4:45 am?!


“4:45 am?!”

You have no idea how often I get this message from people. “What do you mean you set your alarm for 4:45am to go to the gym?”

“Well, I have class from 8-4, depending, and only an hour for lunch, and after class I have meetings or I need to study and by the time I sit down it’s late at night and if I exercise I’ll be wide awake all day.”

I don’t write this to parrot the “DON’T HAVE TIME? MAKE TIME!” sentament because I think it’s lacking reality. I make this post to give some tips that I use to make sure that my ass is up and out the door at a decent time to get what I need done. So here are my tips.

1. Make a really annoying alarm, and put it really far away

My alarm is the car honking and it’s super annoying. What’s worse than that is my dogs know that alarm = Mom’s awake = FOOD. So before I’ve even processed that my alarm is going off I have a 20 pound beagle and a 35 pound dingo on my face pouncing at me and whining. There’s no way to sleep through that.

For those of you who don’t have pets, put your alarm far away. Close enough to hear, far enough to where you have to get up and turn it off. You’re already up, might as well go.

2. Minimize downtime

I sleep in my gym clothes, pack my gym bag, fill up my water bottle, mix my BCAAs and pre work out, all the day before. When I wake up literally the only thing I need to do is pee, feed my dogs, grab my bag and leave. After awhile this process becomes second nature and I don’t realize that I am a) awake or b) about to go to the gym until I’m IN the car and on my way to the gym. It’s autopilot, it takes something serious for me to disrupt that.

3. Caffeine and other drugs

On week days when I’m up at 4:45am it’s tough. I’m a classic “morning person” but I do need time to wake up, it’s not instant. I can usually help this out with caffeine. Some people take caffeine pills, sip a diet coke…I take a pre-workout. I used to take Jack3d before they changed the formula, and I’m not a fan of the new one. C4 makes me tingle and I, idiotically, ordered a giant tub of No X-Plode before realizing I bought a nasty flavor and I need like 2 scoops of it.

But caffeine isn’t the only way to wake up. Sun salutations, running to the gym, stretching, etc. are all great ways to wake your body up and make it ready to roll.

4. Time management

If you have class during the week, maybe spend weekends working out. The same is for work, on days you’re “free” you can schedule your workouts then. I tend to prioritize my workouts on weekends, then split the other 2 days I exercise based on my test schedule. I never workout the morning of a test (So I can sleep in or get last minute studying in). Don’t wake up at 3am every week day when you can sleep in until 9am on Saturday and go to the gym any time that day. Make the gym schedule one you can stick to.

Make sure you give yourself the RIGHT amount of time for a morning workout. For me, an hour is perfect. It takes me 10 minutes to get to my gym if I hit every red light, an hour to work out and stretch, 10 minute drive back home, 30 minutes to get ready for class, then I need to leave by 7:30 am if I want to make it in time (7:20am if the freshmen have 8am classes). I’ve done this enough to make sure I give myself enough time to work out, but not so much that I’m sitting around WAITING to leave. I could have been sleeping. Which brings me to my last and most important point…

5. Get some sleep

This is the most important one! I’ve seen people wake up early, go to the gym, feel great, crash around noon, take a nap after class, then can’t fall asleep until 11pm, repeat. If you’re not getting enough sleep the night before you’re going to set yourself up for disaster. The next day you’ll spend all day saying things like, “This am gym thing sucks, I’m exhausted now – NOT WORTH IT.”

I am in bed by 9:30pm pretty much every night, with few exceptions. I know, this makes me seem lame, but while my classmates are heading off to the gym after class and lamenting over having time to balance everything, I’ve already gone to the gym and can spend the afternoon studying.

Early mornings are NOT for everyone.

Make sure you’re not sacrificing sleep, study time, etc. just so you can wake up early for a workout. Some people cannot do early morning workouts – that’s fine! You’ll just have to find something else that works for you, like late nights, lunch time runs, etc. Accept this fact and plan your life around that, not the other way around.

