wake up alarms

When You Oversleep…and Internal Alarms Go Off

If you instruct early classes as I have for several years, you frequently hear from well-intentioned attendees, “I just couldn’t get up this morning.” Certainly, rising early takes some getting used to whether you are teaching or attending! In my case, my reply was always an empathetic “It happens!” However, in my head I would confidently think “…but not to me!” In almost 10 years of coaching classes that start from 5:15 to 5:45 a.m., I had (incredibly) never overslept and never been late.

There’s a first time for everything, right?

On days I teach, my (first) alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m. Yes, you read that correctly. But on September 27, 2017, it didn’t. Or maybe it did?

I overslept. For the first time. To this day I don’t know how it happened. I’m not a “snoozer” but somehow managed to sleep through/ignore/shut off all three of my phone alarms. My (fourth) backup Sony nightstand alarm clock hummed with calming sounds of oceanic waves when I groggily opened one eye and noticed the time. But I was not calm.

4:48 a.m.
What time is it?!
What day is it?!
Woke up my husband to confirm. “What day is it?”
Understandably he didn’t immediately know either.

How did this happen?
What do I do first?
[Anxiety level increasing]
How will I make it on time? (My class starts at 5:30, I need to be there around 5:15 to prepare, and it takes me 15 minutes to get to the club.)
What if I don’t make it on time?

This is the exact moment at which you will appreciate advance preparation: laying out all articles of clothing (socks too) the night before—especially if your bedroom is dark and others are still sleeping. You won’t want to waste precious seconds trying to determine if something matches or you have the same socks for both feet. Once you’ve handled the clothing hurdle, if your bag is already packed, pick it up and go. Your music source (CD? iPad? Computer?) should already be packed and ready to go—unless you use your phone and your phone was also your alarm clock! Make sure you grab it!

Here’s my basic checklist of items I prepare around my house the night before I teach early-morning classes:


  • Bike shorts or leggings, top, socks, heart rate monitor.


  • Vitamins, juice cup, coffee cup, and K-cup out on the counter (coffeemaker turns on automatically, just have to press “brew”). Pre-fill the water the night before.
  • Small granola bar (some people prefer to instruct early classes on an empty stomach; I’m not one of them).


  • Cycling shoes
  • Stopwatch
  • iPad (or other music source)
  • Profile notes
  • Headphones (for after class while cleaning up studio)
  • Water bottle (pre-prepped with ice) in fridge (adding ice from our automatic ice maker at 4:45 a.m. will wake up sleeping family members—yes, these little things count).
  • Sneakers
  • Car key

Sure, some of these items only take microseconds. But when you’re running late, every moment counts. When you rush, you can easily forget something because all of your focus is on getting out that door as quickly as possible.

Luckily I live very close to the gym where I teach. On that morning, my heart rate began dropping as I realized I would be there before class started. Despite having all my stuff prepped, I felt unprepared and off my game. Usually while drinking my coffee at that quiet hour, I review my profile notes and music. I hadn’t done that this morning. As a result, when I got on the bike and took the mic, my cues were shorter. I know I was a little less energetic than usual. But, I had made it on time.

After class one of my regulars said he enjoyed my minimalist instructions and quieter coaching style!

If you teach early classes, how do you prepare? Has this situation happened to you? What tips can you share to avoid stressing in the moment?



  1. Yes that is pretty much exactly what I do the night before. Everything is set out and put in their same spots each time. I do have a pre workout drink prepared (just need to add water) and I like to play my music for class as I get ready in the morning too. I also play it in the car on the way to the gym. Just sets the mood. I always have two alarms too. One nice soothing one first, and then the back up one which is more irratating.

    1. Author

      Moira, yes, you bring up a key point – keeping things in the same spot. If you have to look for something, you lost valuable time! The ritual of playing music you plan to use for class can also keep it top of mind for cues/transitions as well.

      I love how your second alarm is more irritating!

  2. I teach an early class on Tuesday and rarely make it to bed in a time that makes for an easy waking. To further complicate things, I have to bring my clothes for work (dress clothes) and a full kit of toiletries, etc.

    I’ve actually started sleeping in my workout top and a pair of pj shorts! Bike shorts next to the bed. Seems silly but it does help. I switched to a Nespresso machine for truly instant coffee, which I brew into an insulated cup.

