For those of you who know me, you know I'm in bed by 7:30-8:00pm and up around 3:45am when Siri so kindly wakes me- or I wake myself, which is more common these days. This is an odd schedule to most, and I definitely take some slack about my retirement schedule, but it really works for me. More so than I could have ever imagined.
I actually have Hurricane Irene to thank for all of this. In August of 2011, we lost power for 6 days. Neighbors had power (how lovely it was of them to keep their curtains and blinds wide open with every light in their house on and TVs taunting us...) but, our little row of homes did not. This happened to coincide with the first work week back to school, and showering and getting presentable was necessary. So, I went to the gym to get ready. And I figured if I'm going to go to the gym, I might as well do something while I'm there. And my new routine was born.
I could not believe the energy I had! Also, knowing my workout was behind me allowed me to feel like I could actually decompress after a day of 5th graders instead of trying to find one less shred of energy for going to the gym. Since getting our pup, I often come home and walk or run him, giving myself a little light activity at the end of the day without the stress of having to get an awesome workout in. It's been 2 1/2 years and it's positively the best health change I have made. And I can't even begin to tell you about the awesome community that exists at the gym at 5 in the morning. You wouldn't believe that many people could be that happy and that energized so early, but it's true. On the occasion I have gone at 4:30pm I have found the environment to be much colder, hostile, irritable... and that makes sense. Everyone just wants to go home, maybe?
So what do I eat at 4am? Actually, not much. I'm still weening off coffee- this really is going to be the hardest for me, I believe... so, right now, coconut milk in my coffee is enough to get my system going. Once coffee is behind me, I believe I'll have a bite of something, but that's about all I can really handle in the morning. I've also discovered that- for me- I do better on an empty stomach at the gym. And it's not like I go and do 30 minutes on the eliptical and leave... I am either in a hard ass tabata spin class or I am on the floor lifting really heavy things and running sprints. Either way, a fairly empty belly seems to be fine for me. I've also worked on primal running- tapping into that part of the brain when you ran because you needed to protect yourself or get food- I think that's also easier when your body is gearing up for a meal. I think being a little hungry helps me to mentally get there when I am on a treadmill, in a gym, with Usher blasting through my headphones...
I actually used to eat a decent sized breakfast- and then once I started to lift heavier I noticed I would get nauseous- which is why I stopped. Everyone is different. One guy I lift with has like 6 egg whites and a protein shake and oatmeal before coming in. Another HUGE guy I lift with only has a banana. Another has oatmeal, and then staggers protein for a couple of hours starting right after he leaves the gym. I don't know if there is a right and wrong. You can find articles that support each option. I've not had any trouble building muscle (I REALLY want to update my blog photo!!!) and I've put it all on since I've started morning workouts on an empty belly. So, take that for what it's worth, play around, and see what works best for you and makes you feel good.
Once I am showered and heading to school I am famished and ready to eat. I usually warm something up on my way to my classroom and am finishing my meal as my kids walk through the door. Most of the time I just have leftovers, (Mrs. Linham, are you eating GARLIC?!) but sometimes I really just want breakfast food. Peeking around on Paleo sites hasn't given me the inspiration and excitement I'd hoped for, but I did see a post for beef sausage and decided I could do something with that. Here it is.
Breakfast Chicken Sausage Patties
Makes about 12 patties
1 pound of ground chicken thighs
1 medium apple, small dice
1/4 cup onion, fine dice
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1-2 pinches of salt
1 pinch of black pepper
Add about a tsp of coconut oil to a saute pan over medium heat. Add the apple, onion, 1 pinch of salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Taste, remembering that you are adding a pound of chicken to it. I always am careful with salt, but add a bit more if needed for your taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit while you work on taking down Christmas decorations (so depressing).
Once it's cool enough to work with, add it to a bowl with the chicken, and mix until just combined.
Heat 2 tsp of coconut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat (maybe just a hair higher). Form the chicken into patties that are about 2" in diameter and 1/2" thick. Once the oil is hot, put them down, but don't crowd them. They take about 4-5 minutes per side. Be patient, lower the heat if needed- the sugars from the apple will burn easily, so just watch your heat. Work in batches until cooking is complete. Add a bit more coconut oil if needed.
When I think they are done- they should be firm as well- I just cut one open to double check and then eat that one first! I drained mine on a bit of paper towel before packing them away in Pyrex. When I am ready for one, I will just give it a bit of a saute, or even throw it in the microwave if I'm in a hurry.
My plan is to make a few pounds of this sausage at once and freeze them in individual servings for easy post-gym grub. I'll take some greens, or maybe just have some celery sticks and olives on the side to round out the meal. Or a banana like I did yesterday. The patties would also be good with a chunk of sweet potato.
If you think morning workouts are an impossibility, I challenge you to start thinking about it at least... Go in slowly, give it a few weeks to build up the time you spend there, adjusting your bedtime, etc. See how it goes. I know it's not for everyone, but there was a time when I didn't think it could possibly be for me, and I could not have been more wrong.
It's 6:45am on a Saturday morning as I type, and since my 24 hour gym closes overnight on Fridays and Saturdays, I have 15 minutes to get there and walk through the door right as they open...