Dear New Years Resolutionists,

Hello! Welcome to the weight loss community, or the fitness community, or Fitocracy, Tumblr, Weight Watchers, Curves, the gym or wherever you’ve decided to land yourself for the new year. You have goals, you haves hopes and wishes and dreams and things you’d like to accomplish. You’re ready for a great year, or month or week or day.

First of all, congrats. The first step is the hardest. The first aimless workout in the gym can be the worst. What am I doing? Why did I sign up for bootcamp? Did I really just wake up at 5am to go to the GYM? You’ve done it! You’ve started the long, hard road to an active life. It can be really tough at first but you’ll soon find that the fitness community is a big, wide sea of people that can be your support system.

But not all of us are like that.

You may have encountered resistance. Sneers. “Oh, look, another Resolutionist, gone in a month, taking up my weights or my favorite treadmill.” Hey, it’s tough. We have a routine and we’ve been doing this for a few more days or months or years than you. We can get stuck in our ways and our head slowly begins to ascend up our ass. My advice? Ignore those people. They’re not the type of people you want in your support system, right? Who needs a negative Nancy?

But don’t freak out – there are others. Those of us who smile instead of frown when we see a new face, or who high five after your first mile run or first full depth squat. We’re there. Look for us.

There are some ways to make this transition easier. Maybe you hired a personal trainer you meet with – awesome! Maybe you’re starting with just the group fitness classes – great! Maybe you decided to just walk into the gym and do anything…that can be tough. Don’t worry, there are SO many resources out there. We can help you. We WANT to help you.

So, New Years Resolutionists, we wish you the best of luck. We WANT you to succeed. We WANT you to quit smoking or drop a dress size or run your first marathon or deadlift your body weight. We WANT you to join our community and become another likeminded healthy person. Because, as a community, we are loving and supportive.

Good luck!

5. Create Ways To Check In

Today is New Years Eve and you’ve set your goal, identified your strengths, found weaknesses and fixed them…now what? Now, we make milestones, or check ins.

Check ins are important because they’re a good way to judge your progress. If you’re planning to lose 5 pounds in 2013 you should set a date you want to accomplish it by and work backwards. Let’s take my goal for example: 6 lbs by March 1st. If I start on January 1st, that gives me a little over 2 months, or about 60 days, to accomplish this by. This means I should lose a pound every 10 days. This is a realistic goal, and I can make little check ins every 10 days to be sure that I’m on track.

Now, everyone is different, and you should use whichever method works best for you to check in. I am always on my computer so I used the Stickies app to keep myself on track. A sticky on the side of my computer screen gives the date of each weigh in and where I should be. Other people may use MyFitnessPal, Excel, Fitocracy, a journal, a planner, etc. to check in with their specific goals.

But check ins should go further than that. Let’s look at some of my weaknesses and how I remedy them, specifically the weakness involving eating snacks my classmates brought to class that day. Every day I will check in with myself and see if I worked with my strength and against my weakness. I may write in my planner, “Today I made my 5am workout (yay!) and said ‘no’ to my classmates sugar cookies.” or “Today was a rest day and a classmate brought in cupcakes – my favorite! Since I haven’t had a snack yet this week I ate one happily.” Checking in is about so much more than just, “How much do I weigh today?” It’s also about if you’re kicking your old habits or falling into them again.

Right now make a timeline for your goals. If you plan to save $1,200 this year, that means you should have added $100 to your savings account each month. Set a reminder at the end of every month to transfer that money, or manually do it so you’re conscious of the decision. If you plan to “get healthier” this year by swapping out soda for tea, timeline that. “I want to be a tea drinker by July, and right now I drink 5 sodas a day.” Make a time line where each week you drop a soda a day, or maybe two sodas a week, etc. Your timeline should be a slow, gradual process that lets you reach your goals in a realistic, timely manner.

But what is realistic?

There is no magic number about what a “realistic” weight loss goal is, or a realistic money saving goal is. These are highly individualized. If you find that you’re continually missing your weigh in goals but are “on track,” then your goals may not be realistic. If you find that you’re passing your check ins faster than you anticipated, you may have been too easy on yourself in the first place. Maybe the small tweaks you made had a much bigger impact on your life than you realized?

In any case, you will not be able to judge how your progress is going unless you CHECK IN!

Now that you’ve figured all your goals out you can wake up tomorrow and put all the information you’ve written down over the last few days together to really reach your goals this year!

4. Identify Weaknesses and Fix Them!

Ah, you knew it was coming! Now that you’ve figured out where you’re strong you need to find where you were weak. Really look back at your year and decide where your problem areas are and try to find ways to fix them. This shouldn’t be a free for all, this should be a focused, constructive look at where you often fail and a brainstorming session to break the cycle.

This is one of those times where the internet can be a great resource. Say, for example, your weakness is online shopping (me!). I often get e-mails from websites about deals they’re having and find myself succumbing to those. I realized this was interfering with my ability to save money and unsubscribed from all of those e-mails. I also made a point to block my favorite websites from my browser, or change the log in password to a jumble of letters and numbers I’d never be able to guess. Even though there are ways around these methods they take away the ease of online shopping. I can no longer easily see the deals, it’s not easy to just log in and buy them, etc.

How did I come up with these ideas? I googled “I online shop too much!” and read some ways other people have combatted their online shopping addictions. The same can go for any of your weaknesses. “I overeat” can be met with inspiration boards, motivational sayings, buying smaller plates, sitting down to eat, and so many other great tidbits. The beauty of the internet is that it can expose you to a lot of other people and how they deal with their problems. It may take some playing around, but eventually you will find a method that works for you.

I also went ahead and ranked my weaknesses in priority of most damaging of my goals to least damaging. Sometimes seeing a list of weaknesses can really put a damper on your mood and leave you feeling helpless. However, looking back on some of your weaknesses may lead to the realization that some of them aren’t all that bad. For example, one of my weaknesses when it comes to saving money is that I tend to buy more food than I eat and it goes bad. Some of this food is expensive, but most of it is cheap. I usually buy sweet potatoes (about $.80 a potato) and at least one or two of them will mold before I eat them. That’s about $.80 to $1.60 a month I waste. Compared to online shopping this isn’t a horrible weakness.

Here are my weak points and how I plan to remedy them.



3. Identify Strengths

So, now that you’ve looked back on your life in terms of your goal, it’s time to establish your strengths. What are you doing RIGHT in regards to your specific goal? If you’ve never tried to meet this particular goal before, look back in your life to other times you’ve accomplished something. Are you very determined? Do you always see a task through until the end? Don’t be shy – this is a time to really toot your own horn. Again, I’ve included my own strengths below.




As you can see, I went very specific. While looking at my past I saw that I never missed a 5am workout, and if I didn’t go to the gym at 5am I tended not to go at all. By realizing this I found that working out at 5am was a strength. Additionally, if I planned a WEIGHT TRAINING session early I never missed it. Cardio, however, was another story. I also found that I genuinely enjoyed weight training and that’s why I rarely, if ever, missed it. Cardio I don’t enjoy so I would miss it more often. Looking back at pictures I’ve seen amazing changes in body I didn’t know were possible. Did I really deadlift 215 pounds at a competition?! All my old clothes still fit, despite a weight gain?! I also didn’t sell my mind short: I know how weight loss works.

Basically, I figured out that my strengths are fitness, knowledge and my support system. These are important things to focus on because whenever you’re feeling down or unmotivated you need to appeal to your strengths instead of floundering in your weaknesses. If I ever feel unmotivated I can turn toward my support system, or maybe take a day off my weight lifting “plan” and really hit lifts I enjoy doing.

Your strengths are now your support system and they will help focus your goals in the coming months!