“Coffee isn’t a big part of the Nepalese mountain culture. Except for a couple occasions when I’ve settled for instant coffee out of desperation, I’ve been shockingly functional without it.” – Hilary Matheson Share this quote on Twitter

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Hilary Matheson

What is your morning routine?

I have two fairly different morning routines—one when I’m home and training and one when I’m on the road traveling for work. Right now the split is about 60/40 for my training/travel routines. That changes when I have a race coming up or am out of town for extended periods of time (the trip I’m on right now is two months long, for example).

Home: My alarm is set for 6:45am, with a five-minute snooze. I generally reach for my phone as soon as my eyes can stay open long enough to read the screen, and I spend fifteen to thirty minutes in bed reading and answering emails and checking social media before getting up.

Once I’m out of bed, I head to the espresso machine in the kitchen and make a double-shot americano with cream and sugar. I’m really bad about eating breakfast first thing in the morning, so I often sip my coffee while I answer emails or work on deadlines for a couple of hours before I bother to make breakfast.

I’m “allergic” to working out in the morning unless my training calls for a long run (anything longer than four hours), so I generally plan my workouts for mid afternoon or early evening during the week and spend my mornings on the computer working.

On the road: I stick with the same schedule as much as possible, although often my sleep schedule is dictated by time zones and my efforts to manage jet lag. I tend to be better about eating breakfast when I’m traveling, as hunting down coffee often coincides with sourcing out breakfast.

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My traveling often involves a busy schedule, so I don’t have the luxury of quiet mornings. For example, I’m currently in Nepal on a two-month climbing and photography trip in the Himalayas. I’ve been getting up at 5:30am, eating breakfast by 6:00am, and hitting the road to the next mountain by 6:30am.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I’ve had my home routine for at least the past five years. Even before I was freelance, when I worked in a corporate 9:00am-5:00pm job, I would nurse a coffee until around 10:00am before finally getting around to sourcing out breakfast.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Over the past two years the amount of traveling I’ve done has increased, so I’ve had to learn to manage that along the way. Because I’m often eating breakfast so much earlier on the road, it’s impacted my home routine. I often eat breakfast before 9:00am now, which never used to happen.

What time do you go to sleep?

I try to get at least seven and a half hours of sleep a night, which means I’m in bed with the lights out by 11:30pm. When I need to be up earlier, I work backwards with my bedtime so that I consistently keep those seven and a half hours reserved for sleep.

Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

Not really, unless making sure I’m not out of coffee beans counts!

When I know I’ll be up early the next morning to head into the mountains for a long run, I tend to get all of my clothing organized and out of the bedroom so that I’m not bashing around waking up my partner.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

Oh yes, an alarm is essential. Sometimes I even set a battery-powered backup alarm clock “just in case.” I don’t tend to hit snooze, but I do set one alarm for five minutes after the first one, and that’s enough to make sure I’m awake.

How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

Well, breakfast and I don’t always get along, but as I’ve noted, I’m working on it.

When I’m at home, I tend to nurse a coffee for a couple hours before frying up a few eggs with dill and ketchup or making a couple slices of avocado toast with sea salt.

When I’m on the road, breakfast is often a banana and some sort of whole-food granola bar (I like Larabars, as they are made primarily of dates and cashews). I’m a grazer, so breakfast is only the first of five or six small meals throughout the day.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Only while traveling (when work necessitates it), or while planning a long run or big mountain objective. My preference is definitely to work out in the afternoon or early evening during the week, and I’m lucky that my schedule is flexible enough to accommodate that.

Hilary Matheson on a run

Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

I like tackling my emails first thing in the morning. It lets me know what needs to be done, and then I can adjust the day’s schedule and priorities accordingly. Much of my work is freelance, which means that email is a crucial part of my workflow.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

As soon as I open my eyes—the light helps me wake up and keeps me from going back to sleep.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Coffee. Followed by prioritizing the day’s activities to make sure I get everything done that I need to.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Coffee, without question, usually accompanied by a glass of sparkling water. I’m spoiled by our SodaStream and have developed a love of carbonated water.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

My partner and I have very different work schedules, and he is usually up at 6:30am and out of the house by 8:00am. Our schedules don’t really collide until the evening, which works out for both of us.

Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

The only thing that changes on the weekends is that I’m often up earlier to head out on a long run. I get up faster with no time spent in bed emailing, make coffee while I pack food, and then run out the door with a few pieces of buttered multigrain toast in hand. I don’t like to eat anything too heavy right before I run, but toast is my go-to. When I know I have a big day ahead of me, I upgrade to avocado toast to get some extra fat and fiber in.

I do my long runs on the weekends (and start early) purely so I can line them up with my training partners who work traditional weekday hours. We generally start early because the runs are so long and I like to finish with some time left in the day for eating and sleeping.

I enjoy the social element of spending time with friends while out on a 6-8-hour run, so when I can make that work with my schedule, I do. It’s not that I’m totally opposed to running in the morning on weekdays; it’s just that I prefer to drink coffee and ease into the day when I have a choice.

On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

Luckily, my morning routine is fairly easygoing, so it’s not hard to adapt it to a new environment. The only thing that really changes is when I eat breakfast—I’m much less likely to procrastinate on it when I know the day will be busy and I won’t have time to eat again until later.

What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

Up until my current trip to Nepal, I would have told you that the only thing that derails my day is not getting coffee in the morning. However, coffee isn’t a big part of the Nepalese mountain culture, so except for a couple occasions when I’ve settled for instant coffee out of desperation, I’ve been shockingly functional without it. I’ve been starting my days with milk tea (black tea and condensed milk) or hot lemon. It’s been a nice change, and it’s probably good for me to realize I don’t “need” coffee. But I still miss it and the comforting presence it provides.


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