With a background in journalism, I spent years keeping the same hours as bartenders, bakery owners and funeral directors. My body had always been the happiest when I could curl up in bed around 2 am and wake up around 10 am. I found that this rhythm not only allowed my body to feel rested, but also my mind. I tend to have creative bursts of energy and the urge to write a novel around 10 or 11 pm, so an early bedtime has a bad habit of stifling my creativity.
When I landed a new job and my hours shifted, I was able to adjust to a bedtime of midnight and a 7 am wakeup. Anything earlier gave me that heart-pounding, eye-drooping feeling that I hadn’t slept in a week. Recently, my boyfriend changed jobs and had to adjust to waking up at 4 am – the same time he went to bed during his previous shift – and my calendar suddenly got very busy between a graphic design class, a full time job and a rapidly filling social calendar. I decided that if I was going to fit exercise into my schedule and occasionally see my boyfriend, I would need to go to the gym before work.
I did the math. My calculator told me that I would have to wake up at 5 am to walk the 15 minutes to the gym, have an hour workout, walk back to my apartment, get ready for work and walk to the subway to embark on my Brooklyn to Manhattan commute to work. Wait, 5 am? I did the math a dozen more times and tried to think of ways I could wash my hair less to save time. In the end, I realized I would just have to suck it up and wake up early if I wanted to prioritize my health. I should note that I had two spinal surgeries in the past year so exercise not only makes me feel good, but it actually allows me to not be in as much pain as I am generally in on a daily basis.
I posted about my goal on Facebook and crowdsourced ways to get out of my warm bed and walk into the New York City air that freezes and chaps everything that it comes into contact with.
Here is what worked:
1) Drink as much water as you can stomach before bed. A friend told me about this trick and boy did it work. You will be scrambling to get out of bed when your alarm blasts Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’ at 5 am. Once you turn on the lights and hustle to your bathroom, you will be awake enough to not have the urge to crawl back under the covers (though you may stare at your blanket-covered bed with longing).
2) Blast Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off.’ Not kidding. Have it cued up on your phone or ipod and hit play right after your alarm goes off. You can’t listen to that song and not want to move. Are you not familiar with it? Not to worry, here it is:
3) Wear something warm to bed or have a warm robe on the floor ready to be draped over you. Warmth is such a big motivator in my life. Are you warm right now? I will gravitate toward you without even knowing that I’m doing it. A big part of me getting out of bed involved wearing enough layers to bed that I wouldn’t be horribly distraught about walking around my apartment without tripling our heating bill.
4) Turn on lights. This could also involve looking at a phone or computer screen. The light from your tech devices disturbs sleep, as does flipping on a light switch or bedside light. This is generally not a good thing, but it’s excellent for waking you up when you’re trying to pry your less-in-shape-than-you-might-like body out of bed and to the gym in the morning.
5) Have caffeine! I shouldn’t encourage this, and I wasn’t even dependent on that wonderful and addictive substance before I started this crack of dawn routine. But honestly, black tea or one espresso shot is sometimes the extra jolt I need to not do an about face when I step out into the wind tunnels that are New York City side streets.
6) Get enough sleep. Not only will you not want to get out of bed if you don’t get your requisite hours, but you will be miserable about 12 hours later and will be ready to fall asleep at 5 pm.
7) Prep your meals for the week on Sunday. This is actually a good thing to do to keep your stress low and your diet healthy always, but I only started doing this recently since I didn’t have time to make breakfast or lunch before work on this new schedule. I am now a huge fan of hard boiled eggs and overnight oats for breakfast, and different snacks for lunch (grapes, a KIND bar, cottage cheese, hummus and cucumbers, etc) so I can graze all day since working out this much apparently makes you ALWAYS hungry.
8) Have a motivator. Even though I wanted to do this for my spine health, I also wanted to get into shape. This involved googling photos of Kate Upton and making my morning alarm say BIKINI! instead of WAKE UP!
9) Lay everything out the night before. The first time I was able to actually get out of bed at 5 am, I spent 45 minutes gathering my work clothes and food, and putting my workout clothes on. Trust me, it’s much more enjoyable if you don’t cut into your workout because you can’t find a water bottle or the lock to your gym locker.
10) Let yourself adjust to the new schedule. It was really hard at first to shift from a 7 am wakeup time to a 5 am wakeup time without being a horrible person all day. It’s okay to ease into it. The important thing is to try to wake up earlier and get used to that before making yourself get out of bed and actually workout.
Ok, now that you’re armed with these tips, go set your alarm for 5 am. You can do it. No seriously, you can. It just might take a few weeks.