This is a two-part post within which in Part One, I discuss my own personal discovery to becoming a morning person and pose the question to readers, “What is YOUR Ideal Time of Day to Exercise?”
In Part Two of this post I discuss my own trial and error to finding what my own personal “diet” or healthy eating plan is and my journey to discover this and pose the question to readers, “What is YOUR Ideal “Diet” or Healthy Eating Plan to fit YOUR Individual Needs?”
Since WHEN did I become a morning person??
One day last week I woke up at 4:30 a.m. so that I could get to the gym by 6 a.m. in order to train myself before I started my workday of training clients. As I stood there in our pitch dark kitchen, (which normally through the summer is filled with pre-dawn and dawn sunlight because of all the windows and skylights in our kitchen, but now it is pitch black at that hour because sunrise is not until 6 a.m. this time of year and getting later and later everyday) I thought, “Since WHEN did I become a morning person??” A morning person such that it is so important for me to train myself before I start my workday no matter how early that time is??
I was not always like this. Trust me.
How I Became a “Morning Person”
Before I started working as a personal trainer full time I worked as both a Contracts Administrator and Negotiator and then as an IT Consultant. So I held an office job and worked “9-5”. Before I started teaching spin classes part-time around my office job schedule, I would occasionally go to an early morning spin class; but the majority of my workouts were in the evening. It was the norm for me to go to a spin class at 7:00 p.m. or attend kung fu at 7 or even 8:00 p.m. Now the likelihood of me training myself that late in the evening is slim to none. I would only train myself at that hour of the day if I was training for a kung fu competition or for another belt and if for some reason that was the only time that I could train. By that time of the evening now I am eating dinner, reading to wind down before bedtime or even heading to bed; yes, sleep. I turn into a pumpkin at 9:30 p.m. and I am even known to go to sleep at 7:30 p.m. about once every few weeks; and no, I am not ill on those nights.
When I started teaching spin classes part-time around the schedule of my office job I took on a few 6:00 a.m. classes and one evening class. Even though it was hard for me to wake up early to teach those early morning spin classes (because I was not going to sleep before 9 p.m. those days) I absolutely loved teaching classes at that hour. I loved the peace that, that time of the morning brings just before everyone wakes up, everything is still and fresh, an unpainted canvas waiting for a new beginning… also at that hour traffic is non-existent and parking spaces are plentiful :).
I loved that I was there to help people to start their day off right. To get them to smile if they were grumpy about the early morning hour as they dragged their half asleep butts into the gym. I loved being that person that helped them to set the tone for their day. I also loved how charged I felt after sweating for an hour before I started my own day.
In addition, I found the people in my morning classes to be more consistent, more dedicated and more focused than the people in my evening classes and THAT inspired me as an instructor. I am sure part of the motivation behind this phenomenon is that if you are going to wake up that early to train that you can be sure as hell these people are going to make every minute of that early morning hour worth sacrificing sleep for. NOW, I am not saying that people who train in the evening are not motivated, dedicated or focused, I am just noting that this is an observation that I noticed as an instructor between my morning and evening classes and of the general energy of the gym at those different hours of the day.
When I made the transition from full-time IT Consultant to full-time Personal Trainer, the metamorphosis into becoming a morning person began. Note, at this time I was also in the last year of training to test for my black belt in kung fu. My training schedule for this goal certainly played a role in my transformation.
When I first made the transition to full-time Personal Trainer I worked split shifts (starting at 6am until ~12noon and then back in the evening starting at 4/5/6pm until 7pm or even as late as 9pm) 4 to 5 days per week plus Saturdays. Yes, my schedule was INSANE, and yes no human can sustain this type of work schedule ESPECIALLY doing something as physical as a Personal Trainer and Spin and Kettlebell Instructor.
Along with this schedule I had to figure out when I was going to train for my black belt. This was a goal that at the time was three years in the making and I had about one year left if I stayed consistent and focused with my training. So I committed to 7:30 a.m. classes three times per week and trained on my own during my afternoon breaks and on the weekends when I had the time and energy—I actually didn’t really have the time so it was more like I made the time happen when I had energy.
On the mornings that I had kung fu I would train a client at 6 a.m. and then bolt out the door to head to my kung fu school for class. I was always sleep deprived and sometimes late for class if I ran late with my client beforehand but I made it happen because when walked out that door at 8:45 a.m. to go back to training clients I felt accomplished and stress relieved that I had scheduled in this time for myself to help me work towards a goal that was both personal and professional.
