This weekend I put my training to use. For the first time I rode a bike for the sake of riding a bike, not to practice riding a bike.

Matt and I went to Storm King Art Center in the Hudson Valley.

storm king

its critical to match your helmet to your limited edition Climate Reality Project Patagonia hoodie

Storm King is a sculpture garden integrated in a hilly green forest. It’s a really pretty place to go and a great alternative (or supplement) to the traditional “let’s appreciate fall by going apple picking” idea.

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The colloquialism “it’s just like riding a bike” has always lacked personal recognition for me, for all the reasons. To me, it might as well be “it’s just like reaching Everest Base Camp,” something to file under “people do it, but so far not me.”  (I would like to summit Everest Base Camp.) But after a few weeks off from bike riding, I did find a sense of familiarity back in the saddle.

Bike NYC

Cold and windy

Last Sunday I found myself risking windburn and pneumonia (caused by severe hypochondria, as it was 50 degrees) on Randall’s Island to take a second level learn-to-bike class with Bike New York. You might remember my first class where I triumphantly “earned my pedals” by gliding in a circle in a Roosevelt Island gym.

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hierarchy of need

Maslow + Haber = BFF

Since joining ClassPass last month I’ve had fun studio-hopping. I’ve spent some quality time with old favorites (Flywheel, Flybarre and Exhale). And I’ve tried some boutique fitness options that were not on my radar (Cyc, Nalini Method, Pure Barre and Moving Strength).

Going to so many classes has got me thinking about what actually makes a class worthwhile and what will make me want to return to a studio. I started to realize “creature comforts” had a lot more to do with it than I give credit. After being an Equinox member and frequenting boutique NY studios, I started to equate exercise with amenities.  Even the clothes we wear to workout are getting more and more expensive and offering more high-end accouterments.  (I won’t buy running shorts unless they have a zippered pocket.)

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Last week I wrote a post about keeping in shape while traveling, and this week I took my own advice.

My friend Kelly moved to Panama City, Panama for work. Over Columbus Day Weekend I popped down to the narrow waistband of the Americas to pay her a visit, butcher the beautiful Spanish language and do some exploring.

Kelly and a few of her coworkers (all expats) bought the equivalent of a Groupon deal to a Panamanian boutique fitness operation called The Daily Barre. They had plans to take the 6:15am class and I decided to join. At 6:05am we left Kelly’s apartment and hopped in a cab and headed to a shopping center called Punta Pacifica.

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Let’s talk mornings. Glorious and full of potential? Or plain terrible?*

The reasons to exercise in the morning are obvious:

  • Post-work hours are clear for socializing
  • You theoretically have more energy in the am
  • You’re less likely to flake out on your workout if you do it first thing

And of course the most unmissable one:

  • You get to be gloriously smug about having run 10 miles while your friends and colleagues wasted the morning accumulating an extra hour of pillow drool.

But if you’re not naturally of the ever-pious “morning person” variety there is hope for you yet.  Personally I require between 10 and 12 hours of sleep. That’s only slightly hyperbolic. Waking up early (OK waking up period) does not come easily for me. So that’s where this lesson is going to start, right here at Morning Workout 101.

morning runner

Your future self says “‘sup, sugar”

I wanted to workout in the am because it was too hot and I was too tired after work. I was also allured by the idea of “getting your workout out of the way.”  After a few weeks – they say it takes 21 days to create a habit – I got happily into the swing of the pre-work run/sweat session and here are my tips for how you can too.

4 Ways to Become a Ride or Die Morning Person. Let’s hit it:

1. Do not rage or stay up late the night before.  Staying up late is an advanced move and you are in an introductory course. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do this. Go to bed early the night before. In fact start going to bed a bit earlier even before you plan your first am workout. It will condition your body to fall asleep at an earlier time.

2. Make a date with a friend.  If someone is waiting for you at Engineers’ Gate at 6:30am you’re not going to stand them up. Not unless you’re a really bad person. So yes part of becoming a morning person involves peer pressure and maintaining friendships.

3. Sign up for a class (like SoulCycle or Physique) that you can’t cancel without financial penalty morning of. Think about how guilty you will feel to not only miss your workout but lose $34.

4. Sleep in your gym clothes. Getting dressed is now one less thing you have to do! When you wake up in a sports bra you will feel too ridiculous not to workout.  A lower key approach is just to lay out your clothes the night before but the more intense version is what’s worked for me.

These tactics feel tough at first. I am instructing you to play mind games and it isn’t fun, but it works. After a few weeks you will happily and naturally get up in the am. Even if you don’t sleep in your spin shoes.Just don’t go running too early. It’s not street legal.

Any other tips for making mornings easier?

*Every time I asked questions into the internet ether I think: “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.)