Why Work Out at 5:45 AM?

Why Exactly do I Work Out at 5:45 AM? I can tell you upfront it is not because I am a “morning person”. Actually, the majority of my life I was a “late-night” person who was still awake after most people had long since fallen asleep. I think I am still in denial that I am now a morning person. I have convinced myself that I am really getting up late at night (4:30 am) ant that it is not really early in the morning. So what compelled me to make the switch? Here are 5 benefits of getting up at 5:45 am in the morning:

1. There are “no excuses” at 5:45 a.m.

I was trying to work out during lunch and I kept having lunch meetings “pop up” that interfered with my regular work out schedule. I often found myself watching the time trying to “move the meeting” along so I was not driving 80 miles an hour to get to the gym to get to my class on time. I missed so many workouts that I finally gave up. I then tried evenings. I found that if I had a long day, was up late the night before, or had an evening commitment I could not miss, I was more likely to miss class. I still kept missing workouts oftentimes due to circumstances out of my control. Evening classes were also cutting into my family time so I felt like I was skipping out on the family to go work out at the gym. No father of the year award for me! So I made the plunge. I decided nobody is going to bother me at 5:45 am and there was no way neither my wife nor kids were going to be up that early (they will vouch for that). It took me a month to transition. I started setting two alarms, one being my iPhone which was set as a “last resort” backup alarm in the bathroom so I had to get out of bed to turn it off. Every time I missed the first alarm and this went off my wife would mumble “who is calling you this early in the morning?” My second alarm and the chaos that followed was annoying enough to get up and shut off the second alarm before it went off. I also decided no one at work is going to schedule a 5:45 am meeting so overall this plan worked great. It worked! I started working out 2-3 times per week consistently once I made the switch.

2. Burn, Burn, Burn

I learned this first by wearing a heart rate monitor during and after class where I noticed I was still burning calories at a rapid pace long after the class ended. I decided to do some research on this. If you look at calories burned during your waking hours, starting your day with a HIT (High Intensity Training) work out such as a cycle class, you start burning calories earlier in the day so the net effect is you burn more calories all day. According to an article published by ACE, “Anaerobic interval training uses the body’s reserves of energy and, after a workout, metabolism stays elevated and continues to burn calories for hours after the workout. This is due to something called the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect. So not only you not only burn a lot of calories during the workout but because of the high intensity you will continue to burn calories as your body replaces energy and repairs muscle proteins damaged during exercise.” What happens when you go to sleep within a couple of hours of working out? You miss out on the post-work outburn.

3. Traffic? Nada!

There is absolutely no traffic this early in the morning. I live 17 minutes outside of downtown Austin and can get downtown in exactly 18 minutes. Even better, after I work out and shower, I am still ahead of the rush hour in Austin. If you live in Austin you will know that our rush hour is 45 min to 1 hour later than most cities. Keep Austin weird! The only traffic I see is wildlife including foxes, skunks, deer, and raccoons (all of which I have been able to successfully dodge so no roadkill). Although I am sure Austin’s finest will not appreciate this, there is a stoplight I have been using as a stop sign for almost 3 years. The light does not actually change. I can sit there for 10 minutes and it won’t change. Maybe my car is too light for the sensors in the road or my car has stealth qualities I am unaware of. It’s also fun to tweet to the local traffic reporters before class and they reply (they are watching the twitter feeds for accidents and no one else is awake yet).

4. The Morning Crowd Has Amazing People In It

I have learned that the morning classes attract type “A” personalities. There are moms who have gotten up, cranked out a work out, and are still home just in time to get their kids off to school. I have met entrepreneurs who have launched social media companies, people who have founded some amazing charities, ultra marathoners, a scientist creating a test that is designed to find over 350+ rare diseases, a molecular biologist and even a chip designers. I have more connections from cycle class than all of the other networking events I have attended combined. Usually when I attend “other” networking events someone recognizes me from cycle class so I am immediately connected and introduced to the other people in the room they know. Its a wonderful thing not having to deal with the usual awkward moment of walking into a room of people where you do not know anyone. My new fear is not recognizing someone because they look completely different at 5:45 am where they are wearing a ponytail and no makeup (hey, it’s dark!).

5. Sleep Is So Much Better, Zzzzzz

Given I have been awake since 4:30 am I am ready to go to sleep at night. Actually, I am exhausted so I sleep great! I still stay up occasionally but I also crash at 8:30 pm after an entire week of working out. Maybe it is just me, but I find that I am more likely to eat junk late at night. Maybe it stems from my late-night runs to White Castle with my mother when I was a child. I still can’t believe she fed those to me, they are nicknamed “sliders”. I do have fond memories of just her and I being awake and sliders do taste better at midnight for some reason. Remember, I did tell you I was never a morning person. No more downing sliders or eating 1/2 of a bag of chips because I am asleep, sweat dreams junk food!

So these are my reasons for getting up so early. People call me crazy. I hear comments such as “no way, never!”. Well, this is my plan and I am sticking to it. I come home after working out and get to occasionally chuckle when my wife says “did you work out today” because she has no idea that I left the house, cranked out a 60 minute work out, and then came back home before she even woke up. I started my fitness journey almost 10 years ago, discovered working out at 5:45 am and have never looked back. I have lost over 40 lbs and have been able to maintain a consistent work out schedule while I have seen others fail. So set your alarm, there is an early morning class with your name on it. Oh, and be sure to say “hi” to someone in the class because you will meet some amazing people!