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The story goes that as a baby, I never wanted to go to sleep at the proper time. My parents tried, I resisted, and eventually I won the battle and my dad held me on his lap as he watched David Letterman. I have never been a morning person. I used to be an EXTREMELY-NOT-A-MORNING-PERSON, which I'm sure made getting ready for school in mornings absolutely delightful for my parents. I was never the type of kid to wake up on a Sunday morning and watch cartoons before my parents rose. I was always the type of kid to straggle into the kitchen at noon and wonder what had happened to the day.
When I was a sophomore in college, I spent a semester in London. I experienced unbelievably terrible jet lag when I arrived there, the effects of which lasted for nearly a week. Once recouped, I noticed something strange: it was as if the extreme time zone change had reset my internal clock. Something shifted inside of me and I was no longer a Stay Up To Midnight, Sleep In 'Til Noon type. Even when I returned to the US three months later, things were forever changed. Every day of my life until London, it was extremely rare for me to wake up before noon if I didn't have to. Every day of my life since London, it's been extremely rare for me to sleep past 9.
The point is that although I'm no longer an EXTREMELY-NOT-A-MORNING-PERSON, I'm still not a morning person. Thanks to my work-from-home freelance career, I don't have to wake up at a certain time every day — through years of trial and error, though, I've realized it's best if I generally do. So this is what I've discovered about myself: my body naturally likes to wake up between 8 and 9 a.m. Unfortunately, my husband wakes up earlier than this during the week and therefore I usually wake up a little earlier than this too.
Here's another thing I've discovered about myself: I don't move very fast in the mornings. I am in no way, shape or form the type of person who leaps out of bed and is ready to seize the day. Add to this the fact that I recently gave up coffee and you've got yourself one zombie-like NOT-morning person. Lately I've realized that there are a lot of people out there who somehow, someway pull themselves out of bed at extremely early hours of the day to get their workouts in before work. I think this is beyond admirable and I've certainly tried over the years to pull off similar feats.
But here's the thing: I'M JUST NOT A MORNING PERSON. I'm just not. I can think it's wonderful in theory to get up at 5 and be done with my workout before my husband even leaves for work, but there's honestly no chance in hell that's ever going to happen (until I have a baby, in which case I'll obviously have no choice but to wake up before I'd like to). As long as I'm child-free, though, I'm going to cling to those last few hours of morning sleep in all their precious glory.
The reason why I'm telling you all of this is to let you know that if you're like me, IT'S OKAY. I know there are hundreds of valid, scientific, logical, practical, tactical reasons why so many experts recommend waking up early to get a good workout in. You're less likely to skip a workout if you get it done first thing. You'll feel so much better when you have the entire day ahead of you. You're more inclined to half-ass an evening workout because you're tired from the rest of your day. There are many other completely valid reasons why early morning workouts are so highly recommended.
But if you're like me and you just absolutely cannot force yourself to wake up early, I'm here to tell you that IT'S OKAY. Every morning, I stumble through a slow-mo routine of eating breakfast, getting a little work done, milling about, and THEN I do my workout. Sometimes it's after lunch when I finally get to it — and that's OKAY, because that's when I'm ready to tackle it and sometimes I'm just not ready first thing in the morning. If I have work that's weighing on my mind, I have to get it out of the way first. If I'm hungry, I have to eat first. I'm able to prioritize my workouts within the context of my days without having them be THE first thing I do during the days.
What I've discovered in the last few weeks is that there are times when I have no choice but to put my workout off until later in the day. Take last week, when the sidewalks in the morning were covered with solid ice that melted by late afternoon. I had no choice, then, but to save my runs for late afternoon. Weather tends to be a huge dictator in the timing of my runs. Since I run outdoors, I'm at its mercy. If it's pouring down rain when I first wake up but I see there's going to be a break in a few hours, then I'm sure as heck going to wait a few hours. And I'm not going to feel guilty about it, because there are so many other things (mostly work-related) I can accomplish in the meantime.
The problem I have with the YOU MUST WAKE UP EARLY TO WORK OUT methodology is that it goes so counter to my natural state. Believe you me, I will force myself to nurse a crying baby at 3 a.m. when her survival is depending on me. But forcing myself to wake up for an early workout is just not in my cards, as much as I completely admire those who are able to do so. And so, like with everything else that has to do with body image and eating and exercising, I say: Lose the guilt. If you're not a morning person, you're not a morning person. You do not need to force yourself to become a morning person. I realize I'm insanely lucky because as someone who works from home, I have the luxury of being able to work out at 10 a.m. one day and 2 p.m. another. Not everyone has such a luxury and I appreciate that, but even if you work a full day away from home I think you STILL don't need to force yourself to wake up early if you're not a morning person. Going to the gym after work is not always the most ideal situation, but in my opinion it's better than trying to force yourself out of your natural rhythm.
You know yourself. You know what kind of person you are. You know what hour you can tolerate when it comes to waking up. If you want to challenge yourself to get up earlier, that's great — but if you find yourself absolutely miserable in the process, give it up guiltlessly and squeeze your workouts into your day some other time.
As someone who is not at all a morning person, I'm here to tell you IT'S OKAY. Huge props to anyone and everyone who finds ways throughout their days to squeeze in physical activities, but don't get caught up in the idea that there's only ONE way to do this thing right.