By Stepfanie Romine, co-author of "The SparkPeopleCookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"
I spent most of my early and mid 20s working the second shift at newspapers. I loved working as a copy editor, and I loved the hours, too. My shifts began at 4 p.m. and ended at midnight, which meant I could stay up late, sleep until noon, and still have time to run errands and go to the gym (a rare occurrence then) before work.
Eventually I joined the 9-to-6 crowd, and it was tough. I did not like mornings.
Fast-forward to last fall, when my yoga studio announced it was adding traditional sunrise morning practice to the schedule during the week. Though I now love my morning practice and wouldn't return to evening sessions, it was not an easy transition. I am not a morning person by nature, but I have become one by necessity.
Life is more likely to interfere when I schedule yoga practices at night. I'm too tired, too stressed, too busy. I have time to formulate all kinds of excuses. But when the alarm goes off at 5:30 each morning, I have no excuse. When I don't want to get out of bed (and who does on a cold winter morning?), I ask myself: What else would you be doing at this time? The answer (aside from sleeping): Nothing. So I get up.
By 9 a.m. I have put in almost two hours on the mat, showered, spent time with my cats, and started my workday. Whereas before I had a hard time getting motivated first thing in the morning, now I dive head-first into the day. Even my work schedule has changed. I save less-intense work for afternoon and choose to work on larger projects first. I feel so much better--more energized and accomplished. I know that morning workouts are worth it!
Those first few weeks were tough. I was exhausted by 9 p.m., falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I dreaded the alarm clock each morning. I "accidentally" slept through it or hit snooze more than a few times. Within two months, my entire schedule changed.
Here's how I adjusted:
Plan ahead. Each night before I go to bed, I make sure everything I need for the next day is ready to go: breakfast, lunch, and water bottle in the fridge; laptop case and purse by the door; gym bag is stocked with extra clothes, shoes, and toiletries. Even if I oversleep by a few minutes, I don't need to scramble to track down everything I need.
Unpack, then immediately repack. Soon after I come home, I clean out my gym bag. Dirty clothes and yoga towels in the laundry room, extra accessories or clothes back in the closet (sometimes I end up with a few too many pairs of socks or underwear--more on that later), and clothes for tomorrow in the bag. I lay out my yoga clothes for the next day, complete with outer layers for cold mornings, plus shoes and a headband to keep my sweaty hair out of my face. I pack my work clothes into my gym bag and set it in the same place so I don't have to hunt for it the next day.
Carry an extra set. There's nothing worse than arriving at work still sweaty from a workout (I shower and get ready at the SparkPeople offices most days) and realizing that you don't have clean clothes. Thankfully, I have never forgotten clean underwear, but I have forgotten clean socks, and, once, I forgot a towel. (I used a clean t-shirt to dry off.) I keep a spare of anything I couldn't live without: socks, undies, bras, towels. That way I don't have to take a 20-minute detour home and back in the morning.
Stick to your plan. I have the same routine every morning: bathroom and shower, fill the kettle and turn it on, feed the cats, grind the coffee, fill the French press, take my vitamins with two cups of water, then get dressed, take my lunch out of the fridge, finish the coffee, put on my shoes… you get the picture. I find that I'm much less likely to lose track of time or forget to do something if I follow roughly the same order every day.
No distractions. I scan my email when I turn off my alarm each morning but I don't respond to anything that's not an emergency until I get to the office. I don't open my laptop, and I don't own a TV, so I'm not tempted to lose track of time that way. I learned the hard way one morning when I logged on to my laptop for "just a minute" and ended up being 30 minutes late to practice. (It's an open studio, so you do a self-paced practice with staggered start times.)
Don't be vain. Working out in the morning means no time to dawdle in front of the mirror. I can't change my mind about my outfit--it's the only one I have with me. I don't wear makeup and don't dry my hair (obviously, this wouldn't work if your office is more formal). I have very long, curly hair that I love to wear loose, but I can't wash it daily or it dries out (and takes hours to air dry), so I braid it most of the time.
I don't feel any different about myself when I skip makeup or wear my hair braided. In fact, I've learned to be more creative with my hair, and I spend less time fiddling with it. (I'm one who puts her hair up and takes it back down a few times a day if it's loose.) If you spend less time primping, not only will you save valuable time in the mornings, but you'll also learn to accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all.
Stick with it, even on weekends. I can't stay out past 10 these days, and that's fine by me. If I try to sleep in, stay up really late, or deviate from my normal schedule on weekends, Mondays are really hard. I "sleep in" until 7 on weekends, but I stick with my morning yoga practice and other routines. This was key, especially in the beginning, to adjusting to the new morning schedule.
- Cut yourself some slack. Some days, that alarm goes off, and I hit snooze a few times. I miss my window for practice. Other days I'm sick or something comes up. I realize that life happens, and sometimes my schedule and my workouts will be affected. I lean on my mantra: You did your best today. Tomorrow you'll do better.
What is your best tip for learning to be a morning person?
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SparkRecipes.com editor Stepfanie Romine is a certified yoga teacher and co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." A vegan and runner, she has lived and cooked on three continents.