Early Riser

By: Michelle Magnan

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My grandmother, Florence, taught me the joy of the early morning workout. As a child, when I was lucky enough to have a sleepover with my grandparents, she would ask if I wanted to join her at the pool in the morning. My answer, always, was yes. It’s not that I was interested in exercising; her daily routine – backstroking her way through laps and laps at a nearby pool – was a mystery world I wanted to be a part of. I remember those early mornings well. Not long past 5 a.m., Florence would sneak into the guest room and whisper my name. I’d push the covers off, throw on my bathing suit, sweatpants and a t-shirt, and join her at the front door. Behind their bedroom door, my grandfather snored. We snuck out and were on our way.

There are certain things that have stuck with me about those morning workouts: the way the other regulars knew her name, the feeling of slipping into the water and really waking up, the calm repetition of the backstroke. Most of all, I remember how it felt to walk out the front doors of the pool, feeling fresh and strong and awake. Without realizing it, I’d started to love early morning exercise. I’m so grateful to have learned – at such a young age – how wonderful that feeling can be.

Not that I maintained it well as I grew up. Though I knew the power of the early morning workout, waking up to get one done wasn’t my strong suit. In university, I’d squeeze in the occasional run before class. In my twenties, I managed to drag myself out of bed and to the gym once or twice a week, before getting to work at 10 a.m. (I was working as a health columnist at a newspaper. Journalists are not known for their early starts.) Now, in my thirties, I find waking up is much less of a struggle. It could be the fact I have a job that gets me up earlier and has trained me for earlier starts. More so, I’ve realized that, in a life that’s busy with work, friends and family, the only way to ensure I get a workout in is to tackle it first thing.

I’m not a swimmer like my grandmother, but I love the feeling of sweating through a spin class, going for a run or hitting the torturous stairs near my office – all while the rest of the city is waking up. And when I need inspiration, I think of Florence. At 83 years old, my grandmother is one of the most dedicated exercisers I know. She still swims, walks and cross-country skis. So, whenever my alarm goes off and my first instinct is to roll over and go back to sleep, I picture my grandmother – who’s rising for her early morning workout, in a city a few hours away from mine – and I push the covers off. Time to get at it.

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