habit shift: morning walks.

August 10, 2016

I’ve talked about my morning walk habit on and off for years. I’ve been on them, I’ve been off them. I’ve been a daily walker and I’ve fallen into a wintry malaise and hardly left my apartment. I’ve made wintry resolutions to to get up and move more and the cycle of movement…and lack thereof…has continued. But lately I’m taking my morning walks with renewed urgency and remembering why I feel so much better when I do.

The renewed interest has a lot to do with the fact that the incredible heat wave has finally calmed a bit, heralding some renewed energy. Mostly it has to do with the fact that Faye wakes up begging to go outside. Rather than sit around listening to whines for an hour while I groggily get myself ready for the day of work ahead, I’ve switched things around. The routine generally goes like this: get up, get out. On mornings when I know I have a bit extra time to get ready later, it’s a barely brush my teeth, pull on my shorts and shirt and a pair of sneaks and go kind of a situation. On mornings when I have less time post-walk, it’s a quick shower and a quicker getting dressed and we’re out the door and walking with James to the subway.

Either way, by the end of the walk I feel about a million times more ready to start the day than when I started out. Bonus for getting that smug “it’s not even 8:30 and I’ve already accomplished something” feeling. It’s been such a pleasant shift—for everyone.

I don’t have any advice that I’m sure will be totally universal; a morning walk may or may not be something you like to do and finding a time to exercise has so much to do with personal  preferences, work schedules, and moods. There have been months when getting up and getting straight to work felt better than getting up and walking and months when doing either thing straightaway just didn’t feel possible. To everything, there is a season, etc. 

But lately the keys to the habit shift for me have been these:

1. Eat a small breakfast (then treat yourself). I need a little time to get hungry in the morning anyway, so I’ve just been enjoying a cup of coffee and eating a square of toast before heading out. When I return home I make a larger, more satisfying breakfast that I’m ready to gobble before work. (Often our walks magically end close to a place where we can find a bagel and cream cheese or an egg-and-cheese on a hard roll to share. I’m never unhappy about this outcome.)

2. Don’t worry about what you look like. Arguably good advice for any day, but for days when you want to get up and go especially. I make myself mildly presentable, by making sure I’m fully clothed, that I’ve got a full water bottle, and keys and I’m out the door. (With Faye and her stroller of course.) On days when I need to get showered and dressed pre-walk, I’m admittedly also lax about the presentability factor. You can waste an awful lot of valuable walking time worrying about how your bangs are laying on your forehead.

3. Shift a task to the night before. One of the biggest impingements on me getting something done in the morning is feeling the need to finish some other, usually mundane, morning task. I’ll want to take a walk before work, but I’ll decide it’s a better idea to wipe down the kitchen counters and empty the dishwasher. I’ll want to take a walk, but I’ll remember I need to clean the bathroom. I’ll want to take a walk, but I’ll remember that I didn’t finish a post the day before, or photos need captioning, or emails need answering. Making a concerted effort to check one more thing off my list the night before means I can get up and go without feeling like I’m throwing the rest of the day off kilter or shirking some more-pressing responsibility.

What about you? Any morning exercisers out there? Tricks to getting it done?

For the curious: My sneaks are from All Birds (and they’re made from merino wool)!

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  • Reply Sarah E August 10, 2016 at 9:34 am

    When we adopted a puppy this spring and brought her to our apartment, morning walks (and evening walks, and quick pee breaks) became mandatory. It’s a blessing to have a cute little creature that I’m adamant about caring for, because it means I’m taking care of myself, too. I feel loads better, my moods have been more stable, and I feel ready to DO stuff when I get home. Currently, we get up, go out for a quick bathroom break, come back for half the coffee and breakfast (and blog reading), then head out on a long walk. After we return, it’s time to work out or just shower and start the day with the other half of my coffee.

    Totally with you on not worrying about what you wear. If I’m covered, and it’s weather appropriate, we’re good. I don’t even brush my teeth til we get back, since I won’t be talking to anyone and I still have coffee to drink at home anyway.

