Just One Thing – Early Morning Walks

Even though we’re both back at work, the year has gotten off to a slow start. We’ve had houseguests on and off since before Christmas and other friends holidaying up here who have wanted to catch up over a meal. It’s been great but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve changed the sheets on the guest bed. Mostly though it means we’ve been way out of routine – especially regarding food.

The last guests left earlier today and the house is ours again – and strangely quiet – but it means the year can finally get started.

Last week I told you about my intentions for the year – and the three words that will govern those. The post is here but essentially my goal for the year, inspired by Dr. Michael Mosley’s Just One Thing (podcast and book), is to make changes one habit at a time.

In the podcast the first thing Dr. Mosley tackles is the early morning walk, so that’s what I’m doing too.

Regular readers and Instagram followers would know that Grant and I are out walking the beach path at Mooloolaba Beach at 5am each morning. We call it our 5@5 – almost 5km at 5am followed by a coffee and a few minutes of just sitting before we have to head home and get the work day started.

Aside from the obvious exercise benefits – there are usually 6000 steps on the clock before I log into work – the early morning walk makes a massive difference to my mood and the way I approach the day.

For a start, there’s the knowledge that no matter what sort of chaos the day job descends into, I began it with a tick: I got out of bed at 4.30am when the alarm went off and I exercised. It seems like such a little thing, but there are days when that small win is something I grab hold of.

Then there are the connections. While Grant and I always sit down and have dinner together, that early morning walk is when we really talk. It’s also the only part of the day when I talk to anyone other than my dog. I work remotely and unless there are scheduled meetings, it’s not unusual for me to spend the whole working day speaking to no one else. On track though, there are the regulars. We bond through our early mornings, those days in winter when it’s pitch dark, those rainy mornings when it’s just us out there.

Mostly though, my early morning walk helps my head as well as my heart. That’s why I struggled so much with headspace stuff towards the end of last year when due to illness, injury, and absence I’d fallen out of my early morning walk routine and as a result wasn’t coping well with things I normally could cope with. Walking, as well as moving my body, moves my thoughts. Without that, they were stuck in a more negative pattern than they’d otherwise be.

As Dr. Mosley says, it’s not just the walk, though, that’s important, but the time that we do it. He says walking in the morning seem to tell our body and brain that the day has started, that it’s okay to stop melatonin production and time to wake up. Aside from the effect on melatonin, daylight also triggers serotonin, the hormone that makes us feel good.

“It’s a natural mood booster, serotonin is one of the chemicals that antidepressants boost, and it’s so powerful it can actually reset your brain chemistry and perhaps even change your outlook.”

But what if, like us, you’re awake before the sun?

“If you’re awake when the sun is rising, although it might not feel like there is much light, there is a higher proportion of blue light or short-wavelength light which is one of the same things our receptors are particularly sensitive to and can have a positive effect.”

And that’s even before you factor in the feel-good factor that comes with seeing a sunrise.

So this week I set the alarm for 4.30am and got up and walked each morning before work. My ankle is still dodgy but if I’m on a flat surface and not balancing on one leg for any period of time – which puts lunges and stairs out of the question – it’s okay. My back is still hurting, but it’s that low, achey hurt that comes from lazy butt muscles, not enough squats and carrying too much weight. While it’s painful, experience tells me the best thing I can do for my back now is to keep moving, until one day it doesn’t hurt so much, and then before I know it I’ll have forgotten when it did hurt.

This week’s early morning pics…

Healthy recipe of the week

We ate out four times again this past week with a few different sets of friends. Thankfully one of those occasions was at the local Vietnamese and I was able to choose a vermicelli salad with char-grilled lemongrass chicken and plenty of veg.

I also made a batch of this chickpea and potato curry. We had it twice during the week and I still have a couple of serves in the freezer for lunches. Cheap and healthy.

Next week…

Things are back to normal so I’m attacking diet – and by that, I mean my diet, not a diet – and my “just one thing” will be to give time-restricted eating a go.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

26 thoughts

  1. Since you mentioned this podcast Jo I’ve listened to a few and they are very interesting and easy to digest. Enjoy having your house back and getting into some routine. I agree an early morning walk is a great start to the day.

  2. Since we got our dog and now dogs I do the early morning walk with them and what a difference it has made to my overall well-being. Watching the sunrise is a real treat! Well done.

  3. That sounds lovely! I do get up at 4:30 and try to have my morning exercise done by 5:30 the latest but it’s much too cold outside this time of year for me to get outside for a walk until at least midday (and even then we’ve had a few where it’s just much too cold or much too wet/icy). I’ve tried making do with the treadmill in the basement but it’s just not the same. You have some lovely early morning views!

    1. It’s so cold and dark in your part of the world I admire you for getting up and exercising so early, but you’re right, the treadmill just isn’t the same as nature.

  4. Early morning walks or any kind of exercise done first thing – that’s what works best for me too. No matter where else the day takes me, I know I have taken care of myself first. Not so important now that I am retired, but was vital when I was working.

    And those early morning views, Jo! That would start my day off perfectly!


    1. It really is vital when working as the day just disappears and before you know it you’re knackered and stressed and have a severe case of the can’t be faffed’s.

  5. I still haven’t had chance to sort out my New Year intentions, due to guests, but daily walks is definitely one of them. I love seeing your morning photos on Instagram. I’m also trying to do five yoga sun salutation stretches before I start my day. I love Dr Mosley’s simple tips to help adapt our lives to be more healthy. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts on the changes you might implement.

  6. Congratulations on starting your ‘Just One Thing’ and for going strong on your 5@5. I look forward to following your JOT journey.
    BTW – That Chickpea-Potato Curry looks divine!

  7. Although I don’t get up as early as you do, I also love my morning walks with my husband. Like you, we get our exercise in before the day’s excuses can muddle things, and we have a full hour of uninterrupted talking time (or, some calming silence… that can be good too).

    I am looking forward to your journey with IF. I’ve discovered that it’s the best way for me to keep my weight where I want it. I’m terrible at counting calories.

  8. I can’t even imagine getting up at 4:30am Jo – so you’re double ticking boxes IMHO. I missed my morning walks big time when I couldn’t walk even a few steps without the grinding in my hip. Getting my morning and evening walks back has been such a blessing – and I definitely relate to the head clearing in the morning when I walk alone, and the good times of chat with my other half when we do the circuit in the evening. So glad you got yours back again too. x

  9. 0430 and I don’t mix! Unless it was to rush to work for an emergency operation. I do some morning walks (mostly in the summer as it is so pitch black at this time of year and even if the sun doesn’t provide much warmth at least I can pretend it does). Our dogs insist on an afternoon walk and that is when I tend to go with my husband and we chat or not. Good luck with the changes you intend to make. I need to go listen to that podcast. Bernie

  10. I have got to get back to getting up earlier. Like you, we were sick toward the end of the year, and went on 3 trips to further get us all discombobulated. No excuses now, though. I like the idea of 5@5. And with breathtaking scenery like yours, I would hope I could scramble out of bed more enthusiastically. Going to approach PC about trying a morning walk before work with me…starting Monday.

  11. Lovely early morning photos! And I hear you about walks being a time to connect. My husband and I take evening walks (he’s so not a morning person), and that’s when we talk without interruptions or distractions.

    1. I reckon it’s the walk more than the time… I love the idea of an evening walk but, well, work and then creative excuses and…you get the idea.

  12. Since going back to work full time, I’ve also set my alarm for 4.30 to fit in a bit of exercise. As hard as it is to climb out of bed at that time, I’m getting used to it after two weeks, and it feels great when the exercise is done for the day

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