For years, this is how I started every morning—with a buzzing cellphone alarm gently jostling me out of sleep, bright and early. You see, I’ve always been an early morning workout girl. 6 a.m. boxing class? I’m down. Sunrise five-mile run? Yes, please. Pre-dawn Pilates workout? Don’t mind if I do.
It’s not that I was more of a morning person than anyone else. Nope, I always chose to do a morning workout because by the time I’d make it home at night, I felt so lazy that I’d inevitably skip my sweat session—despite my best intentions. So regardless of my work schedule, relationship status, or level of sleep deprivation, I’d always force myself to get my workout in before my day really started.
And then a few months ago, something shifted in me. Due to a few convergent events in my life, I was forced to slow down and take care of myself. And suddenly, waking up and dragging myself to a workout class didn’t seem fun—and because I was getting far less than eight hours of sleep per night, it definitely didn’t seem healthy. Before, I never skipped a workout, no matter how tired, sore, or unmotivated I was. But now that I was trying to be gentle with my body and spirit, I realized it might be better to sleep in and work out later … or even more extreme, skip my usual sweat session altogether.
So, I gave up my morning workouts cold turkey, and started listening to what my body wanted to do.
Sometimes that meant sleeping for a few more hours.
Sometimes, it meant 15 minutes of yoga-inspired stretches from bed.
Sometimes, it meant lacing up my sneakers and putting in a few miles in the afternoon.
Sometimes, it meant crushing a short BBG workout when I got home from work.
Most of the time, it meant meditating every day and trying to walk as often as possible.
I’m not going to lie to you—I figured I’d probably gain weight. See, I’ve been a consistent runner for nearly two years and usually put in about 30-40 miles a week. That’s a lot of cardio, and it keeps me feeling pretty fit and toned. But over the past few months, my body felt so tired that even running—an activity I truly love—seemed like a chore. So I resigned myself to the idea that I’d gain a little extra fluff while I gave my body a short break, and I was OK with it.
Imagine my surprise when the opposite happened. OK, blowing off my regular morning workouts didn’t give me the body of Kayla Itsines … But it did instantly help with my chronic-feeling fatigue. I also noticed that even though I lost a little muscle definition, I felt better than I had in a while. Instead of waking up sore and achy, I felt light and fresh.
Interestingly enough, my belly bloat diminished, too. Honestly, I’m not sure why—maybe it’s because I was eating less because I wasn’t as hungry as when I normally work out. But I have a feeling my constant bloating had more to do with sky-high stress levels (the stress hormone cortisol causes the body to store calories as belly fat) and chronic inflammation from working out too much.
I’m not quite back into my normal morning workout routine—although I still rise with the sun, I like to take a moment to enjoy my coffee and meditate a little before I get on with my day. Knowing what I know now, I think I’ll probably keep playing my workouts by ear and exercising at times that are convenient for me. After all, the point of exercising is to feel and look good—and I know that I feel my best (and look pretty great!) when I’m not stressed or over-taxing my body.