Early to rise…early to exercise

There’s really no need for an alarm clock when you have a husband who wakes you up early on a Sunday morning with the question, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

I managed to crack an eye open. “It’s still dark out.”

“Yeah, but it won’t be by the time we get back.”

“That’s helpful. What’s the temperature outside.”

“It’s pretty balmy. 40’s, 50’s…maybe even 60.”

“You’re lying,” I said as I groped for my iPhone to check my weather app. “It’s 27 degrees out…and it’s still dark!”

“Fine. Well, I’m going to go for a walk. You don’t have to go.”

“No, no. I’m getting up. Just give me five minutes to lay here and…wake up.” Sigh.

I grumbled, but I got up and layered on the polar fleece, hat, glove, scarf, etc. Then we had what turned out to be a most lovely walk as the sun rose over Lake Washington. The robins were singing (a true harbinger of spring!), and the few walkers, joggers and bicyclers we encountered were quite friendly (I’ve often noticed that early morning outdoor exercisers are a cheerful lot…it’s a bit like being in an exclusive club, or knowing the secret handshake).

A lot of people obsess about what time is the “best time” to exercise. True, you can get bogged down in details about whether you burn slightly more calories or your strength and endurance is just a little bit greater at a certain time of day. But the greater truth is this: The best time to exercise is the time you actually do it!

I need to exercise early in the day, or there is an extreme danger that I won’t exercise at all. On weekdays, that means weightlifting or yoga before work, and a walk at lunch. Ironically, I find it harder to exercise on the weekend, when my days are less structured and it’s easy to get caught up in other absorbing projects (cleaning, gardening, cooking, studying) until suddenly it’s evening and my exercise window closes with a slam.

I know that on weekends I need to just out of bed and go for a walk, like I did today, yet I seldom do this during the time of year when mornings are often dark and cold. Often, I do end up going for a walk in the afternoon…but not always. It’s a classic case of knowing what to do, but not doing it. We can so easily fool ourselves that things will somehow fall into place, even though experience tells us otherwise. When it comes to healthy living, and other areas of life, for that matter, we would be much better off if we could find a way to consistently act in ways that honor what we know to be true about our best selves.

My walk this morning was a great start to a great day. Five miles later, back at home, it felt fantastic have crossed a major to-do off my list. It felt fantastic to have put my muscles through their paces. It felt fantastic to have “earned” my morning cup of coffee. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it felt fantastic that I turned intention into action.

I love the feeling of exercise, but that doesn’t mean that making time for exercise always comes easy. I might be pressed for time, or tired, or distracted, or whatever. But 99 times out of 100, if I can make myself put on my workout clothes, lace up my shoes, and start exercising, my head (and the rest of me) gets in the game. I know that’s not only true for me…so I bet it’s true for you, too.