The Drevitches, Week 16: The Early Bird Gets Fit

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge




Why didn't I get in shape years ago?

A major reason is that, with one, two, and then three small children in the house, I felt sure that I had no time -- no opportunity, really -- to get to the gym. It's a refrain I repeated to friends for years, but not all of them bought it. For example, some asked, why not just go early in the morning? That wouldn't work, I'd say, because, well ... who wants to work out at 6 in the morning?!

Turns out, plenty of people.

Since I joined the Healthy Families Challenge, I've learned that a lot of my previous assumptions about eating well and staying in shape were wrong. For example, I've found the time -- because I've made the time -- for three workouts a week, without jeopardizing work or family responsibilities, by squeezing in sessions during lunch or on the way to the office.

Another thing I've learned, as I've read more about good health, is that sitting on the couch late at night until you fall asleep is -- are you sitting down? -- bad for you. Lack of sleep limits weight loss, and falling asleep on the couch limits the life of the couch.

And so, last week, I tried an experiment: For one work week, I got off the couch and into bed at a reasonable hour, then rose before dawn and headed to the gym -- my New York Sports Club location opens at 6 a.m. -- returning home just as everyone else woke up. Yes, for one week, I was ... a crazy gym guy.

Bundled up for an early-morning workout. Courtesy Gary Drevitch

My experiment really started on Sunday, when I went to the gym at midday as I do each week. That night before bedtime, I packed my gym bag, put my gym card on the counter and left my sneakers by the front door. I woke up with the alarm at about 5:45 a.m., had a bowl of cereal, dressed and headed out. Intending to shower and change when I got back home, I left my apartment in shorts.

Did I mention it's the middle of winter here? It was about 22 degrees out, so I covered the eight blocks to the gym really briskly. The streets were dark and empty but I was not alone. No, there were joggers out. So right off the bat, I knew I wasn't the craziest fitness nut out there.

Arriving at the gym about 6:15 to make a 6:30 spinning class, I found it only somewhat less busy than on weekend mornings. I entered the spinning room, where a group of regulars had already claimed their favorite spots. The first 10 or 15 minutes were slow going -- hey, I just woke up -- but then I got into the rhythm. When I got home, the kids were just emerging from their rooms and I felt great.

The next day, I did it again, stepping into the pre-dawn dark, already feeling like it was a routine. I did a regular workout -- cross-trainer, chin-up machine, crunches, push-ups and weights -- and when I left the gym, it was already light out. That night, feeling both the early mornings and a rare three days in a row of working out, I was exhausted, but the good exhausted, you know?

I gave myself Wednesday morning off, but was back at it on Thursday. When I arrived at the club on Friday, I was planning to do another spin class, but to my shock, the room was full. The instructor asked, had I made a reservation? (The club allows members to preschedule spin classes.) No, I said, resisting the urge to add, It's a 6:30 a.m. class. I need a reservation?! I put the time in on the cross-trainer instead.

When I saw my personal trainer, Victoria, a few days later, I related the story and she laughed. Oh, yeah, she told me. For most 6:30 classes, people book their spots as soon as the club allows -- at 6 a.m. the day before.

Well, OK, then. I have to admit that my week of pre-dawn exercise felt great (and it helped me drop another two pounds, reaching 31 lost since September). I plan to add an occasional top-of-the-morning workout to my repertoire.

I still have a way to go to compete with the true gym crazies, but I now see their routine as more aspirational than asinine.

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.