Becoming A Morning Person

I’ve always needed a lot of sleep… always. No matter how many hours I’ve slept, I rarely feel refreshed and ready to go when my alarm goes off. For a long time I chalked it up to just not being a morning person; but I’ve never been a ‘night owl’ either. Once I can fight through the battle of actually getting up out of bed I’m fine, but that push to get myself up has always been the real struggle. As I’m getting older, though, I’ve come to appreciate those quiet hours in the morning where I can get a head start on the day with less people around. Plus, as a runner being down with early wake-ups are especially important in the summer when it’s hot and humid as soon as the sun rises.

Sometimes you just need a little extra caffeine
Sometimes you just need a little extra caffeine

So where am I going with this? Well, it wasn’t until Sunday morning where I found myself casually sipping coffee at 8:30 in the morning at a local Starbucks before my 9:30am Refine Method class that I realized, “hey, I think I’m finally a morning person!” I had been up since about 7am and took an early PATH train to make sure I had enough time before class since they run infrequently in the morning on the weekends… and I didn’t hate it. To me, getting up at 7am on a Sunday (when we sprung ahead, no less) was early; and it wasn’t a struggle to convince myself to get up, either. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized there were some tangible things I’ve done over the last few months to condition myself to being able to get up early in the morning (sometimes it’s 5am, sometimes it’s a weekend 7am) without trying to make a deal with the devil to let me sleep more. I know there are a lot of people who want to get more out each day just like I do, so I figured I’d share some tips that I’ve found really helpful.

  • Set your clothes out the night before – this is something my mom made me do when I was in elementary school and it stuck with me. By figuring out what I want to wear in the morning, I avoid going through the inevitable “wait, no, I want to wear this instead!” and it requires little to no thinking – I pick up the clothes, head to the bathroom, and get ready. I do this whether I’m getting up to work out or go somewhere. Easy peasy.
  • Be aware of your bedtime – it’s easier said than done, but obviously the earlier you go to bed, the early you’ll wake up (in theory). Being cognizant of the time you need to wake up and how many hours of sleep you’d like to get can help a lot. If you’re used to going to bed way later than you’d like, be gentle and slowly make your bedtime earlier… it’s pointless if you’re in bed tossing and turning!
  • Be consistent – this is something I’ve read over and over recently and it is finally ringing true for me. The whole idea of “sleeping in” on the weekends isn’t the smartest – it throws your schedule off and makes it hard to get back on track for the week (which is often why Mondays feel that much harder). I don’t get up at exactly the same time every single day, but on the weekends I try to get up no later than an hour from the latest time I get up during the week. Sure, it might seem silly to wake up at 8am on a Saturday when you have no plans, but your body will be thanking you mid-week. Eventually your body will get used to the timeframe you’ve been waking up in, making it easier for you when that alarm finally does go off.
  • Sign up for a fitness class or make plans with a friend – this has been the biggest catalyst for my transition to being a morning person, I think. Fitness classes in the NYC area have cancellation windows and if you miss that window, you usually forfeit the class credit and are oftentimes charged a fee as well. If that isn’t motivation to make it to the already pricey class, I don’t know what is! Or, if you aren’t going to a class make plans to meet someone – you’ll be less likely to cancel if there’s someone waiting for you!
  • Treat yo self – it can be something simple like stopping for coffee after your workout or on your way to that early morning meeting, but reward yourself every so often for a job well done. Getting up early isn’t always easy so there’s nothing wrong with making the early wake-up a little sweeter (sometimes literally).
And you'll be rewarded with views like this (sometimes)!
And you’ll be rewarded with views like this (sometimes)!

I know that none of these things are ground breaking or new information for most, but it’s the kind of thing that everyone says and you just shrug it off… until you try it for yourself. Doing the 5 simple things I’ve listed above have made it possible for me to get up before the sun on most days and not hate it. Of course there are still days where I’d like to just sleep forever, but for the most part I’ve conditioned myself to get up and get going earlier than I ever have before. If you’re struggling to get up early, whether for a workout or just so you can enjoy the morning hours and add more time to your day, I definitely suggest trying some of the suggestions above. You don’t have to do them all at once and maybe just one change will make a difference, but definitely give it a try… It can’t hurt (much).

Tell me…
Are you a “morning” person?
Do you have any other tips or tricks to help get you up in the morning?

