Secrets of an Early Morning Routine

Every day starts the same at 0500hrs...

A faint tune begins to play on the phone next to my bed - it's soft enough not to inject adrenaline directly into my heart but loud enough that my brain registers that another morning has arrived.

Bathed in the soft blue light of the screen, I clumsily reach over and swipe right to silence the alarm. Then I lie back and wait.

At 0505hrs I'm signaled yet again - this time by the less than serene beeping on my watch. It never beeps more than once as, by now I've regained control of my senses and my finger hovers over the bump of the button, poised and ready to turn it off. My brain begins to churn through some list of what I want to accomplish that day.

While my brain does it's thing, I pull back the covers to greet the coolness in the room and sit up swinging my feet over the edge of the bed - take a deep breath and stretch my arms up and out feeling the muscles in my biceps, chest and back strain. There is the faint and amusing sound of the crackling of bones and joints moving back to where they are supposed to be.

After a moment I put my bare feet on the chilly hardwood floor and stand for a moment before bending over to pick up a pile of clothes that were pre-positioned the night before and stumble into the washroom like I just got home from the pub. It amazes me how I have to learn to walk every single morning.

It's quiet - it always is. There is no sound except for the thoughts running through my head and I try to keep them at a whisper so as not to disturb the solitude. As I finish up my bathroom ritual (which, for your benefit, I won't describe), put on my workout clothes, and brush the stench of night out of my mouth while staring at my ugly mug in the mirror - I begin to feel good about getting up at this hour and silently congratulate myself. Most of my part of the world is still asleep and will be for a few more hours. Somehow I feel like I'm getting a head start.

After completing my bathroom ritual, I go downstairs and make a cup of coffee. I sip it as I work on Commando Boxing for the next hour - usually writing or some creative type task. At 0630 I stop whatever I'm doing and head out to the home made boxing gym in my garage. This time of year it's close to freezing or below in there so I quickly switch on the little space heater, grab the skipping rope and get moving. It doesn't take long to warm up and by the time I do, I'm in workout mode.

I beast myself for an hour and at 0740 I head back into the house to wash off the sweat and put on my uniform to get ready for work. At 0805 I make my Commando Boxing anytime breakfast and eat it while reading through the headlines to see what the media is spinning from the night before. At 0830 I walk out of the house and head to work - satisfied knowing that no matter what else happens that day - I've already spent three hours advancing my goals before having to expend effort on the priorities of others.

That's at least two solid hours every day - 14 hours a week - 54 hours a month - just because I get up at 0500hrs instead of sleeping a couple extra hours.

0500-0800 every morning is my time. A time with no obligations, no stress, and no expectations other than those I put on myself. Everything I do in those three hours is about me and my goals - and it feels satisfying and good.

My morning ritual is the same every day of the week. The only exception is Sunday when I turn off the alarms completely just to see what happens. In all but rare cases - it doesn't matter and I get up at the same time anyways.

Benefits of an Early Morning Routine

  • It's first. Think about it - when should you be at your peak? Immediately after a restful night of sleep or when you're tired from a long day of work dealing with all the stress of life. Your day should start with what's important to you - then you can work on other people's issues.
  • It's early. And that means it's quiet. Unless you intentionally fill your morning with stimulation like radio, tv, and internet then it's just you and the void. What other time of the day do you get an environment that is totally devoid of noise without locking yourself away in a sound-proof room? The quiet is quite simply - awesome.
  • It sets the right tone. When you get up and are productive (in whatever way you define productive) it puts you on the right foot for the rest of the day. The small things don't bother you as much. You experience more contentment and ease into the day rather than stumbling and rushing in late. It's much more pleasant.
  • It's insurance. There's nothing wrong with choosing to sleep in but when you don't you get things done that you then do not have to find time to do some other time in the day. Training is a prime example. When I don't train in the morning it means I have to find time to do it after work and that usually conflicts with other family commitments especially with two teenagers in the house. Doing it first thing in the morning means it gets done. If I ever miss training it's because I didn't do it in the morning (rare occurrence).
  • It feels good. I don't know exactly how to describe it but mornings simply feel different than the rest of the day. I'm sure you probably have not had the opportunity to spend all night freezing in shitty weather sitting in a trench full of water, but I can tell you that there is no better feeling than when dawn begins to break and you see the sun coming over the horizon. When you experience an early morning - you'll notice how it feels too.

When is Your Morning?

There is a time of day when you are most productive. You know when it is - when you can get in the flow and focus on something intensely - when you're at your peak.

For me - it's the morning when the rest of the house is still sleeping. That's my time and I guard it like a hawk but it might not be your time.

I'm not advocating that you have to get up at 0500hrs everyday to advance towards your goals - but I am advocating that you have to find your time of day and carve it away from the rest of the world's demands.

If you haven't done that yet - then perhaps getting up at 0500hrs is something you should look into.

And it's not impossible - no matter how much of stranglehold you believe sleep has over you at that hour.

Sleep is important - no doubt about it - but getting up at 0500hrs or earlier simply means going to bed earlier and if you're being honest with yourself - what are you doing at 2200hrs each night that would prevent you from going to sleep? My guess is that you're watching something on TV in the hours leading up to that time. I usually am.

So turn it off and go read in bed. If you're not tired you'll get some benefit from reading, but I'm pretty sure that within a few minutes you'll find yourself nodding off and setting the conditions to help get up earlier.

If you work shift work then your morning is simply going to be at another time of the day - make adjustments.

I'm an all-or-nothing kind of guy which is both a curse and a blessing so if I'm trying to make a change like this I'll just force myself to get up at the new time. If that works for you - great - but it is less of a shock to your system to work yourself into it gradually. You'll stick to it longer and repetition is essential to turning it into a routine and not a flash in the pan. So start by backing the clock up in 15 minute increments until you hit your goal time. It won't take long and soon you'll be awake when everyone else is sleeping and wondering what to do with yourself.

Craft Your Morning Ritual

I once experimented with polyphasic sleep. I tried sleeping 20 minutes every three hours. One 20 minute sleep cycle is supposed to be sufficient and it allows you to be awake and productive for more hours in the day.

It wasn't hard sticking to the schedule but it was hard to find something to do with the extra awake time and I would often find myself laying around wondering what to do - sometimes nodding off as I did thus defeating the whole purpose of staying up in the first place. It's the same getting up early in the morning.

Getting up at 0500hrs with no idea what you're going to do is the perfect way to convince yourself to go back to bed - so take some time and decide how you want your morning to look. Figure out what your priorities and goals are and then map out what you need to do to accomplish them.

Start at the end and work backwards figuring out what you need to do to accomplish that part of the grand plan. When you're done - you'll have a blueprint to follow - a project to-do list that will guide you each morning.

And then stick with it long enough to let it take root. Once that happens - it's effortless.

In Conclusion

If you're aiming to transform your body, increase your fitness, or learn how to box, there are few things you can do that ensure success as much as establishing an early morning routine that supports your training does.

No matter how unpleasant you think it is to get up earlier - I'd urge you to experiment with it and see if it works out for you.

If you think you're not a morning person - it's probably because you think that. It is true that some people have productive times at different times of the day but most people who think they are not morning people just haven't established a morning routine or a bedtime ritual that supports getting up early.

I think you'd be amazed at what you can actually accomplish if you get an early morning routine firmly established. Give it a go and Boxon.

    Coach Aaron

    Coach Aaron founded Commando Boxing in 2003. When he's not boxing, he's running ultramarathons or using data science/blockchains to create mixed reality HoloLens applications.

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