Waking Up Early : A Small Habit Change With Big Results

View From My Driveway : Mt. Iwaki

Originally posted at http://sarahjoyalbrecht.com

I have always been a night owl. Just ask my parents.

As mom, staying up late conflicts with my children’s natural waking time of around 8am.

Last year, I was doing well with keeping a schedule. Since I came home from vacation, the schedule bombed. I became very homesick and stayed up really late chatting online with friends and family back home (who were awake in a different time zone) and writing to fill the void. Writing and keeping in touch are admirable, but they were not what I was supposed to be doing during those hours — resting so I could be refreshed for my family.

In the morning, I was waking up when my children wake up, instead of waking up a little earlier to get the day started. In other words, there no prep time in the morning, only hitting the ground in panic mode — a problem that no amount of coffee can fix.

Changing one’s sleeping and waking schedule is not an easy thing to do. However, I knew it was best for my family and it was what needed to be done.

Last week, I made a point to change. I was not used to going to bed earlier. For the first few nights, I stared at the ceiling, not tired, thinking, “Why am I doing this??”

I realized, though, that I fell asleep around midnight, before I would have normally gone to bed between 1am and 3am. It was a rough start that resulted in a small victory. After two days, I felt tired around 11pm. During this transition, I tuned into my body and noted that I need about seven hours of sleep to feel rested.

I did not make this change by myself, though.

Primal Stride began a challenge last week to wake at 5am and run 5k. With many people participating and Seth Simonds at the helm to motivate the crew, we have formed a community of sorts of people who are committed to doing small things and seeing big changes as a result.

The idea is that when you rejoice in victory over small changes, you challenge yourself a little more. Before you know it, you are rejoicing in bigger victories. By focusing on a small goal on the path to the bigger goal, I am not as overwhelmed. I am realizing I can apply this idea to more than going to bed on time and waking earlier.

The snow is about three feet deep presently, with nowhere to run outdoors. To make it work for me, I modified last week’s Primal Stride challenge by running up and down my stairs, which are quite steep and tall. The steps probably total nowhere near 5k, but my heart rate is up and my legs are shaking by the time I am done! A small victory.

On Reddit, we have a saying, “Pic or it didn’t happen”. Part of Primal Stride’s interactive challenge is to take a photo of the sunrise. This photo was taken January 4th. I bundled up, walked the recycling to the bin down the street and kept walking. It was more of a slow shuffle with arms out to balance. The roads are ice-covered. There is a sidewalk about two blocks from my house. I made it to the sidewalk and walked to its end. Then, on my way back, I fell right as a snowplow was passing by. The driver laughed. So did I. (I also learned that the snow plows are out at sunrise and that you can get trapped by them, as there is no shoulder to escape to when they come down the street. Unintentionally, I was quite annoying. They had to stop and wait for me to get to the next street before they could do their job. Oops!)

Above is a photograph taken of Mt. Iwaki at sunrise from our back driveway. Seeing the mountain made me realize the beauty I had been missing out on each morning. It is like looking at a fresh clean sheet of paper; a day waiting to be written upon. (Yes, I was that kid, who could not wait to get her crisp notebooks at the beginning of the school year!) Is that some serious motivation or what?

I feeling more rested and calm when I wake. The result is that I can be more focused on my writing in the morning, rather than staring at the screen, late at night, slowly hashing out words, overshadowed by feeling guilty for staying up so late. I am also prepared for my kids, so that I can meet their needs when they wake up without beginning the day with a meltdown.

As far as running up and down the steps? I can now run up and down 11 times before I have to stop. I started at having to stop after nine times. Throughout the day, I run up and down as many sets as I can fit in.

Want to join me for challenge #2?

Primal Stride Challenge 2 – Double Crunch

Begins: 12:01am Friday, January 8th, 2010

Ends: 11:59pm Thursday, January 14th, 2010


Exercise: 250 crunches per day. Split them up however you like. 250 crunches every 24hrs will do it.

Health: Eat a different green vegetable each day. Suggested modifications include eating a different fruit each day or preparing a green vegetable in a different way each day. It’s up to you! Be creative!

Remember: You can customize the food and amount of crunches to suit your needs. Just make sure to include the changes when you sign up by leaving a comment!

PS: If you are in a rut, no matter how deep or small, and need some literary motivation, I highly recommend these books from my library, which I have recently re-read :

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