I was thinking the other day, that in the past year there were only a few rare Saturdays in which I woke up and didn’t head out to train. It’s the usual routine for me that I do. Waking with the sun and the birds, I make for the bike. I ride. I suffer. Five hours later I come home. Lunch time. I collapse into a heap of pasta. Sometimes I’ll even get a run in before I eat. Sweat — that’s my new middle name. The day is often slumberous from there. If I have a social engagement, I fight with hope that it’s going to be a good one. Any drawl and my energy leaves me. Bed time comes when it feels it ought to whilst you’re training for an ironman. An early good night to friends. Struggling to join in on all the fun until late.
But on those rare Saturdays that I don’t train, I wake early to relax instead. Without a single thought of toil I do something simple. I open my window. I read. I write. I listen to old music. I listen to the wind. I eat my porridge slowly (God it tastes good). Then I leave the house, hopefully bathed in sun, bedecked in Converses and something baggy, my hair combed. I look up in joyful hope at what the day has to offer. Blue skies and not a momentary thought of pushing myself. It’s not even ten o’clock and the world feels quiet. The whole day is ahead of me.
I believe that one needs to understand that there’s a resonant pleasure in nothing sometimes. I find it’s the early mornings that gift us the best chance to experience it. It doesn’t need to be crazy early. Just early enough for your tastes. Early enough to feel the world. Being alone only makes it easier. I think back to adventures I’ve taken and all the early mornings that made them. Some of the best days of my life were made before the sun was even an orange haze on the horizon.
There are obvious obstacles of course. During the week I work. You work too. We all work. So how can we experience blissful nothingness with the struggle that’s bound to occur? Well “isolation is the gift”, said Charles Bukowski. And to achieve this isolation — to feel it — I choose to wake early. Who starts work at five anyways? It is the hour of the Gods and you make yourself one when you seize at it. I need to squeeze in that sunrise session, I tell myself. Get that prized head space.
By six I’m out the door pedalling away, or I’m on my feet. Tap, tap, tap. That’s my Nike’s pounding the pavement around Wandsworth Common. Green trees overhead and dogs at my feet. It’s a lovely time in a lovely London world. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. That’s the cranks on my bike going round and round. Plains of green grass, small hillocks and the odd deer. It must be Richmond Park. What a place. And wow ok, sweat done already, I’ll think. I was isolated. With my thoughts. Enjoying. And suddenly I get home, eight thirty, showered and back to my desk with time to spare. Heart rate’s back down. I pull a shirt on. I eat my porridge fast (God it still tastes good). I begin my work contented.
For the entire day I feel buoyed. A head start. A good mood. Cheating for life. All it took was the little trick of waking early. And it makes lazier Saturdays all the more worth it when I have them. I’d invite you try it. But try and reserve Sunday mornings for the duvet. We can be slaves to exercise and the things that bring us joy, but it’s also rest that brings us to our best selves.
Later at bedtime, I wonder in private if I’ll always wake early. I’m hopeful that the answer is almost certainly no. Not because I dislike it, but because it shouldn’t always be necessary. I do it at the moment because I’m choosing to occupy my time in the way that allows for the best possible version of my current existence. For what is a man without his goals? Mine are my own only, and for now they require early mornings. They are all that take my time, and it’s that isolation that lets me train hard. That’s the gift Bukowski refers to — the old bastard. It’s the sweat that makes me appreciate the longer nights in bed. The days without fatigue and pain. And eventually, one day when I wake next to someone and her soul is aflame with mine, I’ll think back to those early mornings where I worked for what I wanted. I know I’ll have earned this sweet, sweet down time. A fine aroma of relaxation with her next to me. A keen smile. A warm life that all human beings know. It‘ll be ten o’clock and we’ll be in bed eating croissants and bacon (and God it’ll taste better than porridge).
It is in this way that I’ll know my early mornings will be fewer. My sporting life will be over, and my new one beginning. Life to yourself can be successful and happy. It just depends what you’re looking for. In the meantime, I’ll keep waking early for the sun and the stars and the sweat who accompany me into the finest delights. Blood awaits my aching body, but I mind not. It won’t be forever.
~ Samuel Hodges, April 7th 2021, London.