Why My 1 Hour Daily Workouts Cost me 5 Hours Daily

As I start typing this Austin Real Estate blog article at about 6:15PM on a Tuesday, a crazy reality befalls me. It’s almost my bedtime. In less than 2 hours, maybe 3 at most. I have to get to bed around 9PM Sundays through Thursdays because of a new lifestyle commitment I’ve made. And it’s messing up my longstanding habit of splitting my “productivity” time into daily and late-night chunks.

For one month now I’ve been waking up at 5AM M-F, cooking and eating some eggs, out the door by 5:15AM. Getting to the gym by 5:30 for a 6AM-7AM fitness bootcamp workout. I have to arrive by 5:30AM because the classes fill up by about 5:40AM, and I don’t want to miss a class, and I like getting my same spot every time. I get back home around 7:15AM, about the exact time I use to wake up normally, before the workouts. At first I thought, “wow, I’ve captured 2 hours that would have been wasted sleeping each day”.

Not quite.

My old schedule only required 5 or 6 hours sleep at night. For many years, I’ve had very productive “work” time between 10PM and 2AM. I can go to sleep at 2AM and get up at 7AM with no trouble. Been doing it all my adult life. But getting up at 5AM is different. I just can’t go to sleep at Midnight and get up at 5AM. And then busting it in a 1 hour workout class. The math seems simple, but the reality doesn’t work. It just requires more rest than before.

And as the Austin real estate market seems to suddenly be coming to life, Sylvia and I have a bulging pipeline of upcoming listings and buyer prospects, and now I’m wondering how I’m going to get my work done without the peace and quiet of those late night, no interuption hours.

By the way, I’m down 8 pounds so far and have taken 2 inches off my stomach and am already getting unsolicited “have you lost weight?” comments from friends. That feels good. I’m feeling great, eating right too. I’ll be turning 50 in September and I’ve decided I want to be “fit at 50” as a birthday present to myself. And I have undertaken to make that happen with a manic determination. Thus the 5AM wakeups.

What I didn’t contemplate or factor in is the lost late-night productivity. My life as a Realtor is working with people, in person and on the phone, usually during daylight hours, but there is a LOT that happens behind the scenes with paperwork, planning, research, admin stuff, writing blogs, working on the website and just general “getting caught up”. That’s where those late-night productivity hours become so valuable. Time during which one can sit, undisturbed by phone calls or unplanned showings, emails that need immediate or quick response, etc. In fact, those hours are, in a way, “super hours”, worth maybe 1.5x or 2x because of the concentrated effort that can be accomplished.

If you’re one of my new buyers and we’re out looking at homes after you get off work this summer and I say, “it’s almost 8:30, we need to hurry because I need to get home and into bed”, you’ll know I’m not crazy, I just need my rest. 🙂 My daytime hours use to feel like “part time” effort because I knew I had those late night hours to catch up and do stuff. Now I feel like a 9 to 5er almost, and pressured to get stuff done during the day instead of deferring to late night.

Such is life. I’ll acclimate, I hope.

13 thoughts on “Why My 1 Hour Daily Workouts Cost me 5 Hours Daily”

  1. Hi Steve,

    I’m right behind you old chap.

    You know, I believe, that I am a bit of a runner (I’ve done the past three Austin marathons). It does take an extraordinary amount of effort to get and stay fit. For several reasons I find it beneficial to run first thing in the morning. One reason is that physically I find it easier than later in the day, and then there’s the heat for a large part of the year. A big part though is that early morning exercise makes me sharper mentally during the daytime, even on those August to October Saturday mornings when I start running at 5.00AM to do 15 or 20 miles before the heat kicks in.

    All that is to say that however you are doing it, we’re getting old fella and if you’re finding a way to fit in exercise into your daily schedule you are doing yourself and your ladies a great service. The benefits of our productivity at work would be lost if we were not striving to be fit and healthy, the importance of that cannot be overstated. Well done for finding your groove!


  2. Somehow I’m able to sneak off to the gym at around 3pm each day which seems to work out great for my schedule. I am also very productive in the evening as far as “computer stuff” goes. If you ever get overwhelmed with listings… Let me know 😀

  3. Steve – when the recession hit a few years ago, I decided to use some of the time that I had previously spent working with clients to get in better shape and try to implement more work-life balance. It was a hell of a lot easier to do commit to that when you realize you’re making so much less money as an agent in a slow market, you might as well do something good for yourself to make up for it.

