Setting my priority to wake up at 5 am every day changed my life. Here’s why

3 strategies to wake up earlier and be healthier

Last year I signed up for the Optimize Coach program. It was 300 days of learning ancient wisdom combined with modern science, and most importantly, putting it into practice. The main goal was to achieve mastery in all areas of our life so we can live with integrity with the best version of ourselves.

It sounds incredible, doesn’t it? And I can tell you that’s exactly why I continued with the program this year, now as a level 2 coach.

One key component of architecting our best life is figuring out our pm and am routines, and bookend them. Because those are the hours of the day we have the most control. 

Right away, I decided waking up earlier than I was used to would be crucial to get a head start with my meditation and reflection. My actual goal was to have a deep work session bright and early to focus on creating and writing.

Now, awaking was always a personal battle I fought daily. It was never easy, and I was perpetually tired. So I would need to make some drastic changes to my lifestyle.

Fortunately, I had an inspiring teacher to support me on my journey. Brian Johnson distills the wisdom from books and makes them available in a super practical way, so I instantly turn to his Philosopher’s Notes for help.

That’s how I came upon the book Eat Move Sleep, by Tom Rath. And what a game-changer! He says eating, moving, and sleeping are three vital and fundamental elements we have to pay attention to thrive, live a healthier and happier life. 

Brian makes the following analogy: do you want to know how tall a building is going to be? Then take a look at the foundation. 

After seeing all of that, there were two things I knew:

  1. I was *not* honoring my fundamentals.
  2. It was time to make a change.

As Morpheus always says, and I agree, “Everything begins with a choice.”

From then on, I chose to be fully committed and work on my “fundies.” My goal is to wake up at 5 am, without an alarm (I hate alarms), feel refreshed, and ready for the day.

What I am about to share here is everything I started paying attention to naturally make the shift of waking up at 8 am to 5 am. 

#1 Sleeping 

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

The most foundational of the fundamentals is sleep. It’s where everything starts. If you don’t get a good night of sleep, you don’t function suitably. Period! 

There’s a ton of research on this. Plus, even if there weren’t, I know it’s a key area for me. Primarily because of my never-ending battle with getting up every morning. 

So, during the program, we came about some efficient tools to dial in our sleep. And we begin with basic math. I want to be at 5 am, naturally, feeling energized and ready for the day. 

I thought 8 hours were more than enough for me. Until it dawned on me that 8 hours in bed does not mean 8 hours of sleep. So I had to create buffers of at least 30 minutes when going to bed and, in my case, when waking up as well. 

I like waking up with no rush, having enough time to appreciate my life, thinking about what I dreamt, and being in silence with myself for a few minutes.

After some time observing and journaling about my sleep patterns, I realized three things:

  1. I spend around 9 hours in bed, and asleep around 8.5 hours;
  2. the time I go to bed matters;
  3. the number of hours I stay in bed can go up to one hour, depending on which phase of my cycle I am on.

Subtracting 9 hours from 5 am, we get 8 pm. That’s when I need to be in bed to achieve my goal.

Once I got clarity on that, it made it easier to hit that target, and to commit to the other fundies because they are intrinsically linked. 

#2 Eating 

Deciding my bedtime was crucial to figure out when I should have the last meal of the day. Hint: at least 2 hours previously. 

That was the hardest decision I had to make in this area. Considering I spent the last 7 years researching it and making some drastic changes to my eating habits. 

Now I tend to be very disciplined here and created some super-specific set of bright lines to my diet. Here they are: 

  1. no sugar or starchy carbs
  2. zero vegetable oils or high processed foods
  3. absolutely no meat, no poultry, no fish/seafood (I’m a vegetarian)
  4. eliminate grains or gluten

I read somewhere that, when it comes to diet, what you stop eating is more important. That’s why my bright lines are focused on the don’ts.

I know it’s not so easy for everyone, and that’s okay. My advice is to start removing what all experts agree is bad for you: sugar, vegetable oils, and highly processed foods; by doing that, you can increase the levels of your vitality significantly. 

#3 Movement

Photo by Jonny Kennaugh on Unsplash

Did you know you can be active *and* sedentary at the same time?

Yes! According to Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA, exercise is not movement. And if you spend 1 hour at the gym and the rest of the day sitting at your desk, you are active and sedentary. So I realized I was spending a *lot* of time sitting during the day and had to do something about it.

She make the excellent point of how our bodies are *made* to move, all the time, every day. Also how movement transcends and includes exercise (isn’t that mind blowing?).

So here are a few things I started implementing to include more movement in my life:

  1. If sitting down, there is a timer for 15 to 20 minutes. That means I stand up and walk around, do a burpee, or stretch and take a breath.
  2. I am going for walks (plural). The goal is to go for 2 and hit my 10,000 steps on the way.
  3. After working for longer than 1 hour, I get up and go work out. I like doing it in small chunks of 10 minutes at a time.

At first, it might look overwhelming, but it wasn’t the case. Because I was breaking it down in small chunks and I had an excellent motivator: for us to graduate as Optimize Coaches we run a Spartan Race. That’s a 4-mile run, with 20+ obstacles, going up and down a *mountain* haha.

It was an incredibly fun experience to do it, and get ready to do it throughout the year.

That’s me at the finish line, soaking wet, muddy, and really proud of myself!

Where I am at…

Therefore I am happy to inform you I am close. Right now, my waking up hour is around 5:30 am. There’s still some work to do around my bedtime, but I’m getting there.

It’s challenging; however, it’s been an enlightening journey so far.

I feel that only by setting this “simple” goal, I made some unimaginable improvements in my life. There are some other amazing tools I would love to share with you, but for now, I hope you make some good use of these. 

Let’s use smart strategies and never settle for anything less than astonishing.

Love
Nat

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