This post previously appeared on Happy by Design.
A couple years ago, I remember hearing this “I’m a morning person” speech from various individuals:
If I don’t work out in the morning, I feel like my whole day is shot. I need to get my endorphins boosted so that I can make it through the rest of the day. I actually find that I’m less hungry when I workout in the morning.
And a couple years ago, I rolled my eyes. I just wanted to turn around and shout, “Quit shoving your ability to be a morning person in my face!” At that point, I liked to sleep in. The thought of waking up at 6am to get ready for work was torture. If I wanted to work out, I was fine doing that after work. I loved going for a walk or run outside —while it was still light out — not something that can often be enjoyed at 5 a.m. I also didn’t love going to the gym during the 5 p.m. rush, but at least I wasn’t alone. On the contrary, the few times I tried to work out in the morning felt like wading through a never-ending sea of molasses. And what’s the point in that?
So I came to the conclusion that morning people were born that way and that how they functioned was supernatural. Maybe it’s similar to how those born left-handed are more likely to be creative. Whatever it was that made them this way, I didn’t have it. Even if I wanted it, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t born that way, right?
Cue movie sequence where a lab accident happens and I become super human
And then at some point, I became supernatural.
In my mind, the transformation would look a lot like the scene where Spiderman inherits his mutant powers: a little spider bite and VOILA! – super human abilities! But I live in reality. And in reality, it was probably more like a lab assistant falling into a vat of icky chemicals, and then slowly over time he transforms into this evil super villain both because of the vat of icky chemicals and the new way of thinking he’s acquired. But then let’s drop the villainy part, and that’s me…plus I have female parts.
In laymen’s terms, what really happened is I had a kid. And to be perfectly clear…yes, I’m comparing that to falling into a vat of icky chemicals because basically that was nine months of torture for me. And like the lab assistant, it didn’t change my state of mind, at first. At first I was just in shock and trying to cope. “Okay my life is different now, no problem, I’m just going to keep doing what I do. Oh I can’t? Okay, adjusting expectations then. And I don’t get to sleep…ever? Okay, REALLY adjusting expectations now.” And so on and so forth.
This is how I basically went from dreading early mornings to building a tolerance for early mornings…because what does it matter when you’re sleep deprived, in general.
Harnessing and growing my super powers
About nine months after little man was born (and some sort of routine was forming), I not only accepted the early mornings and lack of sleep – I started embracing it. And let’s face it, I still had a good 20 pounds to lose and this was the only reasonable time that I could truly call my own. So I started to have thoughts like, “What would it matter to wake up a half hour early and go for a walk before everyone wakes up?”
So I started getting up at 5:30 a.m. and walking around the nearby park and running for a minute or two, every couple minutes. The biggest shocker was that I did this WITHOUT coffee (don’t ask why…it was a silly decision, in retrospect).
Once my activity level increased, I found that I needed a little more time before everyone woke up so that I could get in the miles I was building up to. So then I started waking up at 5:15 a.m. Now I was able to get in a solid three-mile run. It was about this time that I noticed that I wasn’t dragging through the day or feeling ravenously hungry, like I thought I would be.
But let’s not forget about the factors of influence
To be clear, motivation and determination are the primary factors of influence in growing my morning super powers. However, other factors helped get me started and are certainly worth mentioning:
- The temperature. Once the summer hit, getting up in the morning started getting easier because I wasn’t worried about how cold it was. I was actually more concerned about humidity. I then found for the first time ever that I was happy to be working out while it was still dark.
- The “Couch-to-5k” training plan. I found a really great mobile app with voice directions that would come through over the music I was playing while running. I found it very important to think as little about running as possible, while I was running. I liked that I could just be told what to do and when, and then go back to being lost in the music.
Other factors, such as comfortable running wear, proper running shoes and a good playlist, can also make your life a lot easier in the morning when you’re debating whether or not to get out of bed.
The final test
I came to a point where I could consistently run three miles. It took a couple months to get there, but I knew that’s not where I wanted to stop. I used to train for half marathons so that seemed to be the next step.
Once the training progressed to four- or five-mile runs, I made the jump to a 5 a.m. wake up time. Again…without coffee. And as any coffee drinker can attest, my running was okay, but still a little bit of that “running through molasses” feeling at times.
So that’s when it happened. To start my day off right, I knew it would be important to have a cup of coffee before my morning run or workout. And one day I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. the next morning and laughed at how ridiculous that was. And these thoughts started swirling through my head, “Clearly, I’ve crossed the line. No one in their right mind can wake up that early, do that many things and still be a productive member of society throughout the day. I will be a zombie. Clearly.”
And the next day, I continued with my plan. Was I a zombie? Of course not. Did I want to dive straight into my bed at 8 p.m.? Yes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my mind.
My super powers…which aren’t really super powers after all
I’m here. I’ve done it. I’ve conquered the world. Okay, maybe not the world, but I’ve conquered the ability to be a morning person.
I can get up way earlier than I ever thought was humanly possible.
- I can find and harness the motivation and the drive needed to make better choices.
- I can dig my way out of the sweet syrupy fog of sleep for the betterment of my personal health.
- I can finally start my day on a positive note.
And most importantly, I can be that super annoying morning person you hate. And I make no apologies for that.
I now know that being a morning person is not easy. Sure, there may be some exceptions for those whom it does come naturally. But for others, it’s a combination of personal circumstances and hard work pushing us forward each and every morning.
Is it still a work in progress? Yes. I no longer have the lack of sleep that I once had, and now have to work harder to get up early each morning. Some days I downright fail. But I know that when I do get up early, it’s always worth it. So I’ll keep trying.
How can you get morning super powers?
Like most goals in life, it’s hard to get started, but once you’ve started, it’s a lot easier to keep going.
- Start slow and keep building on your perceived limits.
- Drink coffee. I’m convinced that if you’re not caffeinated…or at least slightly high strung…you’re just plodding through life, at this point.
- Have a good reason for getting up, and make sure that reason is so strong that you will have major regrets if you don’t commit.
And if all else fails, fall into a vat of icky chemicals…i.e. have a kid. You will have no choice but to become a morning person.