When I was in my 20s, I would set my alarm for 6:45 a.m.—plenty early, I determined, to get up in order to be in the office by 8:30. And that seemed harshly early. I’d hit snooze a bunch of times until it was about 7:30 before reluctantly getting out of bed feeling just as tired as when I got in the night before. I’d slowly sip a cup of coffee, waiting for the caffeine to kick in before I felt like I could muster the strength for a shower.
I didn’t know how good I had it.
Enter marriage and subsequent babies in my 30s. Adorable, sweet, sticky babies who loved to wake up at all hours of the night, and who eventually slept through until morning but still believed 5 or 6 a.m. were ideal times to start the day. Sleep is a tiny human’s enemy, after all. (It keeps them from the fun parts of life, like jumping on couches and hitting their sister.) Sleeping until 6:45 is a fantasy these days, much like daily showers.
It wasn’t until my husband, Luke, and I had our second daughter that I realized something wasn’t working with our morning routine. I was always tired. Always tired. Even if I was lucky enough to sneak in a midday nap, I never felt caught up on sleep. My husband had the same complaints. This is just typical parent life, we thought. We just need more coffee.
Besides an IV of coffee, we found the only thing that seemed to consistently give us more energy was getting a workout in. We were lucky enough that we pieced together a pretty decent garage gym, so we had no excuses about not being able to leave the house.
But there was another barrier to overcome—for me, at least. I was always too tired to work out. I was tired in the morning, tired at night and either working or covered in children during the day. I used this (very valid, I may add) excuse for a long time.
Then my husband made a decision that sounded straight-up bonkers to me. He started waking up at 4:30 a.m. to get his workout in before our little blessings woke up. It wasn’t an easy adjustment—that extra 90 minutes of sleep was a precious thing to sacrifice. But slowly, like anything else, this became his new normal. Before long, he started yammering on about how amazing he felt. He had so much more energy. His mood improved. He felt less stress. He was able to go to work feeling confident about conquering the day. He was killing it.
I was still falling asleep standing up.
It took a lot of sweet persuasion on my husband’s part—some met with biting comebacks on my part—for me to believe that getting up earlier than I ever had before would give me more energy, but I finally signed on and gave it a try.
This is what my morning routine looks like today:
4:30: Alarm goes off. I hit snooze, obviously.
4:45: I get my booty out of bed.
4:50: I have a cup of coffee in my hand. It begins to bring me life.
5:00: I put on my mom uniform of workout clothes. But I’m not at all ready to start deadlifting anything.
5-5:50: Work time. I’m a freelance writer, so I need to write things. But it’s relaxing for me. I sip coffee and let my body come to terms with the fact that we’re going to work out soon. My husband is already a half hour into his workout. He doesn’t require as much warm-up time as I do.
5:55: I’m in the gym. I have 50 minutes to work out, on a good day, before our tiny humans wake up. Sometimes, my 4-year-old will sneak out of bed early and join me. I use her as a squishy weight while I squat. She seems to enjoy this.
6:45: Both kiddos are awake and demand cereal immediately.
This has been my regular schedule every day, with very few exceptions, for over a year, and honestly, I don’t think I can go back. Sleeping in and I aren’t even friends anymore—it makes my whole day feel off. I know how annoying that sounds. I don’t even know who I am.
On rest days—the days we don’t work out–I skip the gym but still get up and work, write, read or maybe go to an easy-ish yoga class, if my schedule allows.
The changes since joining Team 0430, as my military husband coined it, have been significant. I start the day with a feeling of accomplishment. I feel less stressed. I’d like to think I’m less bitchy, but that really depends on the day and don’t ask my husband for his opinion on it. There are obvious health benefits to working out regularly. I’m more inclined to choose less crappy foods throughout the day when I get my pump on first thing.
But the main benefit is the energy. Don’t get me wrong, life as a parent of two littles under 5 is still consistently tiring, but it’s a type of tiring that I feel like I can handle better. It’s the difference between a good tired—like after you take a strenuous hike—and a bad tired—like the kind that comes the morning after tequila shots.
And yes, this change requires a much earlier bedtime. My husband and I are typically in bed by 8 every night, reading or watching TV, and are usually asleep by 9, sometimes earlier. Staying up past then seems next-to-impossible, but this is an alright trade-off for me.
Would This Work for You?
There’s really only one way to find out: Try it out for a few weeks. Research says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. The first week, it’ll probably seem pretty brutal. The second week, it’ll feel more natural. The third week, it’ll become your new normal. Think of all you could get done with an extra two hours in your day. Two quiet hours (if you have kids). Two uninterrupted hours.
Of course, there are those who work second shift, who can’t go to bed early because of later evening commitments, or who start work at the time I’m suggesting you get up. And let’s not forget about those warriors ensconced in newborn land, whose presence is required next to a crib every few hours and who can’t remember when the last time is they changed their underwear.
Team 0430 might not fit into your life at 4:30 a.m. But I’d like to think it’s not so concrete. Team 0430 can be a mindset. Where is an hour or two in your day that you can carve out just for you? Is it from 8-10 p.m.? Is it at midnight? Is it your lunch hour? What time of day can you consistently and religiously set aside to prioritize self-care? It might not even be a workout—it might mean the time of day when you work on that book you’re writing, start that website, take a class you’ve been eying, volunteer at an animal shelter or simply sit in silence and breathe.