At the moment, my morning routine is not good, quite honestly, but it used to be very good, and that’s what makes me feel qualified to write this post on how to create a morning routine. My current morning looks like: snooze alarm 3x, wake up very tired, sloth over to the kitchen and grab some coffee, move to my desk and put on my essential oil diffuser, make my bed and get dressed, start up my computer, open my curtains, then lay on the couch for 1/2 hour before my workday starts, while drinking a combination of water, coffee, and green juice, and finally apply my morning skincare routine.
Not totally terrible, but could be better.
The goal of setting up a morning routine is to set yourself up for a great day, and practices that will let you feel supported, no matter what your day tosses at you! First of all, figure out what your priorities are. I always wanted to prioritize my physical and mental health. I started with one routine I wanted to cultivate, and moved from there. In 2018, I knew my New Year’s Resolution would be to wake up early and exercise, something I’d always wanted to do but could never manage.
I have ALWAYS had an EXTREMELY hard time waking up early; even when I was a child, my sister would have to wake me up about 10x before I would get out of bed. I almost missed my school bus many times due to my chronic oversleeping – a very stressful way to start the day! I am ashamed to admit this pattern continued into my 20s, there were even a few times I overslept for my JOB. I was done with my bullsh*t at 28, so I decided to change my habits.
First, I did a TON of research on people who woke up early and worked out. What were their nighttime routines like? How did they start this habit? I was curious how I could develop this healthy habit and start my day on a bright note. I learned that many people who work out in the morning lay all their clothes out the night before, go to bed extremely early so they can settle down and sleep well before bed, spring out of bed instantly so they don’t press snooze in the morning, and just immediately leave their bedroom so they’re not tempted to relax. When I was trying to figure out how to do this, I set like 4 alarms until I got used to not snoozing – my nemesis.
Then, I PRACTICED getting up early, which means I’d spring up (totally exhausted and mad that I had to get up, mind you) and ran into the kitchen where I’d preset my coffee the night before. After that, I would just sit on my couch waking up. I didn’t really do anything those first couple of weeks. I just needed to get into the very different habit of leaving my room, and getting into the routine of being awake at 6 or 6:30am. Once I’d mastered sitting on the couch, I added in some of the habits I was hoping to create – meditating, journalling, using my happy light, and juicing. I started slowly, adding in one habit at a time until I was at a point where I could do all of those items and then hit the gym.
One thing that was extremely motivating for me at the time was the fact that both my partner and my best friend were early birds. They’d both been getting up early and working out for eons, so I basically just jumped into the club and asked them to support me in this goal. With the gym, I started very slowly; one little 20 minute workout at a time. I packed my gym bag with all of my products needed to shower and my work clothes, so I could shower at the gym and bounce to work. Gradually, I began spending more time working out in the morning until I became used to waking up, doing my morning routine, and working out for 45 minutes to an hour before I went to work for 8:30am.
I am not going to lie to you; at first it was super hard, but I got used to it. After a couple of months, my body started to change and I felt really invigorated. I still needed my 3pm coffee, but I had class after work from 6-9pm three nights a week, so it was a necessity. My very packed schedule at this point in my life, about 18 months ago, was to wake up at 6am, workout, work, study, then class 6-9pm, to get back home at 9:30pm and in bed by 10pm. It was intense, but structuring my day like that make me more productive, more energerized, and happier throughout the day.
I lost 10lbs in about 3 months, and then it all came crashing down when I went on vacation to Florida in March of 2019. I had the best trip, visiting my close friend from college, spending a week chilling at the beach and pool with my Nana and sister, and visiting Harry Potter World, a dream of mine for YEARS. Although I worked out 3x on my week away, which made me very proud of myself, when I got home, I was totally out of my routine, and it was so hard to pick it up again. Even though I was still working out almost every weekday, I didn’t get up early anymore, and I just never got back into it, even though I tried.
In my defense, part of the reason was I began a 20 hour a week internship on top of my 24 hour a week part-time job, and an additional 10 hours of catering on weekends, combined with teaching 3 hours of yoga a week, plus homework, friends, chores, and my boyfriend. That means I was working around 60 hours a week, and still managing to get to the gym most days, but I fell into my bed dead exhausted everyday. For the next few months, I was zipping all around the state, and before I knew it, it was summer, meaning later nights spent outside and more weekend activities.
Now, I am working from home, which means I can roll out of bed at 8am and still be on time for work at 8:30am. I actually haven’t consistently worked out doing any HIIT or running in about 6-7 weeks, focusing instead on more yoga, kayaking, hiking/walking, and bike riding, which is perfect for summertime. Although I am still keeping up my active lifestyle, juicing, reiki before bed which calms me down, and essential oil diffusing, I miss the routine I had before. I wanted to add back meditation for a long time, as well as consistent running or HIIT workouts, on top of my yoga, and weekend outdoor adventures.
