How to have a powerful morning routine

My eyes peel open and focus in on the clock. It’s 4:25am, five whole minutes before my alarm is set to go off. This is the routine for the last few weeks since switching up and waking up before 5am. Part of me loves it, while the other part dreads it. How does my body know that it’s almost time to get up? 

I’m sure there is some scientific answer as to why my body is ready to get up before my alarm but I’m going with a more simpler response, its out of habit. 

When I hear someone say “I’m not a morning person.” My first reaction is that you can be if you were in the habit of waking up in the morning. Since I was 19, so almost 20 years, mornings have been my thing but not because I wanted to, it was my job. As a personal trainer, you worked the hours most people were off work, aka early mornings and late afternoons. So for the past 20 years my days started before sunrise. 

For a long time, I would struggle with getting up at 5am to get to the gym by 6am. I’d often find myself snoozing until the last possible moment I could before being late. And thanks to my work attire, I could always show up with no makeup and a hat on. I knew it took 15 minutes to drive to the gym so I would often be racing out of bed at 5:30a to get dressed and out the door by 5:45a.

I would feel rushed, out of sorts and hungry every time but it was how I got through the early days. It was a honest struggle every other day. Years passed and this never changed. I hated the early mornings because I immediately felt like I was behind from the moment I woke up.

Then something shifted when I started working with a health coach. Not only was I getting up before my alarm, I was doing it without needing to be anywhere. I was simply starting my day before the sunrise and I loved it. So what changed?

I started to look at what I was doing on my worst days – you know the ones where nothing goes the way you planned. I looked for the habits that I did no matter what, even when I didn’t feel like it, I still got certain things done. You know the tasks… drinking my coffee, going to the bathroom and brushing my teeth. These were the tasks I did without thinking. 

I know it’s going to sound simple but that’s the point… simple makes it doable and if it’s doable then it can be done consistently, and then if it’s done consistently then guess what, it’ll become automatic, just like brushing your teeth in the morning. It’s routine.

Knowing what you already do is essential if you are going to try and change something for the better. It comes from intention. How do you get to Disneyland if you don’t know where you’re starting from? Now here’s a caveat to this detail — you won’t like where you’re starting, you may even not want to admit this little fact. Your current reality is an acquired taste so if you don’t like what you see then you’re on the right track.

I often share this story about how I cried to my husband in the early days of parenting that I had no idea if I had brushed my teeth that day. Friends, it was 10:00pm when I was in tears. I felt disgusting and exhausted but this was my reality, this is where I started. Thankfully my husband did not find me disgusting and offered a simple statement that shifted everything for me. He is a man of few words but his words made a huge impact. He said, “Well Ashley, there’s still time left in the day.”

Que the ah-ha moment. There was, and I still could do it. I got up after getting Kai settled in bed and I brushed my teeth. It was such a big win. For you that remember those newborn days, you know what I’m talking about. That was the moment I made a shift in my morning routine. Every morning I went to the bathroom — so I decided I’d stack the habit with brushing my teeth. That’s where it started and now it looks like getting up 2.5 hours before the house does so that I can have a power-packed morning that is solely designed to fill MY cup. 

I do the things that fuel me for the day. Drinking coffee by myself. Reading a devotional. Journaling some thoughts. Reading a book. Working out with my Tonal. Unloading the dishwasher, yes this makes my heart happy knowing the kitchen is cleaned up for the day. These have become my non-negotiables EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

The mornings are my golden time. It is when I fill my cup to then pour into my clients, coaches, friends, and family. It is where I can prepare for what the day brings (curve balls and all). It is where I take a deep breath and process the hopes and dreams in my heart that have yet to be fulfilled. It is where I can process the hard things in my life to allow space to figure out how to navigate. It is also a place where I can show myself some self-care. 

Not every day is rainbows and sunshine but what I have found is that when I give myself this space to charge me up, I’m better equipped for what life throws at me. 

Here’s what I know… your morning routine matters as much as your evening routine. These are the book ends to your day. Protecting this time is essential for progress. These are my top 5 tips for developing this time.

1. Decide what your ideal routine would look like on your worst day. Why your worst day? Because you will have them and yet you will still get things done. You can always do more, but the goal is to show up for the minimum.

2. Stop the snooze. There is actual science that backs this but it is proven that when you snooze it hurts you more than it helps you.

3. Set your phone on the other side of the room. This will help you from mindlessly scrolling at night and it will force you to get up in the morning to turn off your alarm.

4. Set up Screen Time on your phone. Again, this will help you structure your night and mornings to have access to certain apps. It’ll be the little reminder to yourself to help you break the habit of going to your phone for the latest social media posts or emails. 

5. Give yourself time to adjust. If you typically wake up at 8am, don’t expect to be able to wake up at 4am every day. Start with 30 min increments to allow your body and mind to adjust. It will be easier to stay consistent if you allow your body to adjust slowly. It has taken me over a year to go from waking up at 7am to 4:30am but now it happens naturally.

Number 5 is the secret to making any kind of change. So often we change to many things and our minds can sustain it for a short time before wanting to go back to old ways. Making the smaller adjustments allows for your mind and body to be able to adjust easier.