    • Reply Stacy August 10, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      I’ve noticed the same since we got a puppy in the winter! Though my boyfriend is on puppy duty in the mornings (I have to be out the door before 7am most mornings) I have started taking her on walks in the evening after work. It’s a great motivation to get outside and move.

      • Reply Emelia August 24, 2016 at 12:05 pm

        I’m the morning-dog-walk manager in my house. I get dressed and ready for work, but usually slip on some sneakers instead of high heels to take my pooch for her morning walk, so hear, hear to not worrying about what you look like!

  • Reply MA August 10, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Great ideas, especially the one about ending near egg and cheese on a hard roll. I am a reluctant morning exerciser and totally agree with the idea that I’m glad that I did it, but can find a million reasons to not do it. My bike commute to work is my morning exercise. I have to say that having my kids on board with a routine involving exercise before work/school, in our case the bike commute to school/work, makes it infinitely easier. Maybe that is obvious. But it just becomes routine and then you gotta do it because they are ready to roll!

    • Reply Julie August 10, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      What age are your kids?! Obviously, location is a factor, too, but I would LOVE to get my kids into biking to school. I have 1st grader and a preschooler so I think we are a few years away…

      • Reply Trish O August 10, 2016 at 4:54 pm

        We used to bike to school for years. My kids are older now and take a bus. When they were your kids age I would have the first grader on a bike and the preschool kid on a tag-a-long on my bike. The only issue with the tag-a-long was when I parked my bike later on. Needed some space. We then graduated to everyone on a bike as they got older. It was great fun and a wonderful way to start and end the day. We rode home from school, too.

        • Reply MA August 11, 2016 at 3:25 pm

          Hi Trish O and Julie –

          My kids are now 7 and 10 years old. But like Trish, we started when they were younger and both kids rode in a bike trailer or on a seat attached to my bike or on the back of the cargo bike. We would leave our trailer or seat at preschool to avoid lugging them all over town. Now both kids ride their bikes, which is sometimes tricky because they are at two different speeds. But riding with kids is great and I highly recommend it. I like they get some energy out at the beginning and end of the school day.

          • Julie August 16, 2016 at 7:29 am

            Thank you both! I need to hear these things because I would love to walk, but we are just a little too far, but the bike takes some convincing for me. We have 1 dangerous rode that is unavoidable on our route. But I am on a committee to make our town a Complete Streets town – so I hope to make it more safe for cycling! Thank you for the inspiration and guidance. We have many years of school ahead!

  • Reply Lexie August 10, 2016 at 9:43 am

    I love this comment, Sarah — we are getting a puppy in 10 days (10 days! I think I may be even more excited than my kids) and I completely overlooked the fact that walking her = exercise. I’ve been in an exercise funk for way too long. Hopeful that this provides me with some newfound magic and sparkle again!

  • Reply Sarah Z August 10, 2016 at 9:59 am

    On a related note, is Faye usually in a stroller? Does she ever walk by herself? I have an 18 mo. old and of course always wonder, how do other parents do it?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 10, 2016 at 10:09 am

      Not sure there’s any such thing as “usually” with a two-year-old. She’s sometimes in a stroller, sometimes in a carrier, sometimes running down the sidewalk all by herself. But if it’s a morning walk I’m after and not a stop-to-close-every-gate-we-pass then the stroller is helpful for covering a lot more ground.

    • Reply Sarah E August 10, 2016 at 10:35 am

      When my older brother and I were kids (we’re two years apart), my brother was extremely energetic, and therefore Mom always made him push the stroller and walk by himself. He was like a puppy, needing a good walk every day. I imagine my toddler self seeing him put so much work in, and thinking “nah, the stroller is fine,” and I quietly and happily rode in style. Personalities in little kids are so different.

