Ollie Ollerton on the 5am morning routine that changed his life

08 March 2023

The secret to true wellness might be getting up at 5am, according to SAS: Who Dares Wins star, Ollie Ollerton – who says early in the morning is the perfect time to “focus on you”.

The former Special Forces soldier explains: “It’s 5am in the summer – sometimes even 4:30am – in the winter, it’s about 6am. But I do get to bed about 9:30pm.

His first port of call is a cup of hot water and lemon. “I do like coffee, but it’s the worst thing you should have in the morning. Everyone’s driven to having coffee first thing, but when you wake up, when your body’s been in a fasted state for around eight hours, the last thing your body needs is coffee,” says the 52-year-old.

“So it’s really important for me to have that hot water and lemon – it nourishes your system,” adds Ollerton, who joined the Royal Marine Commandos at 18 before six years in the Special Boat Service, undertaking a number of high-profile missions.

Next, he listens to a guided meditation for 20-25 minutes in his infrared sauna.

“Meditation is such a powerful tool. It’s hard to start, but it’s an absolute game-changer,” says Ollerton, who recommends checking YouTube for guided meditations. “That internal dialogue, the thousand-person audience we think we’ve got around us – that’s just your ego telling you you’re wasting your time, or how stupid you look. I’ve had to fight through all of that.”

After that, he takes his Labrador, Murphy, for a 6.5km run.

“This is the time when you’re fighting all those negatives in your mind, your body is trying to stay away from any kind of stress – it wants to go to the path of least resistance. It says, ‘Look at the bean-to-cup coffee machine, the heating is coming on’… You’ve got to block that out.”

It isn’t until after returning from his run (which he says takes about 32 minutes) that Ollerton turns his phone on for the first time.

“A lot of people reach for their phone when they get up. They’re either going to get a bad email, or they’ve put a revealing shot on Instagram and it’s only got one ‘like’ – and it ruins their day.

“That first 30 seconds [after you wake] can navigate the whole of the day, and all it takes is something to come through on your phone.

“It’s really about cutting away all distractions and focusing on you,” he adds. “I go through my own ritual, my own process, before anyone else is involved.”

Ollerton left the UK version of Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins in 2020 (he was axed as part of a reshuffle), which he starred in as part of the intimating team of ‘directing staff’ – alongside Ant Middleton, Jason ‘Foxy’ Fox and, Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham. Since then, he’s filmed an Australian version of the show and is due to start another series.

He’s also been building his business, Break-Point, which provides performance tools and insights from Special Forces techniques, with workshops and courses to help provide “a disruptive change in habitual behaviour”, so people can realise “how powerful they are”.

So, has he always been a morning person?

“My father was quite disciplined when I was a kid – there was no laying in bed, so to speak. So I think I just got born that way, I’m a morning person as opposed to a night person,” Ollerton reflects.

“For me, it’s like, what can you really do at night? Some people work into the evening. A lot of people though, they sit on social media, they sit there watching EastEnders and a load of rubbish that doesn’t offer them any good whatsoever.

“It’s about taking control and [deciding] what are your priorities?”

Back in 2011, he says he went into self-destruct mode and even ended up thinking “about suicide far too much”. It was a wake-up call to start looking inwards for change, he says, rather than outwards.

Talking about emotions was alien in the military, Ollerton recalls.

“It was very much that mindset that if you start talking about your emotions, then it’s weakness,” he says. “A lot of people have got such a disjointed view of what it is to be a man, trying to follow this template which is so outdated, trying to be an alpha male.

“I look back now and think how foolish I was for not being able to talk about my issues. I put on a brave face – and I now consider that a weakness.”

He gave up alcohol in 2016. “Since age 14, having a good time to me was going out drinking. It was a military thing as well – you work hard, you play hard. You’ve been away for a while, you have a few days of drinking every day.”

It was one particular morning-after that triggered the shift. “I was laying on the couch at 10am on a Saturday morning, beautiful day outside. And I thought, ‘If you hadn’t drank or weren’t drinking, you’d be out in the hills with a dog, you’d be on your bike’. And I just went, ‘No more’,” Ollerton recalls.

“I felt like I was stealing life from myself – the moment I managed to kick it in, it was like a rebirth for me.”

He quit with the support of his wife Laura, and says he can’t see himself ever having a drink again.

“I’m finally at peace,” he shares. “I don’t feel I’ve ever been as balanced and happy as I am now.”

And Ollerton believes everybody has the potential to be far happier than they ever think they could be.

“Some people don’t realise the gift they’ve been given, of life. From the moment of conception, we’re one in millions that made it through and got here. [Yet] some people are going through life, almost tiptoeing, hoping they make it to death safely.

“Humans are absolute experts in accepting mediocracy. We’re quite happy to accept the bad relationship, we’re quite happy to accept the job that’s no longer serving us.

“It’s really good when people start to take responsibility for who they are,” says Ollerton. “We’re the ones who can change it.”

For more information, visit ollieollerton.com/break-point 

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox