Saturday, March 15, 2014

Checking In and Prattling On (Then Passing Out)

I woke up like this.

Except I wasn’t quite as happy about it.

I really did; today was the first spring day New York had seen all YEAR, and I spent it on my sofa rocking sweatpants and bedhead.  I’ve got some kind of war of the worlds going on in my throat, and it’s making me want to stay horizontal at all times.  I was invited out to go thrifting, even, and I had to turn down the offer to stay home and drink tea with honey and eat Mallomars.

No, Mallomars.

Anyway, I’m writing this to check in on the Ides of March, because I remember that I said I would be in touch regarding my 31-day challenge progress.  Fifteen days ago, I pledged to complete one 7-minute workout per day for the month of March. My thoughts about this at the halfway point are part grumpy and part thoughtful.

The grumpy part of me (refereeing throat-based battles) goes like this: If I ever do a 30-day challenge again, I am going to keep it private.  It takes less than a week for me hate the whole concept, but then I have to keep at it because I promised the Internet.  But Im resentful, and I’m grumbling through each seven minutes of jumping jacks and leg lifts and squats.  In fact, those seven minutes are something I dread all day.  Those seven minutes are almost always the last thing I do before bed, because I have put them off for just that long.

This is not how I do jumping jacks.

The thoughtful part of me goes like this: I might be doing it wrong.

The thing is, I probably am doing it wrong.  My intent in embarking on this challenge was to kick off each morning with a 7-minute workout before facing the day.  What’s happened instead is that I’ve woken up every morning and turned off the alarm.  In theory, I have a lot of time built into my mornings, so that I can start my day focused on a fairly wide range of goals.  But instead of achieving anything, I hit my alarm every time it goes off, and then I usually roll out of bed late.

This extended snooze is one of those things (like Mallomars) that feels good in the instant that it’s happening but feels crummy overall.  I do give myself a lot of pep talks at night about how I won’t oversleep and how I’ll wake up and be productive, but I rarely take my own advice.  It just so happens that this week I read a really great article on Elephant Journal entitled “Are We Cheating Ourselves Each Morning?” As a ritualistic morning cheater, I was intrigued.

By James L. Stanfield. Absolutely nobody is cheating this guy out of sleep.

The article, by Julie van Amerongen, starts by outlining what we’re putting our brains through when we settle back in for those extra minutes of slumber.  Instead of picking up where we left off in our sleep cycle, we start the whole thing over again.  So if you subscribe to a standard 9-minute snooze, you’re jarring your body out of a brand new cycle, much deeper than the R.E.M. you were enjoying before the alarm went off.  (I set my alarms in a series of 30 minutes, but I almost never get through that much time without a nose bite.)  That may not seem like a big deal, but it turns out that the effects of this fragmented sleep can impair our cognitive functioning over the course of the day.  That disconnect between the sleep you should be getting and the sleep you’re really getting is called social jetlag, and it can lead to increased use of caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, and Mallomars.

All that is important, but it strays a bit from van Amerongen’s main point, which is that your morning is for you.  You would never oversleep for a meeting or an appointment (scheduled on someone else’s time, unless you’re the kind of big shot who runs meetings).  So why would you sabotage your own time?  I’m using the second person here, but as the old adage goes, when I point one finger there are three pointing back at me.

Probably at my fly-ass shirt ruffle.

This is an admission: I’m a sleep abuser.  The older I get (and I am now old enough to forget my age a lot of the time), the more I feel I really need my sleep.  That said, I also maintain that I am a morning person, the type who enjoys extended coffee breaks and early writing sessions to kick off the day.  Ideally.  Thats my ideal morning, but how can it be that I dont create an ideal morning, every morning?  If I dont make this time for myself, this time that comes free with actual scientific benefits, who is?  Its a change Ive really got care enough to make.  So while I probably cannot immediately retrain myself to soldier through all 1.5 hours of my morning alarms, I can certainly commit to an extra seven minutes.  So that is my new goal from now until April: one 7-minute workout every day.  Every morning.

And then after that, no more public goals, ever.

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