“I used to think people who worked out in the morning were crazy. I couldn’t fathom how they could possibly have the willpower to run or lift weights at such ungodly hours.” – Katelin Jabbari Share this quote on Twitter

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Katelin Jabbari

What is your morning routine?

My first alarm goes off at 5:30am, and I promptly snooze it. My second one (which I have in case I accidentally turn off, instead of snooze, the first - it’s happened a few times) goes off at 5:35am. I used to alternate snoozing each one, which drove my husband nuts, but now he’s in a job where he gets much less sleep, so the guilt of waking him up keeps me awake in bed until 5:34am, when I turn off both alarms and drag myself out of bed. No snoozing anymore.

We have a motion-activated nightlight, so I use that to guide me to the bathroom, where I take my daily pills, use the toilet, and sneak out of the room as quietly as possible.

I have an eight-month-old son and am back at work, so I need to pump multiple times a day in order to continue to feed him breast milk. The first session of the day is from around 5:45-6:00am, right after I wake up. I try to set up everything the night before so that I don’t have to fumble around with tubes and bottles in the morning. I got into the habit of sitting on the ground in the living room during my morning sessions because, when we moved into our place in February, we didn’t have any furniture. Even though we do now, the habit’s stuck, so that’s where you’ll find me. Once I’m all set up, I spend the next fifteen minutes browsing my phone, which helps wake me up. My go-to reads are: The Daily Skimm, The New York Times Morning Briefing, Big Spaceship’s Internet Brunch, and Pocket’s recommended reads.

When I’m done, I clean everything up, put the milk in the fridge, get my gym clothes on, and stop by my son’s room to say goodbye (even though he’s usually sound asleep and won’t wake up for another 1-2 hours). I arrange my day so I can spend time with him after work in the evenings for about two hours before he goes to bed (around 7:30pm), when I’m best able to focus 100% on him, rather than trying to see him in the morning when I’m distracted and rushing around getting ready. I also find that I’m a calmer, more patient mom when I’ve had my morning routine.

I then grab all my stuff and head out the door. I prepare everything I need (gym clothes, work clothes, work bag, pumping gear, etc.) the night before so I don’t have to worry about it in my early morning state of delirium. While driving to work, I listen to NPR. My morning commute takes about twenty minutes, so I usually get through the day’s national news, plus Morning Edition.

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Once I arrive I work out for 45 minutes at my company’s gym, alternating days between cardio and strength training. I then shower, get ready (while listening to an audiobook; right now it’s Stephen King’s 11/22/63) and am at my desk by 8:30am with a cup of decaf coffee (I switched from regular while pregnant and realized I didn’t really need the caffeine), and a bowl of fruit with greek yogurt, and egg whites.

I’ll open up my laptop to begin work, and that’s where the routine ends.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I’ve stuck with this routine since I went back to work in January after being on maternity leave for six months. Although, to be fair, it wasn’t that different before I had my son: I’ve been waking up around 5:30am to work out in the morning since early 2014. I even worked out the day my son was born! He came a month early and we had no idea he was on his way.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Before my son was born, my routine included an hour on my laptop while walking at a treadmill desk (in my office) before heading to the gym. I stopped doing that when my son was born (since I don’t have a treadmill desk at home, though I’ve seriously thought about buying one), and never took it up again when I returned to work.

What time do you go to sleep?

My goal is to go to sleep by 9:30pm, but I don’t think that’s ever happened. Instead, I usually start getting ready for bed around 9:15pm, am actually in bed by 9:45pm, read for a bit, and then turn off the lights between 10-10:30pm.

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

Yes, everything. I have a list of things to do before I go to bed, which basically eliminates any need for conscious thought before I get in my car to drive to the gym in the morning.

Here’s what’s on it (written out here, but normally it’s just shorthand):

  • Clean my son’s bottles and prepare them for the next day.
  • Put my laptop back in my work bag.
  • Organize my gym bag (shampoo, conditioner, etc.), including laying out my gym clothes and charging my tablet.
  • Pick out my clothes to wear at work the next day.
  • Prepare my pumping supplies for the next morning.
  • Put a cup by the sink so I can take my pills first thing in the morning.

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

Yes, I use the alarm on my phone. I set two alarms so that I don’t accidentally turn one off. I used to snooze half a dozen times, but now I try to get up before my second alarm goes off so as not to wake my husband.

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

I eat breakfast as soon as I get to my desk, usually around 8:30am, so about three hours after I wake up.

