after a few minutes, then she starts pulling at my lip which is quite annoying. The trick here is teaching them to wake you up when you want to get up, and not at 2:00 in the morning when they decide they’d like a little food.
The fifth step is to set a time limit…
Set a time limit for how long you are going to get up early. Give yourself a 30 day challenge.
Tell yourself that you are going to get up at 5:30 am (or whenatever time works for you) for 30 days. Once that 30 days has gone by, you will evaluate whether it was worth doing or not and can keep doing it or stop at that point, but before 30 days are up you will not make any exceptions. You are going to get up.
It will be easier to get up and get out of bed every day because you will have a deadline and you know, “Oh, it’s only a few more weeks.” After 30 days you may very well have established a habit that is worth following through on, and it will no longer be such a challenge and your deadline will not be necessary anymore. You may also decide after 30 days that getting up early really hasn’t improved your quality of life or allowed you to get the workouts anyway, and in that case you should go back to your old habits. It can take over 3 weeks for the benefits to really kick in, so 30 days is a good time to evaluate whether you enjoy what you are doing and want to extend your deadline or just adopt it as a new lifestyle.
If you really want to make this challenge interesting, make it 30 consecutive days – if you mess up one day, then start over and consider the next day as day 1. That’s good motivation to actually follow through for the entire 30 days and will really ensure that you are seeing the benefits that you want once you have met your goal.
The last step is to practice getting up…
Last, you really need to practice getting up with your alarm clock.
Find an hour for two weekend days in a row that you can set your alarm clock for 4 to 5 minutes in the future and then lay down in bed and try to fall asleep. Once the alarm goes off, get up, put your clothes on, leave the bedroom and head towards the bathroom or whatever it is that you do first thing in the morning.
After you have taken your first steps out of the bedroom, go back in, get undressed, reset your alarm, and practice again. Repeat these steps for an hour. You should only need to practice for one or two days in a row to condition your body to get up at the alarm, and it will make it much easier for you to get up at the set time when your alarm goes off in the morning.
Getting Up Early
The first four steps are ones that I figured out on my own back in college. The last two steps are ones that I learned from Steve Pavlina post-college. I think that the most effective step that you can take is the first one, even if you do not both with any of the other five. The last two steps are great motivators and conditioning exercises that can make it much easier for you to reach your goals. Steps 2, 3 and 4 are just small tweaks that are easy to implement and that can lead to improved sleeping patterns.
To recap, here are the 6 steps that you can take to become a morning person:
- Wake up at the same time every day, whether you need to or not.
- Avoid watching television before bed.
- Don’t go to sleep hungry (or completely stuffed.)
- Keep your alarm clock out of reach.
- Set a 30 day limit for getting up early to evaluate if it is right for you.
- Practice getting up early near the beginning of your 30 day challenge.
Are you a morning person, and have you used any of these steps before? I would love to hear about your experiences, so send me an email or else contact me through the website: