Early to Rise, Early to Exercise
So you want to know when the best time to work out (and do it faithfully) is? And how do people who work out routinely find the time in the first place? Well, we asked them, and they were happy to share their secrets. Of course, it turns out there is no single time of day that works best for everyone.
So, we’ve broken their responses into categories and will share them with you one week at a time, from the early risers, who get up while the household sleeps for walks, runs and bike rides, to those who take power walks on their lunch hours, to those who find the energy to work all day, come home and make dinner, put the kids to bed and then jump on their LifeCycles before bed.
First, the early birds respond to how to fit fitness into their hectic lives:
A 21-Year Habit Is Hard to Break
I have found there is only one way to work out on a regular basis, and that is to schedule it at a time when no one can possibly want anything from you.
Twenty-one years ago, when I turned 38 and 40 seemed awfully close I joined the Westside Family YMCA. At that time our children were 6 and 8. While they and my husband were sleeping, I got up at 5:20 a.m. and was at the Y by 6. I did this Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week and have continued to do so!
I believe that if you can do anything for three weeks, it becomes “normal.” Our children are now grown, and I and my husband are retired, but I still get up at 6 a.m. three mornings a week and go to the Y to run and use the weight equipment (yes, Kathy Smith is right--lifting weights does get excess fat off).
A Time for Power-Walking and Smelling the Roses
Though it was extremely difficult at first, 35-plus years ago I embarked on a program of jogging for one hour--now reduced to power-walking--each morning at 4:30 on a nearby school’s stadium track. At that hour, while the physical body is being conditioned, the mind has the opportunity to float free and listen to the birds happily chirping away.
‘The More Sweat the Better’
I read your article while pedaling away on my stationary bike at 4 a.m. I get up Monday through Friday at 4 religiously to ride my stationary bike for an hour (before my 3-year-old wakes up). Although I often feel like hitting the alarm with a hammer at that hour, I make myself remember the great feeling I get after a good workout. My husband calls me psychotic because I work out on the bike during the week and I go to the gym on the weekend to hit the StairMaster for an hour. The more sweat the better. A Walkman and some great music are also a must. The great feeling after a long, sweaty workout is only one of the good things. A workout is also the only time I have to myself. My workout time is my time to really think about things I don’t have time to think about at work or at home with my husband and daughter. It’s the way I vent.
Multi-Tasking Works Best for This Stationary Cyclist
Yes, I’m one of those people who works out regularly. My secret: The moment my husband leaves for work, I climb on the ol’ exercise bike and pedal away for 30 minutes or so. While pedaling furiously, I make all of my morning phone calls, thereby making each task more palatable and productive. I’ve turned other folks on to this form of multi-tasking, and they have reported back with positive results. Hope this inspires someone.
Exercise Gets Her Ready for Work
I believe in exercise before work, and that means between 2 and 2:40 a.m. That’s when I rise in the morning, and exercise until 4 a.m. I’m the morning radio news anchor for KSBR-FM (88.5). I ride a recumbent bike while reading magazines for at least an hour, and I also lift weights and do stretches as part of a morning routine. Exercise enables me to be fully awake to talk to listeners.
She and Her Gal Pals Are Dedicated to the Extreme
My workout exercise is bike riding, which I do with two other women at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We do this rain or shine, tired or not. We also ride on Sundays at 6 a.m. This early-morning effort evolved over a year’s time. We started as a group of women who wanted to get in shape after having our children. With them finally at school age, we felt we could be away from them for longer periods of time. We started riding Sundays. Then the complaints started. “It’s family day.” Whine, whine, whine.
It was our husbands rather than our children who seemed to have the problem with our time away; hence the early-morning rides while our families slept. We felt that this way we would not impose on anyone. Who would miss us? We always returned in time to get ourselves off to work and the kids off to school. Mothers are very creative with time management. We are also brave. We installed major high beam lights on our bicycles. We’ve encountered weirdos, coyotes and worse on our rides. We call ourselves Extreme Moms, and most people think we are . . . extremely crazy to be riding at that hour!
We do the same route weekdays. We ride around Griffith Park, about 75 miles per week. On the weekends we ride all up and over--Santa Monica, Calabasas and beyond.
We have gotten into such good shape we successfully rode the Solvang Century (that’s a 100-mile bike ride).
West Toluca Lake
For a Busy Dad, the Only Time He Has Is in the A.M.
As a 32-year-old father of two boys (4 and 2) with an 8:30 a.m.-to-5 p.m. job, I find that the only time I can get my daily eight to 10 miles of running is in the morning. I typically wake up at 5:15 a.m. and hit the pavement at 5:30. I usually finish my runs in just over an hour. The only problem with running in the morning is that it is a little harder on the legs and there is not much time to relax or stretch after the run. So, three or four times a week I spend 20-30 minutes at the gym at lunchtime stretching and doing strength training.
By exercising in the predawn hours, I get to spend more time with my wife and kids after work. I also need to stay fit to be able to keep up with my very active children.
Her Routine Is Part of Everyday Life
I look at my daily exercise routines as part of my ongoing life. I begin my day with an early-morning meditation (20-30 minutes). I take an aerobic walk in the morning or late afternoon (40 minutes). Sometimes I replace the walk with a swim at the gym. On alternate days, I lift weights at the gym (30 minutes). I also stretch using yoga and other stretching techniques. The Five Rites (from “The Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth,” by Peter Kelder) are included in this 30-minute routine. These five rites appear to normalize imbalances in the body’s seven energy centers. Following the process helps make people see and feel themselves growing “younger” day by day.
Once a week, I take a belly dance class. It’s good exercise and lots of fun.
On Most Mornings
the Good Twin Wins
Here is the secret to my time-finding success for exercise:
I get up every day at 6 a.m. or a little before to do a daily four-mile run. I started this routine about 2 1/2 years ago for time reasons. Because I exercise so early I don’t really have an excuse not to do it. No appointments, no chores--just get up a little earlier and you are done for the day. Once you have a routine, it’s hard to break it. Many mornings it’s a mental struggle and my evil twin wants to sleep longer, but mostly the better-half wins.
Besides that, I go to the gym three times a week to lift weights, and since I already ran in the morning I don’t have to spend that much time there. Thirty to 40 minutes of a good weight session is all it takes, and it’s much easier to squeeze that in than having to do weights and aerobic activity all at once.
My advice for you non-morning people: Just get up and do it. It’s beautiful outside, the air is fresh, the birds are singing, and you’ll be so much more awake and alert.
She Keeps Dates
at the ‘Gym’ Faithfully
As a full-time mom, wife and dental hygienist, I have found that early-morning workouts are the best way to start my day. Everyone in the house is asleep and there are no distractions.
I work out at home every day. I make a date with myself, and I keep it. I have approximately 30 exercise videotapes, so I just rotate them to ease the boredom. I also have free weights, a slide, step, bench and a stepper.
I also power-walk on my lunch hour at work. I always bring a healthy lunch so I have enough time to take a quick stroll on my lunch break.
On the weekends I incorporate activity into everything that I do. We go to the zoo, the park, the museum, the beach. I am always on the go with our 2 1/2-year-old.
It Takes Discipline
--and an Early Bedtime
Well, to me it is a matter of discipline. I swim two miles every morning, and I’m 76 years young. First of all, I discipline myself to go to bed by 9 p.m. every night (during the week), and then I get up at 5:30 a.m. I have a glass of water and go to the pool (Monday through Friday), and I swim half a mile. I’m not a fast swimmer, but I’m constant, and after the swim, I eat a banana and then drive home or to the supermarket, which at 7:30 a.m. is almost empty and it’s easy to find what you want. When I get home, I change, have my breakfast and start my day, with my exercise out of the way. I already did it before 7 a.m.
I feel the trick here is to go to bed early the night before; otherwise, you are tired and not very willing to go out to do any kind of exercise.
Make Health a Priority,
and the Rest Will Be Easy
My day begins at 3 a.m. I get up and am ready for my workout in less than half an hour. As I pack my car for the drive and the day ahead, I wonder if it’s all really worth it. These feelings soon pass when, half an hour later, I arrive at the 24-hour gym and begin my two-hour routine. The two hours pass quickly, then I get ready for work. Half an hour later, I am on my way to work, another half an hour in drive time. And all this before 7 a.m. Whew!
This routine is not for everyone. The point is the dedication that it takes for me to go on this way. Whatever your schedule in life, if you remain dedicated and place your health and well-being at the top of your priority list, you will stick to exercising too. Exercise is something I do every morning that is an integral part of my day.
It is just as natural as brushing my teeth, taking a shower and getting dressed. I do not think twice, I do not have doubts, and I do not put it off until later. Personally, if I were to plan to exercise after work, it would never happen. I simply do not have that much energy, or the desire, to put effort into a sweat-drenched workout after a busy workday.
The bottom line is finding a routine that fits for you and simply does not allow you to push it aside.
Nothing Gets in the Way
of Her Working Out
I am 40 years old and work out faithfully every day. I own a deadline-orientated electronic publishing company, which allows me to carve out my own schedule. I walk every morning for 45 to 50 minutes after dropping the kids off at school. I walk 12 1/2 miles along a pathway close to my house. I have discovered audio books to keep myself entertained.
On the days that I don’t have a pressing deadline, I can go in to work later. I visit the gym for an aerobics class and about 45 minutes of weight training, upper and lower body. I manage to do this three days a week. I also have a NordicTrack cross-country skier in the garage on days that it rains or gets too cold out.
I love the way exercise makes me feel. It gives me lots of energy and a great attitude. I sleep very soundly for eight hours a night, usually going to bed the same time and rising the same time in the morning. I would never let “stuff” get in the way of exercising, just as I wouldn’t go to the office without washing my face or brushing my teeth. It’s just something I do everyday, period. If on the rare occasion my mornings call for an earlier appointment, I’ll walk or visit the gym in the evening.
I truly feel blessed to have the motivation that I have and wish more people could find or make the time to feel as terrific as I do.
Rancho Palos Verdes
--Compiled by AARON DAVIS