5.30am. Middle of the night or early morning?

I put up a small-scale poll I put up on my personal Instagram which swung it 70-30 in favour of middle of the night!

From the beginning of this year, this is the time I set my alarm. Was it hard at first? Absolutely. I cannot lie and say it was an easy pattern to get into but, like everything, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Consistency and discipline are key, and that goes for anything you want to do or achieve in life, so, yes, those early 5.30am alarms were a shock to the system!

Hearing that alarm ring in the morning immediately, your thought is, 'No, it can't be already! I'm so cold outside of the duvet, I'm so warm and cosy, do I really need to do this?'.

And, after that five-minute argument in my head, I get up, as I must get out for my daily morning walk to get my Fitbit steps in! I am slightly competitive on the old Fitbit, and early morning before work is when I can fit that 5K in.

Luckily for me, I am not alone in this routine; I wake my partner, Ally, up and we are both up and ready, aiming to leave the house at 5.50am to get in our walk. As soon as we step out the door it is freezing! Cars are iced over, and we are wrapped up in hats, gloves and our scarves, but off we go, our mission: to improve our fitness and set ourselves up right for the day. It's also a great time for us to have some quality time, and a good catch-up discussing what our day ahead looks like, and whatever else is on our mind.

7am. We are back in our street and a few house lights are on. Most people are starting to get up and prepare for their day.

I'm smugly thinking I'm ahead of everyone on the street (once an athlete, always an athlete's competitive mindset). I was up at 5.30am, which not many people are prepared to do, and I am walking into my house at 7am feeling like I've conquered the day, and positive about what I have on.

Now, I absolutely disagree with comparing yourself to others, so although I think in my head, 'I'm ahead of everyone in my street', I know we are all working on our own individual goals. But, honestly, I guess it gives my ego a wee boost, and puts me in a 'conquering the day' mood!

Why do I now love my 5.30am morning routine? I feel so productive at the start of my day! I get a 5K walk in, get moving and start those endorphins off early to put me in a good mood. I sit down, have a nice breakfast and a hot cup of tea, fuelling my body with goodness. I even have time to spend doing something I want before I head to my home office for a 9am start.

Some mornings this involves reading, a meditation, and on others it involves watching the previous night's soaps – a guilty pleasure of mine, I know. Don't judge me!

I have also seen me some mornings doing a big batch-cook of soup, or an evening meal. A Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday morning, usually I book in for a 45-minute spin class and get a strong workout in. Sure, I have just had a 5K walk but, when you walk with Ally, bless him, he is what I call a 'doddler', so it is a leisurely pace. A tough spin class where I can push myself and progress my fitness is fun!

It also helps that I genuinely enjoy spin so it is something I do for enjoyment that just happens to help me work hard and get fitter. A win-win for me!

For those three-and-a-half hours before my workday even starts, I have enjoyed some exercise, had a healthy meal and had some time for myself to do what I like. I am in a positive mindset, my goals clear in my head, happy that my morning's actions are aligned to my goals for the year, and that positive momentum carries me through the rest of my day.

So, why am I sharing this with you, and why should it be relevant?

Now, I am not telling you that, from tomorrow, you should be up at 5.30am and starting your day. I am sharing because this change I have made has made a huge difference in my life and, by sharing this experience, others might adopt it, and it could also positively impact theirs.

A common problem most people have when they are trying to achieve their goals is time. We don't have the time time to work out, to read and so on. Winning an extra two hours in the morning gives you that time!

Now, don't get me wrong, I need sleep and I see myself in bed most nights at 9pm. This is because of a few things; of course, getting up early requires an early night, but I also struggle with fatigue because of my traumatic brain injury, and the epilepsy medication I am on, so I have switched my routine and, instead of having a few hours extra at night, I have given myself those hours in the morning.

I thought to myself, it's harder to motivate myself at night. It's easier to binge a Netflix series, or watch the TV and it being unproductive, something I think a lot of people are guilty of. By the way, I do watch Netflix series, just no longer into the early hours of the morning, instead sometimes before work!

If you are reading this and thinking, 'I wish I had time for exercise, watching my programmes, reading my book, quiet time from the kids', try the 5.30am mornings!

It will be tough to start with – I won't lure you into a false sense of security – but I find the benefits hugely outweigh the cons. Once you have changed your body clock, you naturally settle into the early mornings and are on your way to win your day, smash your goals and achieve what it is you are working towards.

It uses the time you have to focus on long-term goals and Jocko Willink’s books and podcasts inspired me to give this a go. The 5am club is also another book discussing the benefits of starting your day early and says the most successful people in the world start their days this way. Look at the Rock – he is up around 4am doing an hour on the cross-trainer. Madness, yet impressive!

These early starts allow me to focus on me and achieve my long-term goals. It helps me keep my work to work hours, where I can be more productive and focus on that, as I know I am achieving my goals in both areas of my life.

Give it a go! Try the 5.30am alarm club! Who knows – maybe we could start a butterfly effect and set up a virtual or in person 5.45am 5K walking club!

Find the time for you and your goals!