Again, it’s all about priorities; when I want to sleep in, I do, without considering a larger goal of perhaps adding in those healthy habits I mentioned above. Even though I like the idea of doing those, I can’t really get into them, and I know why, for the most part. 1, I stay up really late reading, every night, until about 12am, which can make it difficult to get up at 8am, never mind 6 or 6:30am. Secondly, I don’t get into bed until about 9:30pm, due to playing outside usually ’til about 8pm, followed by about an hour of tv time.
I love the idea that your actions reflect your priorities. For me right now, those priorities include being outside, reading, and sleep, which is probably helping my health both my mental and physical health in other ways. Like, sleep is good for the brain, sunlight is good for the soul, and reading is my favorite thing in the world. My workouts have shifted with a desire to be out of t he house when it’s gorgeous out, and to be gentler on my body, but I still miss the elevated heart rate and satisfaction of doing a harder workout.
Like I said, I know how to do this because I have done this before, but my barriers are my other habits of staying up late, reading, and prioritizing sleep, so how can I change myself? “Before you judge someone or try to change them, remember how hard it is to change yourself”, one of my favorite quotes. It’s really hard to change our habits. Our habits are how we challenge ourselves.
Obviously Annie Dillard had it right when she said, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.” I liked when I listened to inspiring speeches everyday, meditated, listened to music I didn’t get to listen to often on my runs, went to work inspired from knowing the hardest thing I’d do all day was waking early and working out, used my essential oils and journalled during my morning. It ended with me speaking to myself in a positive light, due to sticking to the goals I’d set for myself.
I won’t change until I shift my priorities. We’re in a stressful time in our world, and I’m in a stressful time personally, figuring out finances, finding a new job, and moving, so maybe this is why my body’s intuitively telling me I don’t need the stress of waking up early right now. However, sometimes we need to force ourselves to do things that will make us feel great afterwards. Another thing I have noticed if that your environment really affects whether or not you will achieve this goal. For an example, cleaning my house the night before getting up early always helps me feel peaceful and calm in the mornings. Ditto for juicing and meal prepping the night before, laying out my clothes, and presetting my coffee; all of these habits influence my success.
When I was in my early 20s, I was a long-distance runner. I used to get out of work at 5pm, and go home and run 6-10 miles along Lake Champlain. I never felt tired or bored of this routine, and when I think back on it, what I remember most is feeling so renewed and inspired by it. This healthy habit influenced another, and another, and soon I was feeling the best I’d ever felt. When I tried to replicate this habit of long-distance running again, I noticed I would start and then not stick to it. I tried to figure out what the reason was – was it my shoes? I bought new shoes. Was it my playlists? I downloaded new playlists. Maybe I needed a friend to run with me? I invited a friend to join me on my jogs.
When it came down to it, I only realized this summer, after purchasing the greatest running shoes I’ve ever owned, having a drawer full of Lululemon and Athleta to support me on my runs, having multiple friends ask me repeatedly to run with them, and an amazing playlist is that those things supported my running habit, but my route did not. When I lived in Burling, Vermont, I was so incredibly inspired by running along the lake. I felt so good everytime I did it. Now, I run along a bike path which goes through a town. Yes, there are trees on either side of it, but it’s through a residential neighborhood. I don’t feel inspired at all by this route, but I haven’t find one that does inspire me like running along the lake did.
I’ve tried running along the beach, and although I was able to stay consistent with running that twice a week in March, now the beaches cost $10 to get on so I can’t run there… unless I run before 8:30am, when it’s free to get on the sand. Although I like running by the ocean, it’s very hard to do. Sand gets everywhere, and running on sand feels different on your legs. Although I could run alongside the beach on the road, it’s along a major highway which is always crowded with tourists – not the most relaxing place in the world. There is one run I’ve found – on a dirt trail, through a woodsy area, and along the ocean, that tends to be packed but not always, that I felt good doing, but the trail is not well maintained and often muddy, as well as a 10 minute drive from my house, so I don’t do it often. My lake run was two blocks from my house, and everytime I started out towards the lake, I would sprint down the hill with joy. I miss that feeling.
A final important note here – I never, not once, got sick of running along that lake, which made me want to do it everyday! When I lived in Vermont, that was my main form of exercise from about 22-23/24. An issue with my morning workouts, which made me less motivated? I got sick of them! So don’t be afraid to switch it up from time to time if you find yourself getting bored. It’s okay; just keep going.
Ignoring the hardships of switching to an earlier morning routine, one could easily see how great the benefits are. It’s not an easy practice, but if you’re able to commit to it, your life can improve in dramatic ways. The most important two things in my opinion are consistency and intention. From there, crafting a morning routine that works for you, so you can shift those back burner priorities to the front, and achieve your goal of putting yourself FIRST.
What is your morning routine?