    This sounds crazy to some, but I think you’re going against your natural circadian rhythms to be doing what you’re doing; getting up so early – and you’re surely not going to sustain it long term. You’ll simply miss those late work hours too much, and you’ll go back to it.

    Why not *embrace* your natural sleep cycles rather than fight them?

    I usually wake up around 10am (blasphemy, say the desk jockies!); have a bowl of high fiber cereal with unsweetened almond milk and black coffee (caffeine and food, but nothing that will add inches to the waistline). Casually peruse the morning’s WSJ and maybe see if any emails are hot button issues. Then it’s shower time, change into gym clothes (but not yet go to the gym), and sit down at the computer for a couple of hours of work emails and calls.

    Lunch time roles around; throw the dogs into the SUV, go grab a healthy vegan lunch; run the dogs at Town Lake for 30 minutes, then back for another couple of hours of work. It’s approaching 4pm now, so much of the days work has generated the slew of emails it always generates, so you’re actually more productive answering emails later in the day when people have figured stuff out that you may have wasted time figuring out for them had you been sitting at the computer when they first asked the questions!

    Around 4pm, it’s off to the gym; getting there early enough to beat rush hour traffic on the roads, and early enough that the after-work hoards have not yet descended to do their workouts. By the time the workout (30 minutes elliptical, 30 minutes weights, 30 minutes hot tub) is over, I’ve brought a change of clothes with me, and am back in the car headed to a light dinner (or social event). It’s 5:30-6, so this is about the only time I am impacted by heavy Austin traffic; but if you live Central and close to where you want to do stuff; it’s not so bad. I figure I spend less than 10 extra minutes per day in the car due solely to rush hour.

    Then after dinner, my favorite time. Time to sit down in front of the computer with a glass of wine (that often turns into a bottle before bed time), and parse the day’s emails without so much as a phone call or additional email coming in to distract me (except for those people that have the same schedule I do). I’m far more productive during this time solely because I have time to think, summarize, and action different items in one email, rather than that email triggering the inevitable wave of emails that it would if sent during the typical work day (2PM, etc).

    Throw in some mindless internet browsing, maybe a movie, more wine, chill with the dogs; and before you know it, it’s 1 or 2am; bed time. Gotta get that 8 hours, because 10am is right around the corner. 🙂

    Granted, I have a staff that runs operations at my company, so I don’t have to be “butt in seat” at 9am, but I’ve found 99% of clients don’t expect to get you on the phone when they call, and most will leave messages and allow you to time shift the work, as long as you get back to them within a reasonable amount of time. Technology allows us to time shift, and through creative scheduling during the day, you don’t have to defeat your preference for late nights and aversion to early mornings.

  4. Hi Simon: Thanks for your comments. It’s awesome you’re running the marathons. I didn’t know you were doing that. I’ve thought of jogging but don’t know if my knees would hold up. Two mornings a week I’m in a cycling class, which is a massive calorie burner. I’m just getting to the point where I can stand and peddle through all the climbs and sprints. It helps to have a sadistic drill sergeant instructor up there yelling at us to “don’t quit, keep going. You didn’t get up at 5AM to quit!”, etc. Not sure I’d get even 1/3 the workout if I just rode a bike on my own, so I appreciate having someone yelling at me and pushing me.

    Robert: Man, your routine sounds pretty sweet. I agree I’m going against the grain of the internal clock I’ve built up since I was about 15 and worked my first late night restaurant job (back when they actually let kids work). Then right out of high school I worked a 3PM to Midnight shift for 2 years, and would go out drinking every night after work until sunrise. Use to work the “Rambo” double shift when I managed Dominos Pizza in the 1980s, 10:30AM all today until 3AM that night, about 4 days a week, which made a nice 64 hour week. (the government probably doesn’t allow that anymore either). Pulling all nighters is no big deal, even at my current age.

    But this 5AM stuff is a really cool challenge. I don’t know, there’s something about going “completely opposite” of everything I’ve ever tried that makes it interesting and fun.

