I’ve always enjoyed working out. For some reason, going to the gym has always been my jam. Maybe it’s the fact that I was never coordinated enough to rock out the team sports (example: the only point I ever scored in basketball was on my own net, sorry again about that girls). And of course, working out in a gym has always been easy and convenient, completely on my own terms and schedule. Until I had kids.
Seriously, when is there time to fit in the gym with a couple of little ones pulling at your shirt with endless needs at every waking hour?
The reality is that I am a different person when I exercise. I’m happier, more energetic, sleep better, eat better, am much calmer and less stressed, and am a better mom and wife by a landslide. Knowing this, I tried so hard to fit in afternoon workouts for about a year at which point I realized that I was totally kidding myself. I confess, I only was able to fit it in about 1 time a week, which absolutely didn’t cut it. Back to the drawing board.
Before I get into this, I have to also admit that I’m a morning person, and always have been. I used to go to bed at 8:30pm as a teenager and wake up at 5:30-6am to take on the day: sad but true. It’s just the way I’m programmed. So, when I dissected my schedule to try to find the best time to fit in a workout, the crack of dawn was the only viable option for me. Truth be told, I can make a promise to myself to go in the afternoon, but inevitably something comes up and I don’t go. I have nobody to blame but myself if I don’t go first thing in the morning. Everyone is asleep, and the only person getting in my way is the girl in the mirror.
My workouts may not be textbook, but I’m THERE, and I’m moving my body and I feel good. One of my favourite quotes is “imperfect action is better than perfect inaction”. You don’t have to kill it every morning, I feel like a million bucks even on the mornings that I have a lousy work out…because at least I’m working out!
I’ve been asked a few times for some tips on how I manage to get to the gym consistently, what I do for a workout, and what I eat and when… so here they are!
Night Before: prep for a no-excuses morning!
- Place workout gear (see the shop section below for my favs) and my toothbrush in the bathroom, ideally away from the kids’ bedrooms (some people sleep in their workout gear…I like my PJ’s too much for that).
- Prep a mug with a teabag (I drink black tea) and fill the kettle with water (not necessary for some people, but I like a cup of something warm first thing in the morning)
- Place the following at the front door: my keys, water bottle, hair elastic, ear phones, gym shoes and a post-workout snack (I eat a smoothie, homemade energy bar or a good quality store bought one like Genuine Health).
- Prep anything important for the next day including lunches and homework and set out clothes for the kids so we aren’t scrambling in the morning.
- Set my alarm for 4:30am (yes, that’s right, 4:30am) – but get up when you want of course I realize this is insane.
- Go to bed at 9:30pm (in order to get 7 hours of sleep, which your brain and body need)
Morning (Before Workout)
- 4:30am: Wake up to alarm and DON’T SNOOZE…. SERIOUSLY, DON’T DO IT!!!!
- Brush teeth and get dressed, make a cup of tea (I feel that it’s too early to eat for me, but have a banana or piece of fruit if you need to eat before you work out)
- 4:50am: Get in the car and go to the gym.
My Workout (1 hr)
Giant disclaimer here, I’m not a fitness pro! But this is what I do every day, so as imperfect as it is, this is my routine! I try to lift as much weight as I can within reason and have indicated the weight that I use below; I lift until I can’t do another rep to get the most out of my workout (to exhaustion is what they call it), but adjust the weight to what you can manage. Feel free to look up any of the exercises if they don’t sound familiar, there are a gazillion images on the web! Please consult your physician before beginning any new exercise regime if you have any health concerns.
- 5:00am CARDIO (and talking to Ed, my favourite person at the gym)
- 5:20am STRETCH
- 5:30am WEIGHTS: I alternate body parts for each day, doing 3 sets of each exercise, using the heaviest weights that I can for each exercise as per below:
- LEGS & BUTT:
- 15 squats using the Smith machine (use free weights if you can or want)
- 20 forward lunges on each side (with weights held at your side if you can)
- 20 plie squats holding a heavy weight (25 lb dumbbell is what I use)
- 20 back lunges on each side (with weights held at your side if you can)
- 25 standing leg lifts on each side
- BICEPS, TRICEPS & BACK:
- 20 dumbbell curls on each side (tucking elbows to my side)
- 20 overhead triceps extensions on each side
- 15 triceps extensions using the machine
- 15 single arm dumbbell rows on each side
- 15 wide grip pull downs (on a machine)
- 15 close grip pull downs (on a machine)
- 15 reverse flies
- SHOULDERS & ABS:
- 15 straight arm raises
- 15 side arm raises
- 15 front row raises
- 15 shoulder presses
- 30 side oblique raises (holding a weight in one arm)
- 1 minute plank on EACH side and front
- 30 medicine ball twists (sit up position on floor with knees bent, touching the medicine ball to the floor on alternating sides)
- 20 inverted sit ups (on the inverted bench, you can hold a weight if you want)
- 6:00am head home and take on the day!
While I don’t eat much before I go to the gym, I always eat right after. Research suggests that we should eat something with carbs and protein (ideally 2 or 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein) within about 30 minutes of working out our muscles to replenish and repair. I typically eat a smoothie (if everyone is awake by the time I get home, the blender is noisy) or a protein bar right after a workout.
As for smoothies, we drink them most mornings, and I LOVE the fact that Charlie’s favourite smoothie is a green smoothie! Here is a link to a couple of my ‘smoothie challenge’ posts here and here if you’re wanting to try a few new smoothies out and get into a healthier routine. Note: I don’t use protein powder in the kids’ smoothies as it is not recommended for children.
I hope this helps! I would absolutely love it if you want to share any of your tips and tricks for mastering the early morning workout below! YOU CAN DO IT!
Photography by Mackenzie Jane Photo