When I began to ponder about my new chapter in life, I specifically thought about how I would want to structure my days. Since I currently do not have a job that dictates my schedule, a different set-up needed to be found. An important question that came to light as part of this thought process was, at what time I would want to get up in the morning and what I would want my mornings to be like. Knowing how some of my Sundays wind up being after staying in bed for too long (lazy, dull, unproductive), I figured that if I did not get this right, happiness could really be on stake.
I was used to very early starts (5:30ish), as I always had a busy schedule ahead of me and hated being rushed through the first few hours of the day. This is different now, as I could basically get up as early as 5am or as late as 10am, without running the risk of being stuck in traffic or late for meetings. It is simply up to me what I do and when I do it.
But how do you pick the perfect time for your alarm, if the only thing you really need to worry about is yourself? No kids to prepare breakfast for, no office to head to, no errands to run (at least not that early). I was unsure if I wanted it to be more like a weekend or holiday, where you get up whenever you feel like it, or more like the everyday working life, where my sleep is abruptly ended by the alarm.
After weighing the pros and cons of different wake up times, which I assessed in 15min steps (you should know I am a very structured person), I eventually decided to get up at 7:15am. I found this late enough to feel like something is different about my current lifestyle in comparison to my working self, but not so late that it would generate a feeling of laziness and every day being a day off. It also allows me to still get the sense of sleeping in on weekends, where I would normally not get up before 8, sometimes 9.
Alright, so this issue was finally resolved. But I figured, with all this time on my hands, there is no point in jumping straight into the shower. Once the alarm goes off, I might hit the snooze button once – twice – three times max – and eventually crawl out of my warm and cozy bed, thinking that maybe tomorrow, I could just get up a tiny bit later. Still feeling somewhat sleepy, I head over to my drawer to pick out a nicely matching pair of workout clothes and corresponding hair tie (my shirts reflect all the colors of the rainbow), take my yoga mat, unroll it in front of the bedroom window, launch the Down Dog yoga app on my phone and begin my daily exercise.
I first robotically and then more smoothly perform the moves that this gentle female voice of my app suggests. As I change from Warrior to Eagle, to Upward Facing Dog, to Downward Facing Dog, my gaze glides over the Western districts of a slowly awakening city, where the sun is rising, and the hustle and bustle is about to kick in. I know most of the poses by heart by now, as I have been practicing with this app for almost two years. These 20 minutes of daily yoga help me completely ground and mentally prepare myself for the day that lies ahead. It has grown to become a regular routine I no longer question, just like brushing teeth.
After the 20 minutes have passed and my body finally realizes that the night is over, I switch to another app that is forcing quite a bit more movement. I am no longer able to keep track of what is going on outside my window, with jumping jacks, mountain climbers, donkey kicks and burpees suddenly requiring my full attention and endurance. I do not particularly like this workout, but I believe it is effective (so it says) and only takes 10 minutes, so I stick through it, hoping it will feel easier the next day (which it never does).
Warmed up as I am, I slip into my running shoes, grab a banana and a bottle of water from the kitchen counter and take the elevator from the 17th floor, which is where we reside, to our rooftop gym on the 19th floor (we live in a managed building and this is one of the amenities I have really come to appreciate). Taking the stairs instead of the elevator would probably be more in line with my overall workout philosophy, but our staircase is anything but inviting, so I try to avoid it.
By the time I get to the gym, I am usually on my own. Everybody else has already left for work, or is at least in the process of wrapping up their training. I do not mind the solitude and so I jump on the treadmill to start my 20 to 30-minute run, which on some days is completely effortless and on others seems like I am hitting a wall after already a few minutes. I quietly pull through my miles and try to go a tiny bit faster every day, in view of a few official runs, which I am training for (starting with 5k, so nothing major).
While my legs seemingly know what they are doing, I let my eyes wander around, taking in the view over the streets and buildings of the West Loop district. I notice curtains being opened or closed in the hotel just across the street, people getting dressed for work (I try not to look but when they are standing right in front of the window – and my treadmill – I cannot help it), cleaning troupes finishing their shifts, office lights getting turned on, cars and buses waiting for traffic lights to go green and people rushing to work with their coffee mugs in hand.
This reminds me of the usually hectic mornings of my working self, and I realize how little I miss that part and how much I welcome to have a bit more time. The treadmill’s beeping sound is announcing the approaching cool-down, thankfully, and not a minute too soon. I am thinking that while I am up here, I might as well lift some baby weights for the remainder of the hour and until my body tells me it is finally time for breakfast.
I head back down into our apartment, tell Alexa to turn on some music, take a hot shower, put on some decent clothes and indulge myself into the making of a delicious morning meal. The latter is typically composed of fresh ginger tea (the only product I am adamant that it must be organic) and my self-made and to-die-for porridge (to be proven, I know). I spare you a bunch of recipes as this is not the purpose of my blog, but I do want to share my favorite combination:
Take three tablespoons of oatmeal, one half diced nectarine and a handful of blueberries, pour into a bowl, cover with milk and microwave for one minute (stir half-way through). Then top with one tablespoon of natural Greek yoghurt, one tablespoon of pure, sugar-free, apple-only apple sauce, a handful of raspberries and sprinkles of roasted sunflower seeds.
Yum!! I do not know about you, but I am ready for my day. It is 10 o’clock, time to get going.