    I load everything into my car the night before. Gym bag with all my supplies and shoes, etc., my garment bag with my clothes and my small duffle bag with my shoes and toiletries. Brief case. Luckily I have a garage so I feel safe leaving stuff in the car. (Note: it’s important to remember to pack your bra and underwear…just sayin’)

    So it’s “wake up, change shorts, make coffee, feed the cat, get in the car,” pretty much! It’s the only way I can manage this without stress!

    1. Author

      Sara, not silly, spot on! It’s more complicated if you have to pack that “after-class” bag too.

      You wouldn’t be the first person to comment about accidentally omitting a very important garment from a packed bag 😉

  3. Good advice. My classes are all at 5:30am. luckily they are close by. One venue is a half mile from my house, and the other is a 7 minute ride. So I set my alarm for 4:00. That gives me time to hit the snooze button if I really need to, make a cup of coffee, go over my planned ride, and just wake up.

    One thing that I like to do is: when I get home from class, I immediately load my gym bag with bike clothes, towel etc, so it’s all ready to go for the next class. I can grab it and go. Plus I’m also ready to go for a last second sub request from another instructor.

    While we’re discussing preparation …

    I also have a second bag that I keep in the car with my class needs. In it, I keep cords for my music device (iPhone), a charger and cord for the phone, batteries for the mic, wind screens for the mic., a bike mount for my phone (https://www.ebay.com/itm/VUP-Silicone-Bike-Phone-Mount-for-iPhone-X-8-Plus-8-7-Plus-Galaxy-S8-Plus-N/123196345120?epid=28008774561&hash=item1caf130b20:g:ZpwAAOSwfp9bJjwH), I keep a “general playlist” burned on a CD, just in case. An extra bottle of water, a pen, small note book. And bike fitting stuff. (goniometer, plumb line) and … reading glasses, lol.

    The gym supplies us with cords, batteries, etc, but a couple times I’ve run into missing cords, dead batteries, no windscreen etc. I find the peace of mind is worth the small cost of the items.

    One thing being a performer for the past 39 years has taught me is not to rely on your tech needs being where they are supposed to be, or working. And also keep your car gassed up, because it seems it’s always when you’re running late that you need gas.

    1. Author

      Joe, thanks for sharing even more tips, the link to the mount (you save even more time by prepping right when you get home!) and your experience. 39 years, awesome! You’ve even got a “what-to-do-when-you-get-an-emergency-sub-request” prep plan.

      It’s so true that when you’re already late, something else can go wrong!

  4. I never oversleep. Hope I never will. It’s a blessing and a curse bc I wake up so early I’m exhausted by the time I need to leave the house. But I just can’t help it. That said- all of the items you mention I do prepare ahead of time. Except once in a while, I change my mind about what to wear.

    1. Author

      Mila, good to know you’re prepared in case in happens (but hopefully it won’t)!

  5. Yes, I am guilty of waking up a few minutes before class (once). Frantic I threw on my clothes and dashed out the door. Made it a few minutes late. Thankfully our members are true sports and extended grace ☺️
    I now set two alarms 1hr/15mins before class starts. Gives me time to wake up and have some “me time” before being “on”. It truly helps prepping the night before too ???? thank for the “ice tip”… it works????

    1. Oh my, now I feel guilty! When I teach an early class, I set all my clothes out, throw water on my face, brush my teeth, and only need to push a button to start the coffee that has been set out the night before…then I jump in my car with minutes to spare! (Of course, using all the other tips Jackie has laid out).

      Not always a good idea to not allow extra time, but the club is only 4 minutes away. Time for “me time”? That’s while I’m dreaming away! 😉

    2. Author

      That “me time” is one of my favorites! Glad the “ice tip” helped. Truth be told, it took me years to figure out I didn’t have to wake everyone up to get cold water for the gym!

  6. imy alarm clock has dual alrams.and both are set…10 minutes apart..

    1. when I first started teaching early morning classes 15 years ago, I was so afraid of being late I set 3 alarms about 5 minutes apart. My husband didn’t like it though!

      1. Author

        I also set 3. We should run a contest to see who has the most 🙂

  7. I still haven’t overslept but I know it will happen eventually. Fortunately my co owner lives blocks away and ive called in at the last second because of a variety of issies 1) broken down public tranit i was on… 2) massive oile up and the car route thst morning was jammed, 3) got onto the wrong train!!! So, truthdully, I ran into stopped traffic or some other transit issue making me 10 minutes late… ugh!

    1. Yes, Marissa a key part of preparation is knowing who to contact (and how – call or text/SMS) at that early hour if something delays you!

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