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How a Morning Habit Gave Me Peace and Purpose

Published:
December 14, 2023
June 19, 2023
Read how this morning habit transformed this author's life.|Are you and your partner total opposites? Here's how to "make it work".|Learn how food and love are intertwined with each other.|Are you and your partner total opposites? Here's how to "make it work".|Learn how food and love are intertwined with each other.

I started going to a new fitness studio around the same time my life felt like it was falling apart.

When I moved back home after graduate school, confusion and pain marred my life. It began with the resurfacing of an internal struggle of scrupulosity which required me to get professional help. I also felt driftless and unsettled after moving home, lacked a solid network of friends, went to a job that was isolating, and broke up with someone I loved. This cocktail of internal and external factors left me feeling tetherless and abandoned. Every morning when I opened my eyes, a sunkenness overcame my stomach as all I could think about was everything that was going wrong. The desperation permeated my days from the moment I woke until I finally fell asleep.

Shortly after I moved home, I joined an all-women’s fitness studio that was a five-minute drive from my house. They offered a variety of classes that catered to all ability levels and focused on positive motivation. I started going to classes a few times a week at 7 p.m. The cardio and interval workouts were demanding and invigorating as the instructors pushed us to lift heavier weights, run faster, and jump higher. It was the only time during the day when the task at hand consumed my racing mind. Even while thoughts of desperation crept into my consciousness, the boom of the instructor’s voice on the microphone and quick transitions between stations refocused my attention to the workout.

And yet, the heaviness remained. Getting out of my bed in the morning still seemed like an impossible feat. As fall turned into winter, life felt darker. Desperate to try anything that would help me crawl back to a place where I felt like myself, I decided to try the 6 a.m. class that my studio offered. I set my alarm for 5:25 a.m. — and another for 10 minutes later in case I slept through it — put on leggings and gym shoes, and showed up to my first early morning class.

The energy was entirely different. At the evening classes, the groups were smaller, and the studio quieter, allowing me to wind down and release the stress of the day. When I walked in at 6 a.m., the women were talkative and vivacious, exuding a lively spirit that eased my bitterness. Even though I wasn’t yet friendly with them, their energy gave me a glimpse of what I wanted my life to be and a hope that it was possible.

As I moved through the workout and the grogginess of the pre-dawn hours wore off, endorphins began to release and I succumbed to the intensity of the class. Walking out, I felt proud of having accomplished such a grueling workout before 7 a.m. The emptiness set in again once I was in my car, but my hot cheeks and alert mind signaled that this was what I needed to do right now, even if I didn’t see the results right away. There was finally a glow of light on my shadow-laden path, a faint foreshadowing that I could make it out of the abyss. But I’d have to put in the work.

I continued to go to the early morning classes — two, three, four times a week. It was never pleasant to have my alarm ring so early, but throwing off my covers became reflexive. Seeing my breath spool wisps of white in the cold morning air as my car heated up became a part of my routine. Once I accepted that it would always be a challenge to tear myself away from the warm cocoon of my comforter, it got easier to do. The reward was on the other side — an entire hour when the world wouldn’t seem so desolate and my intrusive thoughts wouldn’t threaten any chance of peace. It was worth getting up at any hour for that reprieve.

Forming this habit was not the result of intention or aspiration, but acceptance and trust. I had to accept that it would be difficult to get up early and commit to this habit despite it. I had to trust that this would help me get better, even if I didn’t see immediate results, and fight the frustration of that process. Seeing the same people day in and day out allowed me to feel a part of something greater than myself. I greeted the instructors and other women in my classes with the acknowledgement that while we all had different reasons for coming to the studio, we would persevere through the same physical challenges.    

It’s been over two years since I started going to early morning classes at my fitness studio.  Many other factors have contributed to my progress since then, but I credit this place with lifting me up in the most immediate and visceral way. It has given me purpose, refuge, and community. Even though I have made it to the other side of that season of pain, I have peace knowing that this habit will help me continue moving forward and navigate whatever is to come. 

In the meantime, I will continue to exert my body before the sun rises, relishing in my breathlessness and perspiration as I step into the nascent light of each new day.

Creators:
Grace Spiewak
Published:
December 14, 2023
June 19, 2023
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