Fit Life

Up Before The Sun: How I Stay Motivated To Get My Morning Runs In

One of the best things about summer in Sacramento is the wonderfully long days. The earth is lit up from the early hour of roughly 5 am, until just about 9 pm. For a warm weather worshiper like myself, this means HEAVEN.

On the flipside, one of the worst things about summer in Sacramento is the oppressive heat [if you live in Sac, then you can totally relate to the god awful heat wave we just experienced a couple of weeks ago].

For me, there isn’t much else out there that’s harder to motivate myself for than working out. I am usually able to justify that I have much more important things to do in what little free time I do have than going to the gym or getting a yoga session in.

Which is why I have to get my butt outta bed and get my heart rate up at the beginning of my day. I mean, it’s not as if I’m going to get up and craft something at 5 am..

But seriously, I understand how difficult it is to climb out of bed much earlier than you actually have to be up for your workday. I am the queen of turning off my alarm, setting a new one, and going back to sleep for an hour-and-a-half.

So, then, where do I get my motivation? How is it that I’m able to get out of bed at 5 am, Monday through Friday, and run 3 to 5 miles [aside from wanting a bangin’ ass bod]?

Here are a few of my tips on how I light a fire under my ass every morning:

Don’t sleep in your workout clothes. In my own experience, already having the clothing on when I wake up doesn’t get me any more motivated to get up and make use of them. Instead, I lay my clothes out the night before – that way I am forced to get up, get out of bed, take my PJ’s off and put my workout clothes on, all the while getting my blood moving and slowly helping my body come awake. I even lay out my clothes in the guest room so that I’m not tempted to hop back in bed.

Train your mind to accept the new wake-up time. I know how difficult this is. Believe me. More often than not, my alarm goes off and I think wistfully of the extra hour of sleep I could get if I just stayed in bed this one day.. But I know my body, and I know myself. One more measly hour will actually make me feel worse instead of better. And once you’ve woken up early enough mornings in a row, your body will get accustomed to the routine, and actually begin to wake itself on its own. Just resign yourself to the fact that this is your life now – this is your schedule. Plus, once you get your workout done, you could potentially be done for the day! [Sidenote: having a dog that exercises with you is another helpful wake up tool. Bella is accustomed to our early schedule – at roughly five minutes to five, every morning, I hear her climb off the couch, shake her head, and come clattering to the end of the hallway to sit and whine until I get up. Hard to ignore, and a total guilt trip if I don’t at least exercise my poor doggy.]

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to stretch thoroughly before you exercise. I can’t stress this enough! I have had far too many injuries from not prepping my body correctly for a run. I am prone to weak ankles and also suffer from tight hips, which for a runner are a couple of doozies. When it’s really cold out I spend 15-30 seconds stretching each muscle that is impacted by running. It helps to wake my muscles and warm them up a bit. Supposedly we aren’t supposed to stretch until after we’ve done a warm up, but I know my body well enough to know what it needs – and it needs to be stretched before physical activity. [You should also stretch and/or foam roll after runs and workouts.]

Do some breathing exercises before you hit the pavement. This has helped me tremendously. Especially in the early days when I’m just getting back into running, whether I’ve taken a few months off or was forced to take a couple weeks off due to a cold or the flu. I always struggle the most with getting my lungs back into shape [they say it takes a full week to get your endurance back]. If I find myself gasping for air mid-run, I try and focus on getting back the control of my breath. Even though it’s extremely difficult, I force myself to breathe deeply while I run, in through the nose, out through the mouth. I find that filling the chest and the belly full of air, and then forcing it all out, really helps me to regain my endurance. I also suggest slowing your pace a bit. Since I run with Bella who always tugs me along a little bit, I tend to be unaware of how swiftly we are moving. Often times that is a contributor to why I get so short of breath.

Invest in some decent workout clothes! I cannot stress this enough. The last 15ish years I have been working out in scrubs – old cheer shorts, worn out t-shirts from soccer tournaments in my teens, or sorority shirts from my early twenties. Oh, and shoes that are so old that they’re coming apart at the soles. Nothing makes you feel crummier than throwing on old shit and trying to get motivated. I know workout clothes can be expensive these days. And I know how painful it is to have to spend money on something expensive that you’re just going to sweat in. But honestly, you feel SO much better about yourself if you feel good in what you’re wearing. It’s such a silly concept but for me it’s proven to be true. I am always replenishing my supply, and I definitely always ensure that my shoes are up-to-date and are going to provide me with proper support. For those of you who think it’s “cool” to wear Chucks [Converse] to the gym – it’s not!! You NEED more support than that, even if you’re just pumping iron or doing low impact cardio. I go to Fleet Feet to get my shoes – they fit you for runners according to how you walk and stand and how narrow or wide your feet are. [Sidenote: because athleisure is such a “thing” now, so many stores are carrying athletic apparel. Target actually has some great clothes for a reasonable cost.]

Purchase a fitness watch of some sort. I am an Apple consumer through-and-through, so I, myself, am an Apple Watch wearer. FitBits are great, too – my fiancé wears one. Honestly, just getting a product that keeps track of your steps, your distance, and your calories burned is a game-changer. It’s amazing how motivating it is to be able to look down at your wrist and see your progress for the day. One of my favorite features of the Apple Watch is the ability to share your activities with other Apple Watch wearers [I believe FitBit offers a similar feature, as well]. So, not only can I track my own progress, but I can see how my friends are doing, too. My best friend, for example, burns anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 calories A DAY. Every time I get a ping on my watch that she’s completed another workout, it makes me want to hop out of my desk chair and do the same.