  • Reply Jenna August 10, 2016 at 10:01 am

    My morning exercise, too, comes from my bike commute. Actually, its a bike/train commute, so I get in some good reading time too!
    I’m curious about the sneaks that you have there… how do they fare in wet weather? I’d love to get a pair but we get unpredictable rain here, and I would hate to be caught out on a sunny-turned-stormy day and ruin the shoes!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 10, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Haven’t ruined mine in rain yet, but they’ve never been truly truly soaked. That said, wool is naturally water repellent and so I imagine even in a drenching rain they’d be fine!

    • Reply Danielle August 10, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      I have these shoes too and love them! I haven’t got caught in the rain (there is no summer rain in SF) but they are machine washable so i would think that they would be just fine. They offer replaceable insoles too so in the off chance that the insole is ruined you could salvage the rest of the shoe. They are really great shoes!

      • Reply Leslie August 10, 2016 at 2:19 pm

        I’ve been wearing a pair of AllBirds about every other day for three months now as I’ve been traveling. I’m still waiting for a real rain storm to test them in! They do well in light rains, typical puddles, very wet grass. I pull the soles out to air them our faster if I’ve been on a heavy hike and have washed the soles a few times.

  • Reply Emily August 10, 2016 at 10:17 am

    I’m not a morning person at all, but I love morning walks/runs. I always go for a 20 minute jog before showering for the day and then I walk to work (which is about 45 minutes from home).

    There is something lovely about getting up when the air is still crisp and the light makes everything feel a little faded.

  • Reply Clare August 10, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Morning exercise is a must for me – I am so low on energy after a long day at work that if I put it off til later, it’s just not gonna happen! My main trick is putting my workout clothes literally right next to the bed. That way I can sort of roll out on autopilot and let my legs wake me up.

  • Reply Rosabella August 10, 2016 at 10:37 am

    I love the idea of a morning stroll, but my street is exceptionally boring…I make do with morning yoga stretches to music and a headstand!

  • Reply Emma August 10, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Lovely shoes — recently started running and these might be just what I need! Do you find that you typically wear them without socks, as the website suggests?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 10, 2016 at 10:48 am


    • Reply Julie August 10, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      Yes… BUT they are not running sneakers. They are a casual, walking shoe.

      • Reply Erin Boyle August 10, 2016 at 4:21 pm

        Probably at least somewhat a matter of personal preference!

  • Reply Aimee August 10, 2016 at 11:17 am

    I practice yoga every (haha) morning at 6 am, but like you, I go through cycles of motivation with this. I try to remind myself that the benefits outweigh the blah feeling that makes me want to stay in bed. I feel so much better when I get my 6 am yoga session in, but sometimes I conveniently forget this if I just want to sleep in.

  • Reply Allyson August 10, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I’m in the process of trying to turn myself into a morning person. Maybe morning walks are the answer. They do sound absolutely lovely.

  • Reply Christie August 10, 2016 at 11:57 am

    I need to get up and out the door. My husband leaves for work at 6:30, though, so I have to be home by then to care for the kids. This means I definitely have less motivation (and I feel a little unsafe walking around in the dark). I just need to do it. I won’t regret it.

  • Reply India August 10, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I think you read my mind! I have seen these shoes numerous times and wanted to go back to the website to check prices etc and think about purchasing but couldn’t remember the brand name. I googled “wool sneakers” then immediately clicked over to my bloglovin’ I’d already opened up (yes, very short attention span, but hey, my internet is sloooow). Anyway, as I scrolled down my reading list of blog posts there is your post and the shoes I’m after! It must be a sign that I need to buy them haha.
    Also, congrats on the exciting baby news! I saw it on instagram a few hours ago and am so happy for you all!