Pie for dinner

Sometimes I wonder if I think at all before I set out to do something. If I did, though, I’d probably wind up second guessing myself and missing out on a lot of things. After a stressful weekend of moving and unpacking, you’d think I would schedule the following week’s meals to be easy and straight forward, and probably not time consuming. Yet I seem to almost always skip over the process portion of the recipes, and pick them solely based on ingredients (and a picture too, of course).

Yesterday started off bright, well rather dark, and early. The fiancé and I were up at 5:30a and out the door by 5:45a to do our first pre-work run. Now that we’re a bit closer to the office we have more time to get ready in morning, so by waking up about an hour early, we’ll be able to get in anywhere from 4-6 miles, depending on our pace. We did 4.22 at about a 9:15 pace – I wound up getting a serious case of runner’s trots about a mile in, and spent the next two miles struggling, so it was slow and steady. At the same time though, it’s also the longest run I’ve done since the dreaded injury, so I’m more than okay with it.

After work and voting, it was time to start on the first of two long and involved recipes for the week. I went with the “Not Your Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie” recipe, which jumped out at me due to the Southwestern styled ingredients (pobalano peppers, cumin, etc.). I can’t remember where it was linked, but this recipe comes from Grist. Since sweet potatoes were involved, they first needed to be softened. I decided to take a short cut and microwave them instead of waiting up to an hour for them to roast in the oven. When getting ready to put all the ingredients into the crust, I came to the realization that I don’t have a rolling pin. Seriously?! I need to get one of them! It amazes me how much I’m lacking in the kitchen in terms of tools and utensils, but I still manage to make almost everything I want.

It was really good – it was completely worth the effort and time involved. Even though I’ve never made a traditional sweet potato pie, I would make this one again and again as it’s a great twist on a classic. Having left-overs is also a huge plus. I’m sure a lot of guests at a Thanksgiving dinner or brunch would be thoroughlly impressed (especially if they’re vegetarian and skipping the turkey)!

While everything was in the oven I had the opportunity to get some homework done. If we hadn’t ran in the morning, there definitely wouldn’t have been enough time for this dinner, voting, and homework. I’m going to miss the longer days come this weekend, even if it means not waking up in complete darkness. But in the end it looks like morning runs have their benefits!

Hopefully I’ll get to do some baking this weekend. I’m thinking either cupcakes or brownies with Halloween candy inside. We have an entire bowl of candy left over from Sunday since we had two trick-or-treaters. Maybe it was because I was prancing around the house like this?

Power tools aside, I highly recommend making this bad boy!

Not Your Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie
– Serves 4-6 –

9-inch uncooked pie crust, rolled into a 10-inch diameter circle and refrigerated (I used pre-made)
3 medium sweet potatoes
3 to 4 medium poblano or Anaheim peppers (or substitute 1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle peppers)
4 whole shallots or 2 small white onions, quartered
1/2 cup Mexican crema, or sour cream
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
a pinch of Mexican oregano
a pinch of cumin seeds
salt and pepper
wedge of lime

1. Wash the sweet potatoes well, pat dry, and prick with a fork several times. Place on a baking pan with the shallots or onions. Drizzle the shallots or onions with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Roast at 400 degrees F until the sweet potatoes are very tender and beginning to caramelize. If the onions begin to burn before the sweet potatoes are done, remove them from the baking tray and set aside.
3. Cool cooked sweet potatoes completely.
4. When cool, slip the skins off the sweet potatoes and cut into rough 2-inch chunks. (This step can be done up to several days in advance.)
5. If you have a gas stove, roast the poblano peppers over direct flame until blistered and blackened all over. Otherwise, you can broil them until they begin to blister. Place in a paper bag or wrap in foil and set aside to cool. When cool, rub most of the charred skin off the peppers, deseed them, and — with your fingers, if your peppers aren’t of the hot variety — tear the peppers into strips. Set aside.
6. When your vegetables are cool, remove your pie crust from the refrigerator. Roll out and be sure to patch any holes. Drape your circle of dough over your rolling pin and transfer to a pizza pan or baking sheet if not already on one.
7. Spread the bottom of the crust with the crema or sour cream, leaving a 2-inch border around the outside of the crust.
8. Next, spread the sweet potato chunks, the onions or shallots and the pepper strips over the crema. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, the cilantro and the green onions.
9. Fold the edge of the dough up over the top of the filling, pleating the dough as you work your way around the circle. Place the tart in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm up while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
10. Bake the tart for 45 minutes or until the crust is dark golden brown. Remove from the oven, squeeze the lime wedge over the filling and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.