I've read stories like this one before — "getting up early changed my life" — and rolled my eyes more times than I can count. If I were to describe my sleep type, it would be "constant." I love sleep. I plan my evenings and mornings around how much quality sleep I can get. I enjoy naps, I spend time making my bedroom cozy . . . and getting up early has always sounded absolutely miserable. Why would I betray myself in such a cruel way?
Just thinking about getting up at 4 a.m. (like some of my friends and colleagues do) makes me want to throw up. I mean, I thought 6 a.m. was early, but apparently that's basically lunchtime to some people. But with that said, I've always loved mornings — the light, the stillness, the quiet, and the way the world looks in the early hours of the day has always enchanted me. I wondered if I could have both: enough sleep but an early a.m. schedule. I knew it would involve shifting things around, but could I actually force my body to adapt? Would it be worth it?
I remember looking around the SoulCycle locker room early one morning at all the working women blow-drying their hair and doing their makeup, thinking, "While the rest of the world sleeps, these women make an extra effort to get up early, put their health first, and then go crush the rest of their day and take care of business." I wanted to be one of them, so I went for it.
Here are the benefits I've seen so far from changing my workout routine to a.m. vs. p.m. Mind you, there's no way in heck I'm getting up at 4 a.m. (unless it's begrudgingly for a half-marathon) — my schedule consists of 7 a.m. workouts (sometimes 6, but even that's pushing it), which means getting up between 5 and 6 to make myself a quick bite or just throw stuff in a bag and run out the door to catch a bus.
I have more energy
Like I said, I've been a sleepy person my whole life, and while I still love sleep and going to bed early, I now have an extra burst of energy. I'm less groggy in the office, and my brain is more alert and ready to go by the time I roll into work. I've had that time to wake up physically and mentally, and not even coffee can get me ready for the day the way a good workout can. The sweat, the energy, the intensity, the music — it's a supernatural high.
I have more confidence
The boosted energy rolled into boosted confidence. I feel better after a workout, thanks to that endorphin high. Also, after getting especially sweaty, I have to take time to shower, of course. This means I go through my full morning routine instead of just rolling out of bed, throwing my hair in a bun, and racing to work. The combination of feeling energized, endorphined-up, freshly showered, and organized makes me feel like a freakin' rock star for the rest of the day.
I sleep better
Getting up earlier and using my energy earlier makes me so unbelievably ready for bed by the end of the day, but in a way that doesn't make me feel fatigued. My old routine would consist of getting up at the last possible minute before work, working, feeling worn out, then still squeezing in a workout . . . then showering at the gym, commuting home, and being absolutely exhausted and trying to fall asleep. Have you ever felt so fatigued that you can't fall asleep? It seems backwards, but it happens. My sleep quality was suffering from my schedule, but I didn't realize how much better it could be by simply shifting my workouts. I track my nightly snoozes on the sleep cycle alarm clock and have noticed that over the past six months, my sleep quality has totally improved.
I have more me time
Speaking of that old routine, my days used to consist of work, exercise, sleep, repeat. Now that I've shifted my schedule, I have a little more time after work to take care of myself, whether that's spending time with friends, cooking a healthier meal, reading and studying, or even just watching a movie. It's allowed me to mentally decompress from my workdays more and avoid that feeling of being in a hamster wheel, just going, going, going.
I'm more consistent
No one plans social events or get-togethers at 6 a.m. Honestly. Unless you're specifically meeting for a workout or breakfast, no one plans activities before work. You're never going to say, "Sorry, I can't make that happy hour; I have a workout at 6 a.m." When my workouts were in the evening, I'd either miss out on things like that, or I'd have to skip my workout in favor of a social (and sometimes professional) life. By moving my exercise to the a.m. hours, there's a 0.01 percent chance that I'll have a scheduling conflict, which has allowed me to be more consistent with my exercise, making me stronger and healthier.