I wake up early. And, it can be a pretty controversial subject in the breakroom, say, around 10:30 in the a.m.
Person Getting Coffee or Water: Wow, pretty early for lunch, huh?
Me: Yeah, well, I’ve been up since 5.
PGCW: Whoa, why?
Me: I go to CrossFit at 5:30.
PGCW: Oh, so that’s how you do it.
Me: Yeah, it’s the only time I can really work out with work and the kids.
PGCW: Huh. I guess. Shew. *Eyebrows raised, walks away with drink in hand.*
Me: *Stares hangrily at microwave, willing food to be at an edible temperature faster.*
It takes dedication to leave your bed before dawn, especially to drag your body under a heavy barbell when you haven’t even had a real conversation yet. But due to work schedules, it may be the only choice for some of us.
And over the last nine months, I’ve developed some tricks that make dawn patrol easier.
1.iPhone Bedtime feature
When you tap the clock icon on your iPhone, you’ll notice a feature called “Bedtime” at the bottom of the screen. You put in your wakeup time and how long you want to sleep, and it tells you when to go to bed. Then it will notify you when bed time is near. It’s a great feature because it’s easy to lose track of time in the evening when you’re watching tv or doing last-minute chores. Getting enough sleep is critical to muscle recovery, and I definitely notice a performance decrease in my lifts when I’m underslept.
2. Be mindful of eating and drinking the night before
A big meal sitting in your stomach right before bed makes it difficult to sleep and could pose problems early the next morning. (It probably won’t help if it’s Chipotle, but you go ahead and live dangerously, my friend.) I try to eat as early as I can after I get home, and I feel best the next morning if I don’t snack after my last meal. I’ve also cut out alcohol almost entirely during the week. I noticed this had a huge effect on how I felt the next morning, even if it was a glass of wine. I was never hungover, but my reflexes were much slower, and I felt groggy.
3. Sleep in your gym clothes
This habit started not out of a desire for efficiency, but because Rogue’s tank tops are so damn soft. They put my regular sleep shirts (read: t-shirts) to shame. But sleeping in them also saves me time in the morning because I don’t have to find a shirt. For dudes, even easier – you don’t have to shimmy on a sports bra underneath. If don’t want to sleep in your gym clothes, at least set them out the night before in an obvious spot so when you’re fumbling around half-asleep, you can find them easily. Which leads me to…
4. Decide what could be done on the way or when you get there
The beauty of waking up at the buttcrack of dawn is traffic is never a variable. Actual variables: putting on socks and shoes. I put my socks and shoes on en route to the gym. Hear me out: I know I will hit three stop lights on the way there. Each light is enough time to slip on each shoe, with the third used to tie the left one. When I park, I just have to tie the right shoe, and I’m done. It saves me precious minutes, I promise. In reality, you probably have a couple minutes when you get to the gym to dot a couple i’s before you warm up, so use that time – just don’t abuse it.
5. Have a dedicated gym bag
I don’t use a ton of extra equipment. I only have one pair of shoes (GASP!), but what I do use is always in the same bag. My jump rope, wrist wraps and tape are always together, so I’m prepared no matter what the WOD is. I also keep a spare (empty) water bottle in there in case I forget one and an emergency protein bar.
6. Locate car keys before bed
I drive a Volkswagen which has a flip-out key fob. My kids are obsessed with it. Click, snap, click snap, clicksnapclicksnapCLICKSNAPCLICKSNAP! I say this to say that my keys are often pilfered the second I get home. If you’re not in the habit of putting your keys on a ring or in a bowl when you get home, get in it now. I’m thankful to say I’m not the only one who has showed up late due to missing car keys.
7. Don’t have kids
I’m kidding. No, but seriously, that would really help. Nothing is worse a kid screaming in the 4 o’clock hour. It usually means I won’t go back to sleep before my alarm goes off at 4:55. So I volunteer for the 10-1 a.m. shift and let my spouse get the later shift because I know there’s a better chance of me falling back asleep. If you don’t have kids, apply to pets, the elderly, Gremlins, whatever else needs your attention in the witching hours.
All told, I really do like getting my workout in early. I have much fewer excuses early in the morning than I do in the evening when I’ve been through a full work day, and I just want to get home and veg (read: the thing I never do because #7.) It’s also a nice check on the to-do list first thing in the morning, and I feel ready to tackle the rest of the day.
Good luck on dawn patrol!