Overcoming the Pillow

Facing the first obstacle of the day – getting out of bed

It’s still dark outside – and probably cold too. Your muscles ache because you did too much training yesterday, or maybe because you did not do enough. Either way, the pillow looms over your head like the Avalanche, and you decide to rather roll over and sleep till sunrise like most people do…

Coming to the almost end of winter a lot of OCR people can probably relate to this. Since the majority of our SA OCR participants are not professional athletes (yet) and still need their day jobs to earn a living, most training need to be done before or after work. Which in winter times often means training when it’s dark and cold, when everyone else is just chilling or still waking up.

Through into the mix a family life, relational responsibilities and making sure the kids get to school and all their activities. Chances are you’ll (have to) schedule enough early morning runs, gym sessions and obstacle practices throughout the week and over the weekend. Now I’ve juggled the options of best time of the day to train, and for me personally the mornings work best. Your body feels set for the day and there is no guilt for what still needs to be done before sundown to get or stay in shape.

But often times our toughest obstacle of the day could be just getting up out of bed. The pillow seems like a heavy sandbag you can’t lift your head from and the blankets start to feel like very comforting quicksand forcing you down back to dreamland. So I came up with five tips to get out of bed and get active while it’s still dark… and possibly freezing outside.


Here are the pentathlon of tips to conquer your pillow:

  1. Sleep in your gear – if possible

This might sound obvious, and obviously a lot of people might already have their training clothes placed next to their bed before they tuck in for the night. But the catch is, you still have to get out under the blanket, out of your PJs and into your training gear. I have found it a lot easier to simply sleep in my training clothes and then just to replace my blanket with a hoody and my slippers with running shoes as I get up. This might not always be possible for everyone when they really need a comfortable and healthy night of rest, and I don’t always do this. But when I know that the next morning I have to go train in minus degrees as it so often is in Bloemfontein, it helps to know that I only need to get up, put on my shoes and tie the laces.

  1. “Tie your shoe laces”

I remember the first time I bought a Men’s Health magazine. One of the feature articles were an interview with Matthew McConaughey who at that time had just finished filming on Sahara and did most of his training outdoors as well. “Tie your shoe laces” he said in the interview. It was as simple as that and it stuck. As soon your shoes are on and the laces are tied, you can’t go back to bed. You’ve simply come too far then to turn around. All that remains are to go running and go training…

  1. Make your bed

In a University of Texas Commencement Address (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLn1QkSBGj4), former Navy SEAL and Naval Admiral William H. McRaven told of the lessons he learnt in BUDs training. One of their requirements each day before the long hours of training would start, were that all their beds had to be made – neatly. This is not strange in military training and elite unit selections, but he said what he learnt most from it was that as soon as his bed was made, his first challenge of the day was conquered and everything else could be done. No option to crawl back into bed, only to get outside and face what was ahead.

  1. Race the clocks

Setting multiple clocks to go off a couple of minutes apart might not sound too strange. But when you set them from different devices, all left at different places in your room and out of arm’s length from your bed, things get interesting. Doing this forces you to get up and get moving. It kind of feels like an obstacle course warm-up while you’re still drowsy, trying to hit a load of snooze buttons. If this gets followed by the 2nd and 3rd tip and is preceded by the 1st one, there should be no way that you’ll skip that morning’s training…

  1. Drop for 20… or 100

In the film Batman Begins there’s a scene where Bruce Wayne wakes up after his first real night of crime fighting. Although he is only awoken at 3pm by his trusty butler he probably was out kicking ass till the early hours of the morning by when most of us would want to start waking up. Anyways, he briefly scans the newspaper, downs some disgusting looking green stuff, and then drops flat to floor for 20 push-ups. All of this within the first minute of waking up. This triggered a wake up tactic that has proven helpful over the years. Just roll out of bed and start doing a max rep of push-ups. Not only because it could be nice to be more like Batman (who wouldn’t want that?), but also because it immediately gets the blood flowing and breath going. When you get up from this you’ll be too warm and thirsty to climb back in bed and be somewhat energized with all the quick released endorphins.

These are only a few things that can help get out of bed to go training. There likely are many more. Share your tips on getting out and getting active when it’s still cold and dark outside…

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