Let’s be honest – everybody is different. Obviously not everyone will be able to get up and work out before work or school or whatever it is that fills your days. BUT, if you’re like me and just need a little push in the right direction, the above are what have helped me to semi stay on track with my workouts. Find what works for you and stick to it as much as you can. And don’t forget that it’s completely okay to have off days. Yesterday I was too sore from Tuesday’s five miler and a booty workout to go for a run, so I just let my body have a rest day. And I felt great and ready to go today! Again, whatever works for YOU and your body.

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Motivation Monday [or Friday, Whatever..]

There is nothing like a trip to Southern California [and a simultaneous five days off from reality] to really get one’s ass in gear.

I mean, there really is no better place than SoCal to go if you want to find some motivation. And this really goes for anything.

I have never, ever thought I was fat. In fact, I consider myself extremely lucky that, at two years shy of the dirty thirty, and I still look great. And this is with minimal to no exercise AT ALL. And, on occasion, eating healthy.

So recently, during a trip to sunny San Diego with Bella, in which I stayed in San Marcos with my best friend and her fiance, I found myself striving for a better me.

Since my friend had to work that Friday, Bella and I set off for Del Mar. We walked on the beach and ate lunch at a little restaurant called The Americana [super dog-friendly and right in the little downtown area]. As I sat there enjoying my ice cold beer [hey – I was on vacation, okay?], I began to think, “This is a place that I could call home.” Maybe not Del Mar per se, but San Diego in general. Or SoCal.

And, as coincidence would have it, I also happened to stumble across Paige Hathaway‘s Instagram page [fitness guru and also just straight beautiful]. And, let me tell you, there is nothing more motivating than seeing a woman who is in shape but also has womanly curves [because, let’s be honest, I am just really not into the whole muscular woman thing – when you begin to lose your curves and look like a man, it is just not attractive].

A couple of days ago, Ms. Hathaway wrote a caption to one of her photos that really just spoke to me. She said:

“Greatness will not find you: you have to find it, and you have to work damn hard for it too. Growing up we’ve always heard ‘follow your dreams, don’t settle for anything less.’ We’re taught to do work for the love of it, not for the money. This is a nice goal to strive for, but once you move out and bills start piling up – reality hits. You might feel slighted, lied to, or unfairly left out of the wonderment that life was supposed to bestow on you. Is it possible to do what you love, be successful, and be happy the rest of your life? Absolutely – but you have to WORK REALLY HARD, EVERY SINGLE DAY to get there.

You have to do those 10,000 sketches, play 10,000 gigs, study and practice for 10,000 hours, etc. Stay late, come in early, put in over time, sacrifice, be consistent and never give up. You have to put in the work in order to get there. Figure out who your heroes are in your chosen lifestyle, and focus on the stories of the boring crap they had to do in order to get there. The media loves stories of people who just happened to be in the right place at the right time and got lucky, but for the other 99.99999% – this is not the case.

We all were put on this earth to achieve our greatest self, to live out our purpose, and to do it courageously. But if you really want to do great things in your life, then you have to take chances and make things happen for yourself.”

Upon returning to Sacramento, I realized that this is not the place for me. Sure, I’ve grown to love living here, but I’m tired of the people. I’m young, unattached, and I have a great job that, with some hard work and dedication, will eventually afford me the luxury of living elsewhere.

After reading what Paige wrote, I made some goals for myself, and I made myself a timeline.

The first thing I decided is that, in two years, I want to be successful enough in my business that I have the ability to move – and I want to move to San Diego. In two years, I will be there. It is no longer an option for me to not be there.

I also decided that there is really no excuse as to why I don’t have a diligent and daily workout schedule. And not necessarily to be thinner or to fit into my clothes better, but for the mere fact that exercise produces natural endorphins AND, for me at least, it takes the edge off after a hard day. Too often I find myself agitated or irritated about the must mundane of things and I think to myself, “If I had just gone for a run, this wouldn’t even be an issue.”

The hardest part about life is that the only person standing in your way is yourself. Nobody is going to hand you your goals. Nobody is going to make you thinner or fatter. Things don’t just happen or fall into your lap. You have to work really hard, as Paige says, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

If you’re lacking in motivation, the best thing you can do is surround yourself with positive and motivated people. Visiting San Diego really got my ass in gear. My friends there are fitness fanatics. They run every day and do tons of at-home workouts – proof that you do not need a gym membership to get in shape. And further solidification that there really is no excuse.

Too often, I think we get stuck in the groove of our daily routines. For me, I wake up at the same time every day, go to work, come home, take Bella out, come home, shower, eat, get in bed and watch TV. I’m throwing away precious hours of my one life wasting away in front of the boob tube. GROSS. Just the thought of it makes me want to leave the office and go on a run.

Of course, everybody’s life and schedule is different, we just have to work things in where we can fit them. For me, running after work is the only solution. I cannot motivate myself enough to get out of bed a 5 am. I just know that it’s an unrealistic goal, and that if I try and make it work, I will just give up. Find what works for you, and stick to it. NO EXCUSES.

And for those of us who have a really hard time sticking to a diet – DON’T. If you’re going to work your ass off working out, then you completely deserve a delicious pizza or a burrito. I think it’s unrealistic to expect people to remove the things from their diet that taste good. Just cut down your portions. If you’re going to have a burrito, get it a la carte instead of with the rice and beans. Simple as that. And you still get to enjoy the goods.

So, this weekend, if you’re planning on going out and drinking and stuffing your face, at least make it out for a run first. You’ll feel so much better about indulging, I promise.