I never imagined that moving home to social distance with my parents would push me to become the morning person I've always failed to be. And I certainly didn't expect that accomplishment to stem from a disagreement over the best time to eat dinner.
You see, my parents follow a strict 6 p.m. dinner routine, which just so happens to be around the time I log off of work.
Pre-social distancing, I'd commute home from the office, head to the gym, and then have dinner at my apartment around 7:30 p.m. But now, 15 minutes after ending my shift, I have a stomach full of pasta and some wine to wash it all down. At that point, no part of me feels motivated to exercise.
I began working out less and less frequently due to this scheduling conflict, so my only realistic option was to exercise before work.
My fitness routine has always been at the foundation of my mental health. Without exercise, my well-being gets harder and harder to manage — especially in times of uncertainty.
Switching to morning workouts wasn't — and still isn't — an easy adjustment. But, it's easier than feeling like I'm not in control of my mental health. That's what keeps me going.
It's been about two weeks since I've started setting my alarm an hour and a half earlier than I usually would, and here's how I'm making it work.
If there is anything I'm successful at, it's hitting the snooze button. I'm so skilled at it that I got in the habit of setting four to six alarms every morning and would snooze each one until I finally got up.
Now, I charge my phone overnight on the opposite side of my bedroom. This way, I only have to set one alarm, which gets me up and moving right away, kickstarting my wake-up process.
The downside to this is that I've found myself waking up before my alarm, confused about whether or not it's gone off yet — hopefully, this anxiety over sticking to my routine will subside in time.
Getting into a workout first thing in the morning takes grit. With only so much time to spare, I remind myself that the sooner I sweat, the more time there is for breakfast. Plus, I've already accomplished the hardest challenge of the day: actually waking up. It all gets better from there.
After completing one of my preplanned Pilates videos, I reward myself with eggs and coffee, which I enjoy during a half hour of self-serving internet time.
By 9:30 a.m., my morning routine is officially complete and my workday has started — but that extra hour and a half of productivity benefits me throughout the rest of my day.
Warming up my brain and body before work makes accomplishing those first few tasks of my job easier.
After 6 p.m., the rest of my evening is completely free. I'm no longer tortured by that feeling of having to exercise but being too tired and full to actually do so. I have more time for other self-care acts like reading, going for walks, drawing, or calling my friends.
The bane of my existence — bedtime — is no longer so intimidating, either. Since I had time to scroll the internet and talk to my friends earlier in the day, parting ways with my phone isn't so hard. Plus, I'm down 90 minutes of sleep, so I'm pretty tired by the time I tuck into bed.
I never really want to wake up early and work out, but I want all the benefits that come from doing just that. Staying disciplined is hard, but it makes me better — and that's why a morning routine is worth it.