  • Reply Katie August 10, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    I love this! I’m a big runner so I’m committed to getting myself up 5 days out of the week to run, even if it’s in feet of snow and in the dark (with a headlamp, of course) where I live here in Colorado. Winter is actually my favorite time to run because there is no one on the trails except for herds of elk and the occasional coyote curious about what I’m doing from a field away. An additional plus is I’m able to watch the sunrise! What makes it easier for me to get up in the morning is to not dilly-daddle in bed or think too much about what I’m doing. My alarm goes off and I hardly have a moment to think before I’m all dressed and the running shoes are on. It literally takes me about 8 minutes to get from bed out to the street. I don’t sit in bed thinking about my other options for the morning, check email, look at Instagram, etc. Another thought that always gets me out of bed is that even if it seems dark outside, it is always a little brighter when you’re out there. The sun will rise in a matter of minutes. I remember when I was a student at NYU and living in Soho (Broome and Centre Street), I LOVED waking up early and taking a walk around the neighborhood, watching street cleaners, hearing the birds, or noticing small patches of grass. It was such a pleasure to think that I had the whole neighborhood by myself before the millions of people made their way to the streets in an hour or two. Those are some of the moments I miss most about living in NYC.

    • Reply Emily August 10, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Katie, would love to know what shoes you prefer for winter runs. Thanks! Emily

  • Reply Cindy August 10, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    “You can waste an awful lot of valuable walking time worrying about how your bangs are laying on your forehead.”

    This might be the best thing I’ve read in a month.

    Great post!

  • Reply ladylyn August 10, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    I don’t exercise in the mornings (except once in a blue moon). However, shifting tasks to the evening before is a big YES in my book. My most important evening-before tasks are: packing school lunches, picking out the next day’s clothes, and getting whatever stuff needs to go out the door with us in the morning into the proper bags and backpacks. Makes a WORLD of difference in the morning’s peace when I’m not struggling to do these things through the sleepy early morning brain fog.

  • Reply Mary Kate August 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    I was in a morning yoga habit for a little while, but lately have been overcommitting myself after work so I need the extra sleep in the morning. Would love to get into another morning routine … maybe when this crazy summer is over. I have a decent amount of walking on my commute but would love to be able to walk to the park and back. I have never been a morning person, so I think this will have to wait until I go freelance!

  • Reply Trish T. August 10, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I go to the gym before work in the morning, which means a 5AM wake-up. Forming the habit has been the biggest puzzle piece for consistently working out! All the rest of my tips are well-tested and written about all over the internet. Since the gym is on my way to work, I pack all my “get ready” stuff into my gym bag the night before and often sleep in my gym clothes to expedite the morning. Similar to what you mentioned in your post, a little extra work the night before makes a huge impact on my ability to get out the door! Also, planning my work outfit the night before makes me thoughtfully choose my garments, but miraculously I ponder my choices less at night than I do when I get ready at home in the morning.

  • Reply Judith August 10, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    A morning walk is the gift that keeps on giving, and throughout my time as a working mother, I’d always find a way to fit it in. Now it’s a habit. When your children are older and in school, you might find it gives you some valuable alone time when you can ponder thorny work/writing issues uninterrupted. And, of course, the exercise habit pays off later in life — At 61, (I also swim 3x/week) I’ve never felt fitter. And if I’m blessed with grandchildren some day I look forward to completing the circle as I push them around in their strollers.

  • Reply Kelcey August 10, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve never been the type to bounce out of bed and hit the gym, but my work scheduled has made a life schedule rearrange necessary. I find that having my gym clothes set out and ready to slide into (in the dark! without waking the slumberer next to me!) makes it all that much easier to get out of bed and out the door. Luckily, I have time to dash home for a shower and a proper breakfast before I head out the door to the office.

    I’m also trying to include evening walks on the days I don’t hit the gym after work. My neighborhood is set back into some protected open space, and especially in the summer I love the smell of the sage and rosemary that grows all over the place. It’s an especially nice way to end the day.

  • Reply Bethany August 10, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    How has nobody mentioned yesterday’s Instagram post? Is that anyhow related to the morning walks? ; ) LOVE this post… and yesterday’s Insta!

