The allure of *very* early mornings

There’s a very happy dream I have every so often that seems obvious in its meaning. In this dream I open a door and discover a new room in my house. It’s big and airy, spacious and unused. I wonder how we never noticed it before. I’m going to keep it a secret and in the dream I think about all the possible uses for the new secret room. Freedom! Possibility!

Time is a bit the same way. I dream for extra unclaimed hours. In our heavily scheduled days and planned holidays what’s best is found time. I love time without competing demands. Meetings that get cancelled at the last minute are the very best. Sometimes when I’m triple booked I think I could just claim this time and do none of the things. Working in airports with flight delays can also feel like found time.

This desire for extra hours is part of what makes very early mornings so alluring. It can also feel like found time. You get up while the rest of the world sleeps.

Now to be clear I write this as a morning person. This morning I was up at 530 am and at my desk on campus working by 7. I love the early hours but it’s the very early hours I find alluring.

What’s the appeal? It’s so quiet here on campus, working alone. At home there’s also the benefit of very few other people being up and around. You’ve got a real jump on the day. By comparison in the evening, extra hours can be wasted on television but no one watches television in the morning. What’s my mother’s saying? An hour sleep before midnight is with two afterwards? Also, “nothing good happens after midnight.”

Mornings are also about doing important things. You need a good reason to be up so early. Like writing, or exercise, or meditation.

“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom”. – Aristotle

Being an early riser is associated with success on all sorts of fronts: career, fitness, writing. Why? It all comes down to the same idea. Good things happen in the morning. In theory you could snack on healthy food and exercise in the evening. But the truth is, very few of us do.

Here’s former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink featured in Business Insider about his 4:30 am workout schedule.

Willink shares an image of his digital wristwatch with his thousands of Twitter followers every morning, and it always reads about 4:30 a.m. It’s a habit he picked up in the SEALs after noticing that the highest performers woke up the earliest.

As a civilian, it can be easy to have your entire day filled, and exercise usually doesn’t get top priority. Willink’s advice is simple: Start going to bed earlier, get your gym clothes ready before you go to sleep, get up while the rest of your coworkers are sleeping, and jump into your gym shorts.

Now I’m no fan of getting up in the dark but the truth is I’m doing that no matter what. It’s not light until 730 am. But what time in the dark? For a few years I got up at 430 to bike to school and be ready on the pool deck for swimming at 6. Other times I got up that early to ride to the start of bike training, also at 6 am.

But without team training commitments, whether swimming or cycling, even CrossFit worked, I’m not sure I’m able to do it. Not 4:30 am anyway.

I might start with 5:30 and see how it goes. Right now my alarm goes off at 6:30. I’ll report back.

You? Are you an early riser and exerciser? How early is early?

See also Confessions for a former morning person and Hugging the Blankies.

Elsewhere, 12 Lessons of Waking Up at 4:30 am for 21 Days – Life Hacks.

11 thoughts on “The allure of *very* early mornings

  1. I love this. I also love your list: “Mornings are also about doing important things. You need a good reason to be up so early. Like writing, or exercise, or meditation.” Before I read the whole post, those were the exact things on my list of things that I have ever regularly gotten up to do very early in the morning. Also add class prep, on those days when I’m behind the eight ball. But it’s not a “practice” the way the other early mornings are. I’m also at 6:30 right now (meditation) and don’t think I’ll be budging from that until the early daylight of summer comes back. Thanks for a great post that made me pause over the value of early mornings. They have an entirely different tone to them. The silence of the early mornings is just priceless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Re: summer light. For me, since it’s always dark when I get up I guess I think how dark, how far away the light is, doesn’t matter so much.


      1. I guess. I’m talking about mid-summer when it gets light at 5. That’s when I find it VERY easy to go running at 6. I also get up in the dark a lot, but I way prefer getting up in the light. As a fellow morning person, I can’t even fathom still being in bed after 8. Even 8 is a huge sleep-in for me. My conundrum is always that there are only so many things you can do “first thing in the morning.” Even if they’re all good things, they can’t all be done. So I’ve had different phases. I’m in a meditation phase now. But a writing phase could come on soon too (deadline approaching!). Anyway, it’s a great post and I like thinking about my mornings and what I value about them.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I am an evening exerciser. It fits with my life.
    This week I have tried something different and added a 30 minute work out at 5:30.i do it at home.
    So far I have liked it. I am shocked at how stiff I am in the morning, and how hard even weightless exercises are that aren’t yoga!
    Clearly it’s something I need.

    It’s very dark here now. I ask myself why I didn’t do this in the summer when it’s always light…no easy answer. I am a procrastinator.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am naturally a very early riser ever since I was cycle commuting. Before I wasn’t which was pre-30’s.

    I agree that the peacefulness of a bike ride during that time of morning is lovely. Of course, I don’t ride through rural, forested areas outside of town during this time.


  4. In our area, if it gets windy ..it actually tends to happen in late afternoon. Not early morning..it’s a weather phenomena in our prairie area of Canada because the winds are affected by the mountains 100 km. away and depending on the temperature conditions, it can cause increase in wind velocity.


  5. “Being an early riser is associated with success on all sorts of fronts: career, fitness, writing. Why? It all comes down to the same idea. Good things happen in the morning. In theory you could snack on healthy food and exercise in the evening. But the truth is, very few of us do.”

    I found it very difficult not to read this post, particularly this paragraph, as yet another slam against anyone who isn’t a morning person. As a night owl, I get tired of being told that I’m lazy, unmotivated etc.

    Good things can and do happen any time of the day. I take aerial classes and go the gym in the evenings, right after I finish work. I come home in the evenings and pay bills, do laundry and prepare healthy meals.

    As a society, we seem to be slowly, finally moving away from the idea that a person’s worth and moral value is determined by their weight and size. It would nice if we could also start understanding that a person’s worth, value and potential for success is not determined by their circadian rhythm.


    1. Hey. Agreed. It’s attractive to me, for me because I’m already a morning person. Up at six without an alarm but 430 takes alarms. I know friends who feel the same way about time after kids go to bed. Found time! And I’ve got a partner who joined a 24 hour gym because the alternative seemed to be gyms that closed at 10. I’m the kid of two bakers. But I recognize it’s not for everyone. Sorry if the post sounded judgemental. I didn’t mean it that way.


Comments are closed.