Back in 2012, I read in this very magazine that Michelle Obama wakes up at 4.30am every morning to workout with her husband, the lesser-known Barack Obama. I had two responses: “couple goals” and “ew”. The “ew” was directed toward the idea that someone, of their own free will, would decide to wake up at 4.30am every day.
But it turns out that our favourite former First Lady is not the only successful person to subscribe to this morning routine. In an interview with Kourtney Kardashian for Poosh earlier this year, momager Kris Jenner (arguably the First Lady of reality TV) revealed that she too wakes up at 4.30am, has had a coffee by 5, checks her emails at 5.30 and then fits in a workout before showering and embarking on a full hair and makeup routine ahead of meetings at 9.30. Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow (the Queen of Wellness herself) also subscribe to this early wake-up philosophy, as does Richard Branson (though I would definitely be waking up earlier if I lived on a private island in the Caribbean).
So, a few months ago, in the midst of a slump that I couldn’t shift, I decided to give it a go for myself.
It can sometimes feel that we need to overhaul our lives to get them back on track. In the past I’ve broken up with a boyfriend, quit a job or signed up to a half marathon in an attempt to spark change. Sometimes this tactic has worked, and sometimes it hasn’t. But this time, inspired by some of the most successful women on the planet, all it took was reading The 5am Club by Robin Sharma. The strapline? “Own your morning. Elevate your life”. I was sold.
The concept is pretty simple: you wake up at 5am and do 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of reflection and 20 minutes of planning or study (“move/reflect/grow”). Sharma explains that it is a “proven neuroscience-based practice” and will help you unlock talents, successes and personality traits that you were previously unaware of. And it only takes one glance at the book’s 13,700 five-star Amazon reviews to see that an army of fans around the world have reset their lives by resetting their alarm.
Yes, the part where your alarm actually goes off in the pitch black and brings you out of a dream where you and Harry Styles are playing scrabble on a beach in Bali (just me?) is horrible. But within 10 minutes, you’re up and over it. I quickly found that implementing a more structured bedtime routine the night before helped, as did things like putting my skincare and clothes in another room so that I could get up and out quickly rather than blundering around in the dark so as not to wake my husband. And, crucially, do not press snooze – ever.
I don’t quite stick to the 20/20/20 ethos, I find it too rigid for me. If I get caught up in reading a brilliant book, for example, I’m loathed to put it down to head to my next 20-minute activity. I tend to just go with the flow of what feels good each morning. However, I do make sure that I get in at least 20-minutes of movement (this can be anything from a gentle, intuitive stretch to a HIIT class), 20-minutes of something nourishing that is unrelated to my job and some time planning out my day.