This is a story all about how… I started waking up at 445 AM just to do CrossFit.
I’ve been going to my CrossFit gym for about 5 years now. In that time, I’ve made myself a regular at more than one time slot.
When I began, I only went to the 8 PM class. This was the latest class of the day, full of beginners and the least attended. I fit right in.
As I became acclimated and started to show improvement, I moved down to the 7 PM class. This was where most of the 20-something 9-5rs came to play.
After completing my first full year of training, I joined the 6 PM class to play with the big boys. At my gym, 6 PM is the preferred class for some of my gym’s best athletes. I spent about two years trying to keep up.
Then I quit my job and opened a brick and mortar business. CrossFit took a back seat. I could no longer get to the gym in the middle of the day. If I wanted to guarantee a workout got done, it would have to be in the morning.
So I started going to the 830 AM class. A world of difference. I went from training with the best athletes of our gym to training with soccer moms. Shoutout to all you stay at home moms, especially mine.
After a few months, I convinced one of my friends from 6 PM to come join me in the mornings. He agreed, as long as we did the 715 AM class. We spent about 8 months at the 715 AM time slot.
Trouble loomed. My buddy was having trouble getting to the office in time. Sometimes class would go past an hour. Sometimes there would be traffic. Sometimes he’d have to wait for the one shower to open up. For him, it was a stressful dice roll every morning we worked out.
Then we heard about Jocko Willink. We even read his book: Extreme Ownership. So after about a year of stressful mornings for my friend, we agreed to kick it up a notch. We decided to start attending the first class of the day, 530 AM!
I knew the likelihood for failure was high. So I made a decision to attend 6 classes at 530 AM before making a final decision. Every class was hard. Not because of the workout. More so because of how tired and empty I was. I felt like I was still waking up during my drive back home.
I failed. After 6 classes, I went back to the 715 AM class. I remember my classmates busting my chops for even trying. I laughed along, but it definitely stung.
A few weeks later, I got injured doing deadlifts. I was out of the gym for a whole month. During my time off, I decided to train for longevity instead of peak performance. After a handful of Doctor visits, I was ready to go back to the gym.
I dove head first into the 530 AM class and never looked back. It’s been a few months since I made the switch. I’ve learned a lot during this time. Here are a few lessons I’d like to share.
Lesson 1: You are the average of the people you spend the most time with.
When I attended the 6 PM class, CrossFit consumed me. I spent a ton of time in the gym trying to make incremental improvements in certain lifts or movements. I followed a strict diet designed for high performance: Paleo in quality and Zone in quantity. I competed in local CrossFit competitions to prove my training was paying off. I was the proverbial walking talking billboard for everything CrossFit. Did I say the word CrossFit enough in this paragraph?
When I started to attend morning classes, different things became important to me. I started to look forward to having a kid. I became more focused on my work. Spending quality time with my parents became more important.
I only spend about 5 hours per week in the gym. In retrospect, that’s not a lot of time with my 530 AM classmates. Yet, outside of my wife and the few people that work with me, my gym classmates are the people I see and talk to the most.
I noticed the people attending the 530 AM class are not consumed by CrossFit. Instead, they are using CrossFit to become a more effective person in other aspects of life.
Lesson 2: Waking up is 99.9% of the Battle.
Sometimes getting out of bed isn’t enough. There have been times I’ve woken up, used the bathroom, and thought, “screw it”. When the alarm rings at 445 AM, going back to sleep is always the easiest decision.
Now I have a better process. I leave my phone far away from my bed, so I have to get up and out of bed to turn off the alarm. I also changed my alarm to a song I enjoy instead of a blaring siren. I leave a 16 oz water bottle next to my phone (with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed in). I chug that in one shot. Then I go to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. If I can do all this within 5 minutes of waking up, I’ve won the day.
The workout could be fighting dragons and the hardest part of my day would still be over.
Lesson 3: Routine is everything.
When I tell people I wake up at 445 AM, the first thing they ask is “Oh my god, how little sleep do you get?” Well, thanks to my evening routine, I get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Here’s how…
A few minutes after dinner, or at 9 PM LATEST, my nightly routine begins.
First, I journal. I use the five minute journal to jot down the wins of the day and identify what could have been better. I also jot down three things to do tomorrow so I don’t lay in bed feeling anxious about forgetting something.
Then, I shower. I start with 1 minute cold, then 2 minutes hot, and another minute of cold to end it. I learned this from Wim Hof: The Iceman.
Finally, I meditate for 12-15 minutes. I use the Muse headband to track my meditation. On the best nights, I’ll fall asleep while meditating. Other nights, I’ll play a youtube video called “Sleep Music Delta Waves” to help me fall asleep. It’s 45 minutes long and so far has a 100% success rate in putting me to sleep.
Lesson 4: Accountability is Essential.
Accountability is an underused “self help tactic”. Here’s how I use accountability.
First, I’m accountable to myself. I made a decision to attend this class so I’m going to do it. If I don’t make it because I’m tired or lazy, which has happened a few times, I feel guilty until the next class. If I don’t make it because I had to pick up my wife or sister from the airport at 1AM, I give myself a pass.
Second, I know my friend who attends this class with me would think less of me if I don’t make it. I don’t want to send him the “sorry, but …” text. I hate making excuses. We’ve been working out together since college and hitting the gym without him is just weird. I don’t want to do it, and I know he doesn’t want to do it.
Third, something I’ve implemented more recently. Putting my money where my mouth is. Like most people, I’m averse to losing money. So every time I don’t make it to the gym as scheduled, I send a mediator $10. At the end of each quarter, the person who misses the least classes, wins the pot. There are 3 people participating so far. But it’s an open invite to anyone that wants to join.
Transitioning to a morning person is tough…
Waking up when it’s still dark outside takes time to get used to. I believe the long term benefits outweigh the short term struggle. I hope the four lessons shared are encouraging enough for you to attempt making the switch. Good luck!