A few months before my scheduled black belt test I needed to get to more than three classes a week so that I could sharpen some of my forms and get some sparring practice in. So I started to go to the 4 p.m. classes whenever I could fit them in around my evening clients schedule. When I didn’t have a 4 p.m. client this was typically either the beginning or end of my naptime. When I attended the 4 p.m. classes, as soon as we started warm up, I would need toothpicks to keep my eyelids open. My body wanted to sleep but my brain was forcing it to train at an hour that was not optimal for it. During these classes I had to fight to stay awake and to get my body moving. That was when I started to realize that my optimal time to train was earlier in the day. I persevered and continued to attend the 4 p.m. classes whenever I was available, and I would even stay beyond the 5 p.m. end time to train further on my own at the school if I did not have an evening client. However, I knew that this training timeframe was short-lived for me and only for the purposes of obtaining my black belt.
I tested for and received my black belt in kung fu in August 2009. After my black belt test I went back to my strictly morning schedule of 7:30 a.m. classes, three times per week. No more afternoon or evening classes for me and to this day I have not set foot in a class after noontime.
As for my personal training schedule, this schedule lasted for about the first 8 to 9 months after I started working as a Personal Trainer full-time and then I started to make small adjustments here and there. I didn’t completely change my work hours to 6am until 12noon with the occasional late afternoon client until almost 2 years working full-time as a personal trainer.
Finding and Structuring My Optimal Schedule
While making this change I realized that in order to be a healthy, balanced personal trainer that one does need to choose mornings or afternoon/evenings and to truly find balance between teaching, training, administrative tasks and personal time. This schedule includes one that allows you to be well rested and not deprived of your own personal training time and allows you to work towards any personal and/or professional goals. I believe that as a Personal Trainer you need to find a schedule that allows you to be the best trainer and coach to your clients; because their time with you is about THEM and they deserve to have 100% of your focus on THEM. You cannot give them this focus unless you are also being good to yourself. This philosophy applies to any human no matter what his or her profession may be!
Also while making this change to my schedule I realized and accepted that I am indeed a morning person. This does not mean that I bound out of bed with a cheesy grin at 4:30 a.m. singing “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff; but it does mean that I am the best trainer to my clients early in the day and that I am an even better trainer to my clients when I am able to train myself before I start my workday or early on in my workday.
It took me a while to fully accept that I am a morning person. I would battle with it daily as I set my alarm for 4:20 a.m. in order to train myself before training my first client. Over the past year not only did I realize this but also I finally accepted it as fact and necessity. I finally confirmed and accepted that my ideal training time is sometime before 10 a.m. in the morning, including as early as 6 a.m.; How did I discover this? I have a few days during my workweek that I am able to train myself either first thing before I start my workday of training and teaching clients or that I am able to schedule my own personal training somewhere between my morning clients. For me, when I train during these times, I always have a great training session. I can honestly say that not only have I not had a bad training session early in the morning, but when I start my work day having already trained myself I am less stressed as I have checked something off of my to do list and a small part of me is not wondering how I am going to feel at the end of my day when I am finally able to train myself and if it will be a successful training session. On the days that I am not able to train myself until later after I finish my workday of training and teaching clients I never know how my body is going to feel and if it will be a good training session or a bad training session. 8/10 times it is not the best training session. It’s a struggle for me to get my body going again after having been awake since 4:30 a.m. and on my feet lifting, demonstrating, coaching since 6 a.m. Not only does it take me longer to get going when I train later in the day but it takes me longer to get through whatever it is I have planned.
SO, with that I realized that if I can wake up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. and train myself before I start my workday, or if I can schedule my own training session in somewhere between my morning clients, then it’s best that I do so. As, 1) at this hour my body is fresh and I move quickly through my warm up and training session, 2) distractions at that hour are slim to none and 3) I carry less stress throughout my day because I am done with the one regular thing that I like and need to do for myself daily.
I realize that in the business of customer service that it is not always possible to have my own personal ideal training times blocked out every day, but at least I am able to do this about half the time and the other half of the time I manage and do the best that I can do for myself.
What is YOUR ideal time of day to exercise? A few things to think about when considering this question are:
1) What is the time of day you’re your metabolism is revved to train?
2) What is the time of day that helps you to stay consistent with your workouts and keep your daily training part of your routine, just like waking up in the morning?
3) What is the time of day that helps you to relieve stress instead of cause stress?
4) If you train later in the day or in the evening, does it keep you up late or prevent you from sleeping soundly?
5) Are you a mom? Is your training schedule dependent on when your children are at school or when you have childcare? If you’re a mom with limited childcare assistance, you may have little choice as to when you can schedule in time for yourself to train and it may always have to be early morning before the children wake up or after they leave for school.
Whatever your ideal training time, it is INDIVIDUAL and you cannot compare yourself to anyone else. Remember that while determining this.
In my next post, which will be Part Two of this post I will talk about finding one’s ideal healthy eating plan or “diet”. With all of the information available to us that too can be extremely confusing and overwhelming. In addition, like finding one’s optimal training time, that too takes some education and experimentation.
Stayed tune for Part Two of this post, “What is YOUR Ideal “Diet” or Healthy Eating Plan to fit YOUR Individual Needs?” …