At first it was fun. The alarm would go off, and you’d emerge from bed as a proud triathlete—unscathed by the wee hours and immune to the Average Joe excuses for early-morning exercise. For you, the 5 a.m. alarm was a badge of honor, its song almost ceremonial as you slipped into your padded shorts, swimsuit or sneakers to start the day with a workout.
But at some point, even the most enthusiastic athlete will encounter a rough patch with early mornings. The snooze button, after all, looms just an arm’s length away, and you know that pushing it will transport you to a world of warm blankets where all dreams come true. You romanticize the idea of nuzzling back into the sheets, but alas, a high thread count won’t help you log cycling miles, complete hill sprints, or improve your swim stroke. The snooze button is akin to the deadly Sirens who will lure you to the rocky shores and destroy your training routine one missed workout at a time.
So how do you get over this hump and reactivate your tri-mojo? You have to remind yourself why you fell in love with 5 a.m. in the first place, and take some time to nurture the relationship back to health. In the spirit of the month of love, here are three tips for rekindling the romance with your alarm clock—just in time for Valentine’s Day.
1. Work on Your Night Moves
No, I’m not talking about those moves. I’m talking about the relationship you have with your bed—starting with what time you get under the covers. The easiest way to make 5 a.m. feel better is to go bed earlier the night before. Think of it as a pre-paid snooze. If you give yourself a little extra time on the front end, you won’t crave it as much on the back end. Try to do something relaxing and quiet when you get in bed—read a book, sip some tea, or listening to soft instrumental music. Avoid watching television, which can re-engage your mind and keep you alert into the later hours. If you share a bed with your significant other, steer clear of any conversations that might be stressful or argumentative.
2. Get a Rider
Take a cue from the divas and rock stars of the world, and come up with a rider. Just as celebrities need things to be “just so” in their dressing rooms, you need to set the stage for early-morning success as you head into your workout. Make a list of the things you require to easily get out the door in the morning, and prep your territory the night before. Before going to sleep, set up the coffee maker and breakfast items on the counter, lay out the clothing you’ll put on, and pack the bags you’ll need for the rest of the day. Driving to your workout? Get the bags in the car the night before and leave a breakfast bar on the dashboard. This way all you need to do is wake up and rock!
3. Go Pavlov
Conditional reflexes are powerful, just ask Pavlov’s dog. Encouraging the body to react a certain way based on a specific stimulus can help us uncover new ways to focus on our goals. For example, find something enjoyable to do when the alarm goes off (you know, aside from 800-repeats), so you begin to associate the sound with something immediately positive. Maybe it’s a certain song that plays when the alarm sounds—something that sets the mood for a great workout— or it could be wrapping yourself in a plush bathrobe as you make your coffee. If that doesn’t work, try planting the stimulus the night before. Think of a word that describes how you want to feel during your workout, write it on an index card in big black marker, and place it next to the alarm clock. It will be the last thing you see before turning off the lights, and a reminder of what to focus on first thing in the morning.
It may take some time for Cupid’s golden arrow to bring bliss back to the early morning wake-up call, so be patient and remember how good it feels to get your training completed before the day starts tugging you in different directions. Outside demands can derail an evening workout, but only your own can keep you from reconnecting with 5 a.m.
Lisa Barnes is a newly-certified USAT Level 1 coach and an Ironman athlete who lives and trains in upstate New York. In her monthly column Life Trainer, she helps triathletes balance other aspects of life with their passion for multisport.