Saturday, September 5, 2015

On becoming a morning person

For most of my life, I have been a dyed-in-the-wool night owl, going to bed around midnight most days, if not later, and getting up no earlier than 8:30 am. Then on the weekends, I'd sleep in even longer.

I'd like to say triathlon changed all that, but it wouldn't be true. Even though most races start in the wee hours of the morning, I didn't really change my habits. I did my workouts after work on the way home and I would just push through that early morning "I don't want to be here" feeling on the days I had to get up early to race or attend a clinic.

This changed when I joined El Camino YMCA Triathlon Club.

All the workouts are in the morning. Not just the morning, but 5:30 am in the morning. Four workouts during the week started at 5:30 am and one started at the leisurely hour of 6:00 am. The Saturday workout seemed like a dream in comparison -- an 8:00 am start.

At first, it was difficult. Very, very difficult.

My first year, I was only doing one, then two, then three workouts during the week as I slowly came back to full-time training. But even with only three mornings a week getting up at 4:30 am and one getting up at 6:30 am, I slowly became a morning person.

I was going to bed by 10:00 pm most nights and having trouble "sleeping in" any time past 7:30 am. There was a one month period where I actually felt like a morning person!

It was a fragile moment though. Just missing one workout during the week or having two days in a row where I got up past 6:30 am and I would fall back into my night owl ways.

Okay, maybe it wasn't a full fall. My natural rhythms had switched enough that I was going to bed earlier and getting up earlier by an hour or two. But that really wasn't enough to make that 4:30 am alarm something that I could respond to without a lot of internal pep talk.

What really pushed me over the edge to being a morning person was when I resolved to swim an extra time a week. Getting up four times a week at 4:30 am was enough to keep me in the early bird category. I now can get up at 4:30 am without cursing and sometimes I even wake up just before the alarm goes off!

I am still not going to be as early as I should so I have to make up some of the sleep on the weekends. But every week, I go to bed earlier and earlier.

I think this is still a fragile state though. Right now I'm not swimming in the AM due to my muscle pull. We will see what that does to my ability to wake up at 4:30 am the other two days of the week.

I also have not been able to sleep through the night as I get older and this means I need to physically be in bed longer to get my necessary amount of sleep. At least I only need 7.5 hours of sleep and not the eight that is average.

But mentally I think of myself as a morning person and I think of sleeping in past 6:30 am as "being lazy." So that's a big change for me. And I think that thinking of myself as a morning person will make it easier to get back to my 4:30 am schedule once I'm cleared to swim again.

Here's to the early bird catching the worm!
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