An Ode to the Morning Workout

The alarm goes off. It’s 5:30 am already. It’s cozy and warm in bed with my husband and two dogs. I’ve signed up for my tri-weekly strength and conditioning class. There’s a moment of “it would be nice to stay in bed for a bit longer”. But it would literally be about 45 minutes more. Not worth missing a good workout. Not to mention, the gym credit you would lose if you skipped class (too bad they didn’t have such incentives when I was in high school).

Time to brush my teeth and mildly untangle my bed head and put on my gym clothes hanging on the banister so I don’t have to rummage through the closet that early and wake up my light sleeping husband.

I go downstairs, feed the dogs, take my vitamins, grab my things and head out into the cold winter morning. My toque will further tame my bed head on the walk to the gym. I’m always surprised how many other people are already out at that time. The shift workers, joggers, the man who sleeps under the bridge, the acquaintance I don’t recognize in the December darkness, until I’ve passed her. Not to mention the full class of people, already at the gym, from the 5:30 class.

Some mornings I need a couple sips of coffee first at the gym. I gather with my fellow bleary-eyed gym mates. The coach is already perky from teaching the first class, asking us how we are feeling. Most of us talk to her with our eyes. We are good. We are here. Maybe a little sleepy, anxious for the work day ahead, some are working out before going home to their babies.

The initial warm-up starts blood flowing through my body. Some days my body feels heavy and creaky on the rowing machine. The mobility exercises massage my joints and lengthens my muscles. Some days my hips feel extra stiff. My hamstrings are always strung tight.

Off to our “big lift” of the day. Will it be a PR day? Either way it always feels good seeing how much I can lift, whether a push press, bench press, back squat or deadlift. You can never practice too often, pulling your shoulder blades back, keeping your spine neutral, optimizing your lift in some way.

The accessory moves are always my most challenging. Whether a split squat, step-down, handstand, or the dreaded pull-up, I replace with a low TRX pull. These moves always seem to test my ego, along with my balance, my ability to activate my glutes while wobbly, my overall stability. Some days I see improvement. Some days I remind myself it’s OK not to be good at everything!

The cardio portion is where the endorphins reside. 12 minutes or so of a number of different moves, ball slams, wall balls, push-ups, jump squats, cardio machines, alternating at an optimal rate to maximize sweat and stress relief. The feeling at the end of the combined big lift, plus a good cardio session, provide the reason to wake up early to get here. I feel the same way at the end of a good run (although a good run deserves its own description!).

My head is clearer, my body light for the moment, the sweat released can release a lot of imaginary weight and stiffness. That feeling at the end of a good workout transcends self-doubt, body image, familial discord, external stresses, global disharmony, and a host of other ills. I am ready for the day ahead.

Nicole Plotkin is a law clerk and loves working out in the morning.

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