I Stopped Waking Up at 6 a.m. to Work Out, and This Is Why I'm OK With Sleeping In

Getty / Adam Kuylenstierna / EyeEm

In prepandemic days (remember those?), I trained myself to be a morning person. This means I went to bed early, usually by 10:30 p.m., woke up between 5 and 5:30 a.m., and was at the gym by 6 a.m. for a workout class or a self-trained sweat sesh. This undeniably led to a more productive day: I would shower at the gym (public showers! can you imagine?), come home and make my filling 400-calorie smoothie, and get ready to leave for work.

There’s a lot to say about having a productive morning that sets you up for the day: any personal development book you read or podcast you listen to will probably preach the powers of getting up early and checking a couple things off your to-do list while your peers are still asleep. And for years, that worked for me. On the mornings I woke up early and got in a workout before work, I felt accomplished and more focused.

Related: I Used to Work Out 6 Days a Week, and I Haven’t Felt Motivated to Exercise AT ALL Lately

But more than five months after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit NYC, I have been struggling to find a routine and have some semblance of normalcy. Since my company isn’t planning on going back into the office until 2021, I haven’t felt as much structure to my day when I work from home. The gyms and fitness studios I used to frequent are closed, so there’s less accountability to make a class by a certain time in the morning. Sure, I do live fitness classes over Zoom with studios like Barry’s and Monster Cycle, but it’s hard to feel motivated to get up and work out when my commute is just from my tiny bedroom to my tiny living room, with not much room to move around in, and no one to greet me or give me high-fives.

If the last few months have taught me anything, it’s to give myself grace and not beat myself up for abandoning my previous regimented schedule. There are some weeks where I’m firing on all cylinders: getting up early, doing an at-home workout, showering and putting on real clothes, and ready to slay the day. But more often than not, I’ve found myself sleeping until the last possible second and getting up right before I have to log on to work. I usually leave just enough time to brush my hair, make coffee, and change out of my pajamas and into a pair of leggings.

I remind myself that each day I wake up feeling healthy is a gift in and of itself.

Sticking to a schedule is vital for my mental health, but I have also had to remind myself that we are all doing the best we can during a global pandemic. When thoughts creep in about how I’m lazy or worthless or a disappointment, I remind myself that each day I wake up feeling healthy is a gift in and of itself. If I can still keep up with my email inbox, meet deadlines, and stay in communication with my team, I consider those all wins.

Since this way of life will be my normal for the foreseeable future, I am learning to cut myself some slack and get in some movement when I can: taking a walk over my lunch break or after work, taking the time to leave my computer and stretch, and going for longer runs on the weekends when I have more time. Is it the same as the hour-long high-intensity classes I used to do before 8 a.m. in my pre-pandemic life? No, of course not. But engaging in negative self-talk and shame-spiraling only makes things worse. I hope to get to a place where I can resume my early-bird schedule and get in a good workout before logging on. In the meantime, I’m going to remind myself that anything I check off my to-do list, I checked off during a global pandemic.

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