Unless there’s something particularly tempting in one of the cafes at my office (like tater tots, which I’m incapable of turning down) I typically have egg whites with soy sauce, as well as Greek yogurt with banana slices. You’d think it would be tempting to constantly try new things from the cafes at work, but I actually prefer to follow somewhat of a routine with my meals to avoid decision fatigue (and ultimately stick with healthier options).

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Yes, and I follow it pretty religiously.

I used to think people who worked out in the morning were crazy. I couldn’t fathom how they could possibly have the willpower to run or lift weights at such ungodly hours when I lacked the willpower to not hit the snooze button over and over. Then, one week, I had a team event away from the office and realized I wouldn’t have time in the afternoon to do my usual workout, so I tried getting up early to do it.

Turns out it wasn’t that bad, and then I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I’d be able to squeeze it in in the evening. That was in early 2014. Ever since then, with the exception of when I was on maternity leave, I’ve woken up around 5:30am to work out in the morning. On Mondays and Thursdays, I hop on the elliptical for 45 minutes while watching one of my “gym shows,” and then sprint on the treadmill for one mile. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I do a 45-minute strength training routine. On Wednesdays, I run 5-6 miles outside on the trails around my office.

Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

I’ve never really gotten into meditation. Too much to think about, and too little time to do it. That probably means I’m the perfect candidate for it, but I just don’t think it’ll ever happen…

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

For the past six years, email has been the main mode of communication in my work, so I’m on it pretty much all day. However, I’m more mindful now than I used to be about when I send or respond to emails, in that I try not to send very many things outside of normal working hours (unless it’s really urgent or it’s clear that I don’t need a reply until working hours).

I try to have no (or as few as possible) unread emails in my inbox throughout the day, which means I respond to the bulk of them when I first get into the office, and then as they come in throughout the day.

Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

I have The New York Times alerts set up on my phone so I can see if there’s any breaking news when I first wake up, and I love reading The Daily Skimm in the morning to get a quick, entertaining summary of the daily news right in my inbox.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I use my phone’s alarm, so technically first thing in the morning to turn it off (or snooze it). Then I’ll bring it with me into the kitchen to browse news and email while I pump.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Right now it’s pumping, as it’s my son’s main source of nutrition and it would be really uncomfortable to work out in the morning if I didn’t. Beyond that, it’s probably the sheer act of getting out of bed.

I’ve felt so sleep deprived since my son was born that it’s a constant battle not to just go back to sleep and skip my routine. I feel so much better once I get to the gym, though. It’s just the first half hour that’s particularly rough.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

During the week, it’s water at the gym. On the weekends, it’s usually a cup of decaf coffee with cream and splenda, though it could be midday or even early afternoon by the time I’m able to make it, depending on whether I get too caught up playing with my son.

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

I don’t follow this routine at all on weekends.

My weekends vary depending on whether we have plans and whether it’s my day to sleep in (my husband and I take turns). Before my son was born, I used to work out in the morning on the weekends (and by “morning” I mean whenever I woke up, usually between noon and 3:00pm), but it’s hard to do that consistently now.

If it’s my morning to get up with my son and we don’t have early plans, I usually head into his room between 7:30-8:30am, when his noises go from playful cooing to more forceful wails. I change his diaper and we play for a while until he starts to get a little fussy, which means he’s hungry. I’ll feed him breast milk and some pureed food (usually oatmeal or yogurt with fruit), and then we’ll continue to play around the house until my husband gets up. At that point, I’ll usually remember I haven’t eaten or drank anything and will go into the kitchen to make breakfast for my husband and myself while he plays with our son in bed.

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

I try. I’ll even pick out hotels based on the quality of their gym, but the last few trips I’ve been on (with and without my husband and son) I totally ignored my routine and just focused on getting as much sleep as possible and spending time with the people I was there to see.

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

I rarely fail to follow my morning routine when I’m at home, since I know I’ll feel worse throughout the day if I do, but the few times I have (once when I was sick and once when I was just too tired to wake up at 5:30am) it’s basically meant skipping the gym. I still have to pump, get dressed, do something with my hair (even if it’s just a ponytail), and drive to work. I get to my desk around the same time, so it’s just that hour and a half of working out and taking a little bit longer to get ready that I miss.

If I fail to follow it because I’m on vacation or traveling for work, I don’t stress about it too much. I know it’s temporary, so I take the time to catch up on sleep and relax a bit.

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