Do you spring out of bed, ready to start your day, or hit snooze over and over again? That Morning Person is HuffPost’s attempt to make sense of mornings by peering into the routines of others.
Want to live like an Olympian? Start looking at morning workouts like you look at your morning coffee.
Swimmer Dana Vollmer, who racked up multiple medals in the 2016 Summer Olympics, says physical activity jolts her like a good cup of java. And while she recognizes that getting into the routine can be a struggle, it’s also so worth it.
“I obviously exercise for sport, but it also energizes me for the rest of my day,” Vollmer said. “It takes time to make it a habit but it can really change your life once you start doing it.”
Vollmer says exercise gets her mind and body prepped for the business of her daily schedule. In addition to swim training, the athlete raises awareness about healthy lifestyle habits and women’s heart disease as a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.
She’s also a busy mom: Vollmer almost immediately began training for the 2016 Olympics right after her first son, Arlen, was born in 2015, setting out to be the first American swimmer to win gold after becoming a mom. (She came close, nabbing a bronze instead.) She continued to swim through her pregnancy with her second son, Ryker, and is working toward competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
HuffPost chatted with Vollmer about her morning routine ― including her workout ― and how she uses the early hours to set the tone for her day. Check out the breakdown below:
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am definitely a morning person. Normally my husband can tell what time it is at night because between 8 and 9 p.m. I start to not function.
What time do you usually wake up?
For training, my alarm is usually between 4:30 and 5 a.m. If I wasn’t training, I’d probably get up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. I also had that early of an alarm all through high school so I’m really used to that.
But ― even when I was coming back to training after giving birth to my son ― setting that alarm is hard. It’s not like I just pop up like, “Oh I love this hour!”
What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Normally I go and brush my teeth. It’s tempting to stay warm and snuggly in bed, but I tell myself, “OK, I’m at least going to get up and brush my teeth and then I’ll make the decision if I’m going to go back to bed.” Getting myself up and out of bed usually makes me a little more awake and then I feel like I can take on practice.
Do you prefer to exercise in the morning?
I feel like I really miss out when I don’t work out in the morning. It sets me up for a better day. … Normally I’m completely done working out by 7:45. Then I’m home by 8:15 or 8:30. I have the whole day ahead of me by the time I’m done.
What’s your go-to breakfast?
I make a bowl of oatmeal and have coffee. I make sure that I eat something before practice and after practice. I’ve always been focused on making sure I’m eating the right things and learning a lot about my body and what it responds to before and after I work out.
How does your morning routine differ now that you’re a mom?
When [my second son] Ryker was born, through six months, my alarm would go off at 4:30 and I would quickly try to nurse him. Then I’d quickly try to get him back to sleep before I left for practice, so then he would make it long enough until I got back to nurse him as soon as I got home. Nursing was a big thing I wanted to do and still be able to train.
What was it like to do both of those things?
We just kind of made the schedule work. Sometimes I was a little late to practice and sometimes he hadn’t slept all night and I had to focus on recovery. I wanted a schedule that worked for my family. I really wanted to let go of the stress around needing to feel like I had to do a certain amount of practice. I had an infant!
What motivates you to get out of bed each day?
I do really feel better the rest of the day once I’ve gotten up, had breakfast and have some “me” time by exercising. It really makes me feel like I can conquer anything once I come back and be a mom and have the day with my family.
Fill in the blank: My ideal morning consists of ___________.
Waking up, having coffee or tea and a healthy breakfast and I’m an avid journaler. So sitting and writing my goals for the day or thoughts from the day before, which sets myself up for a day of success.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.