    • Reply Rita Tocta August 10, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      I know! Congratulations Erin and James and Faye! A beautiful family keeps growing

      • Reply Erin Boyle August 10, 2016 at 5:10 pm

        Thank you, both! Exciting times!

  • Reply Haylie August 10, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Have you posted this before? That’s not a complaint, but a real question… I’m prone to really intense deja vu, so it could be me, but I could have sworn you had!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 10, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      the same post? nope! but i’ve written about morning walks and exercise habits before!

  • Reply Emmy August 10, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Erin, how are those sneakers holding up? I’ve been tempted to get a pair for a while but am always thrown off by the price, which I would be fine paying if there was some guarantee they would look and feel nice for a while!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 10, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Great! I’ve had them since March or so. Not a guarantee, of course, but I’ve been pleased.

      • Reply Jacki November 22, 2016 at 11:19 pm

        What kind are they? They’re super cute btw.

  • Reply Audrey August 10, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Yes! I’m with you totally. It’s the first thing I do every morning after making coffee too. I have 3 month old and just started back to working from home. Our morning walk is sometimes my only chance to get outside all day. It helps set the tone for the whole day.

  • Reply Hannah August 11, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I wake up early to do some light yoga and then weed and water my garden. I also like to harvest things in the morning before the heat wilts everything. I love doing it! The mosquitoes usually aren’t too bad in the morning, and I can hear owls calling. Those early morning moments, sipping coffee and admiring my plants, are some of the best moments of my whole day. Also, you’re right – there’s major satisfaction in having accomplished something great before 8:30 (7:30 in my case)!

  • Reply Rachel August 11, 2016 at 9:45 am

    How ironic that you just posted this today. I’ve been waking up every morning with the cats to feed them, and at this time I just stay awake and fit in 20-30 minutes of aerobics in my living room. Old school, yes, but Philly’s heat/humidity factor have been oppressive and I can’t bring myself to exercise outside. Last night I walked to Wawa but I returned with a pint of ice cream. It’s about a half mile each way, there and back.

    I did skip my workout this morning because I was just too tired. Chalk it up to the late nights watching the Olympics. I’ve already re-arranged my schedule to fit in the exercise right after work.

  • Reply Sasha August 11, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve been curious about the All Birds sneakers for a while – how do you like them? Any thoughts on fit (I have hesitated to buy them because I’m worried about ordering sneakers online…)?


    • Reply Erin Boyle August 11, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      I like them a lot! I typically wear a 6 and that’s what I ordered. They fit perfectly!

  • Reply Jen August 13, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I set my alarm and get up 10 minutes earlier. I’ll always, without fail, see some notification from over the night that I need to check. That 10 minutes gives me time to check it and still make it for a morning workout. Setting out my workout clothes also helps me.

  • Reply Kim R August 15, 2016 at 11:06 am

    If anyone has any insight into whether these wool sneakers hold up in light rain, I’m very curious! Just moved to Seattle and need a new pair.

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 15, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Have worn many times in light rain, and they hold up beautifully!

  • Reply Jess T August 16, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    My boys (4 and 3) both like walking and so I can’t get a real excercise walk in with them there. So, over the past few months I’ve started waking up before them and going for a walk by myself. It’s been lovely to have that bit of time in the morning to listen to a podcast, some music, or just walk in the (relative) quiet. Then, when we go for a rambling walk later in the day I don’t feel as though I should be “pushing it” and just get to enjoy the slow pace of discovery.

  • Reply Jayme | holly & flora August 27, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    I’m just now catching up, reading all of the posts I missed most of the month. I completely feel you on this post. I find that if I take the time to complete a task the night before and lay out my walking or workout clothes beside my bed, I actually GO. And it is SO important not to worry about how you look. That’s where sunglasses and a big hat come out to play. 😉 I’ve been into eating a small meal, maybe a smoothie, and then having a mid-morning breakfast after my walk. It works out just beautifully. PS – I love those grey shoes. <3 <3 <3

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