Becoming an early morning exerciser

Having a baby changed everything I knew about sleep and daily schedules and taking care of myself.

I haven’t always been perfect about sticking to an exercise routine, but throughout my 20’s I was generally pretty good about fitting in time at the gym, evening runs, or some yoga. Even while pregnant I kept up with exercise and yoga. And then, well, it’s been awhile.

In those first months after my daughter was born I was tired and just trying to survive. During her first summer and fall we took a lot of long walks, but that was the extent of it.

This past summer I signed up for a “boot camp” class, which had me running and flipping tires at 5:30 a.m. twice a week. It was my first taste of that early early exercise lifestyle. Going to bed early and waking up were both hard, but once I was there I discovered the secret world of the morning exercisers. The sky was beautiful, it wasn’t hot or muggy yet, it was energizing to be up and moving while the rest of the city slept. There was a solidarity among everyone at the gym at that hour.

Once that class ended, I fell off the wagon, again. Mornings were dark, I started working more, I was still trying to figure out how to do everything I needed to do and fit in a full night’s sleep.

But by mid-winter I was antsy, putting on weight, feeling blah. I knew I needed to move, to get back in shape, to get some exercise back in my life.

One of the best tips I’ve read about setting a goal is to not say “try”. So, instead of saying: “I’m going to try to go to the gym three times this week” it’s “I’m going to the gym three times this week.”  It is a small shift that works wonders for my own goals.

So, I’m becoming a morning exerciser again. I’ve stopped focusing on how long of a workout I can fit in before I need to go home to shower and get ready for work. Instead I focus on getting to the gym and doing something, anything. Getting to bed early and getting out of bed when the alarm goes off at 5:15 is rough, but I never regret going to the gym. I repeat that to myself as I drag my groggy butt out of bed.

I’ve connected with another working mom in a similar position, both of us longing to be active again, needing exercise for energy, and with the same time slot available: 5:30 a.m.

I leave the house when it is dark, the moon and stars still bright, and the air cold. We meet up at the gym, pump out some cardio, and spend some time with weights. We chat about our two-year-olds, about the daycare they both attend, and about the challenges of finding balance in our lives. We share tips. We are proof to each other that we can carve out this time for ourselves.

The gym at 5:30 a.m. is like a secret society. Full of others for whom the pre-dawn hours are the only time to devote to exercise, we’ve all made the choice to be here. We all decided to get out of bed and do something that is just for us. Fist bump.

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