@ Oh-Dark-Thirty

I get texts from my cycling mates who join me early on Tuesday and Thursdays often with the phrase, “See you @ Oh-Dark-Thirty.”   

I’ve been getting up early to do a workout for practically as long as I can remember.   I’ve been doing so at least since I was 12 years old and paddled five days a week before going to school.  Even in college I’d get up before everyone but the swim and cross-country teams to go paddle on the campus lagoon at UC Santa Barbara.   The swimmers and runners would wave to me as I rode my bike to campus where I stored my canoe on some hidden racks by the lagoon. We were a community of people awake before everyone else. I’d ride home after paddling and go back to bed many days but would still get up early for the workout. 

6:12 AM

Now in my mid-50s, I still get up early, and not just on Tuesday and Thursday.  I go paddling or run (or both) the other three days, and don’t sleep in on Saturday and Sunday either.  On the weekend, I get up at about the same time and instead read the news and blog posts that I’ve marked for reading later during the week.  Here’s the thing though —  I don’t know anyone that gets up at 5am or earlier that is not also a goal oriented and achieving person.  

I’m not a morning person.  No, really!

Despite this habitual early rising, I still don’t think of myself as a “morning person.”  I suppose I must be, but it’s not that I like to get up early, it’s that I need to.   

It is in the early morning hours where I find time that I can guarantee will be mine completely. 

There’s no distractions; I’m not skipping work, or family obligations, and no one is scheduling things to do at this time.  I simply cannot make the time during the day to workout as much as I would like to with the other commitments I have in my life that require my time.  

Tips for making “@ Oh-Dark-Thirty” work for you 

Preparing for the mornings is part of a bedtime ritual for me.  I put my training clothing and gear in our guest bathroom the night before, shortening the time it takes to get ready in the morning and hopefully allowing me to do so in a manner that doesn’t disturb the rest of the household.  I am nearly always up before my alarm wakes me.

Oh-Dark-Thirty is a hard habit to create and I would not say it is something that gets easier.  The pull to sleep in and take the morning slow is a strong one. The times I’ve had injuries or been sick have forced me to change my morning routines.  It’s pretty easy to sleep in longer and go to bed later – my body seems to crave it.

It is always hard to get up at 5am, in the dark and cold.  But I do it anyway.  By keeping the chain of days unbroken, it becomes harder to skip.  Having partners to join me even two or three days a week helps.  Reminding myself of how good I feel at the end of my workouts, or seeing what I’ve gotten done early in the morning, is the real motivator though.  I want to get through the hard stuff first.  Always.

  •  Make it a daily habit.  Think of getting up early as a system, not a habit.  For some people, it doesn’t have to be early in the morning — it just needs to be a block of time you make sacred and reserve for yourself and your goals.
  • Prepare for this sacred time by having your tools, clothing, or gear ready ahead of time.  I get up only 15 minutes before leaving the house for my workout.  I often get some email sorted out during this time, too. 
  • Find a training partner or way of making your actions accountable to others.  Training alone is harder to do; knowing someone will be waiting or expecting something of you is a huge motivator.
  • Log your efforts — be that a training log, a journal, or to-do application’s checkbox.  It’s harder to “break the chain” if the chain exists physically and not just figuratively.

You may not think of yourself as a morning person either.  Or, you may have to go to work early (or perhaps really late).  If you want to make the time to do something important to you, consider the freedom you get by being up early.   If you’d like to join a small community of hard workers, Oh-Dark-Thirty might be a phase you come to embrace, too. 

Photo by Drew Story. Paddling a sprint canoe in the Ventura Harbor.