My room is shrouded in darkness.
I walk to the kitchen.
Black iced coffee.
Nike sweater on.
Out the doo-
Ah crap, almost forgot my keys.
Ok, NOW out the doo-
Can’t forget shoes either.
Wow, it’s cold.
Why do I do this to myself?
*drive to the gym*
It’s chest and shoulders today.
*flip on the playlist*
*Warm-up, then hit heavy weights for an hour*
Now, my day has truly begun.
It was January 2020.
I had been skeptical about the whole “early bird grind” thing for a while. It was gaining traction on social media and productivity accounts wouldn’t shut up about the benefits of waking up early. As a college senior on a nonexistent sleep schedule, afternoon class routine, and intermittent fasting, I pondered:
“This couldn’t possibly help me in any shape or form. I’d be exhausted if I woke up at the break of dawn. It’d be a losing battle.”
On the other hand, my curiosity consumed me.
“CEOs, entrepreneurs, and athletes rave about it. Mark Wahlberg takes it a little too far. But maybe they’re on to something.”
Also, it’s not just bro science. Science backs it up too.
I decided to give it a shot. After all, if I didn’t like it, so be it. At least I tried.
I would try waking up at 5am every morning, except weekends. My goal was to keep it up for a month. Here’s what happened:
The first few days were hell. I resisted the alarm and was easily discouraged by my pitch black room. It wasn’t uncommon for me to lay in bed, only to realize it was nearly 5:45am by the time I actually got up. I would immediately chug some water and a healthy dose of iced black coffee (this marked the first time in my life I regularly consumed coffee).
As an extra challenge, I also wanted to see how this newfound schedule would affect my workout routine. I pushed through the fatigue and forced myself to the gym every morning. To my surprise, I felt AMAZING. Even within the first few days, I was killing every workout. Contrary to what you might intuitively assume, I felt energized and strong as an ox.
Following the gym (now around 7am), I would walk to the campus library and grind out some work and studying. I found it surreal how much more daylight and time I had to work with. While I was a bit more groggy than usual, I could still function. My classes were a bit of a struggle to get through, but I was able to retain just enough energy to maintain focus.
After social activities and work, I initially struggled with hitting the hay early. My past curfew varied anywhere between 12am-3am every night. I drastically changed this cycle and would instead knock out between 10-11pm.
After clearing the second week, my lifestyle changes became second nature. I actually began to view the shadows of dawn as a welcoming sight. I had crafted a seamless routine that I enjoyed:
- Gym session (5:45am-6:45am)
- Studying/general schoolwork (7am-11ish am)
- Classes (11:30am-5pm)
- Social/other (~5pm-10/11pm)
- Sleep (~10/11pm–5am)
It was also around this time that people would notice my 5:45am gym Snapchat stories and naturally inquire:
“Why the f**k do you wake up at 5am?”
To which, I would respond:
“Because it feels amazing!”
…which was met with a cluster of confused faces.
In either case, I just felt efficient and happy.
- I was hitting my workouts hard and even setting some PRs.
- I wasn’t falling asleep in my classes.
- I got all my work done and still had several hours to play around with.
- My sleep quality was amazing.
I felt so great, in fact, that I decided to continue this routine for an additional two months. I kept my word and managed to make it through the end of March with this new schedule. Ultimately, I resumed sleeping in after March, but only because COVID prompted me to move back home as my school became remote.
Obviously, this WON’T work for everyone. I’ll admit that my prior background with intermittent fasting and fasted weight training probably made this early bird transition much easier. I don’t need any food in the morning and am used to functioning on an empty stomach, so these factors probably lessened how much I had to adapt. Also, I’m aware that not everyone drinks coffee in the morning, so that will affect your mood and energy levels accordingly. At the end of the day, if you’re not a morning person, then you’re simply not a morning person.
That being said, I would argue that the benefits were freaking awesome.
My definition of productivity was flipped on its head. The extra hours at my disposal really changed the game. The initial grogginess dissipated after just a week. My sleep quality was exponentially better.
I felt a sense of control over my life that I hadn’t quite felt before.
Again, to entirely attribute all of these amazing byproducts to waking up early is probably not accurate. I’m sure that some of these benefits arose due to my personal preferences and natural receptivity.