    The benefits of early morning are:
    – No traffic. I’m driveway to gym (24ht Fitness on Wm Cannon) in 8-12 minutes.
    – No scheduling conflict opportunities. No excuses.
    – Some traffic coming home at 7AM, but not terrible, still a 15 minute drive.
    – Metabolism stays elevated many hours after the workout.
    – Maintain same morning routine with breakfast, getting kid to school, etc.

    Downside is the weird sleepiness I start feeling at about 8PM. I’ve even gone to sleep at 8PM, which is weird because it’s not totally dark yet.

    My plan is to slowly start adding about 15 minutes a week to bedtime, which would be about an hour a month, and see if I can acclimate eventually back to where I can last until 11PM or midnight, and still feel rested and able when the alarm goes off at 5AM.

    Also, I’m in super “get lean” mode until I get to my target weight and shape. Then I will talk with the trainer about a maintenance plan going forward where I may not have to be up at 5AM 5 days a week. Maybe just 2 or 3.

    But guys and gals my age have to get serious about this. We’ve become a country of fatties, and I’m just not willing to wave the white flag in one hand while holding a doughnut in the other.


  5. Hi Steve,

    I second what Robert said. If you have a good rhythm, don’t mess with it. After the move, we dragged out the exercise bike (it’s in that formal dining room that I just had to have). Jonathan gets on there for 20-30 minutes a night after the kids go to bed. Along with some dietary changes, he’s down 10 pounds. He supplements that with lifting weights at the Dell gym a couple of days a week. The key to his success is making those habits fit with work and the increasing amount of help that I need.

    Maybe investing in a couple of pieces of good equipment could help exercise fit into your life, instead of the other way around.

  6. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for chiming in. Since downsizing to the small house closer in, we don’t have room for any equipment.We’re in an 1800 sqft Doyle Wilson 1970s special now. The membership at 24hr Fitness works out to about $13/mo with the Costco deal, so I really can’t justify buying any stuff. Just don’t have room.

    Glad you’ve found a way to re-purpose that formal dining. The sales market is really picking up steam so I think we got you guys in at just the right time!

    Take Care,


  7. You know I can so relate to your blog. WHen I lived out by the lake yrs ago I literally drove 20 miles one way to the gym. And by the time it was said and over I was driving 40+ miles a day just to make my gym workouts/classes. I don’t know if it was worth it then but at this point in my life looking back I wouldn’t do it again.
    These days its the conveniency of going upstairs in your own building to the gym and not worrying about gas, driving, and etc. Now why am I selling? Haaha

    Keep up the good work you do!

  8. Hi Steve—that’s such a bummer that it’s eating up more time, but many pats on the back for the discipline to stick with it. I’ve found that I am a terrible morning worker-outer before about 9 am, and even only then do I push myself if I’m in a class setting (at home I’ll skip reps, or take a break, or end the workout early, etc. but I won’t slack off in front of a group). There was a popular article in Forbes late last year (“The Secret to Being a Power Woman: Wake Up Early”) about the most successful professional women being early risers, and the article cites a study that found that people who profess to be early risers do better on the SAT and ACT than people who profess to be night owls. Another article I read about that same study (and written as a counterargument to the Forbes article), however, argued that those standardized tests are given early in the morning, before night owls’ brains can kick into a high gear–and cited evidence that night owls perform at a higher level (as high as early birds) as the day progresses (and vice versa). Another study mentioned in that second article (for which I can’t find the link now) demonstrated how hard it is to fight your natural circadian rhythms–research found that night owls who force themselves to become early risers will not reap as many benefits from waking up early as those who are natural early risers. I think that’s really interesting. Keep up the work–whenever you can make it happen, do it. It reminds me of a line that I think is originally from AA’s prayer that I think applies to reaching your health and fitness goals: “It works if you work it and you’re worth it.”

  9. Hi Brittany,

    It’s one minute past my bedtime of 9PM but I’ll post this anyway. 🙂

    Thanks for your great comments and mentions of those articles. I will check them out.

    I’ll complete week 6 of my workouts tomorrow. Still haven’t had any trouble getting up and haven’t missed a day yet. I don’t feel as sleepy at 9PM, but I usually turn in at that time anyway. The weight is coming off and I feel great. So it’s working out better than I could have hoped or would have imagined. Gonna stick with this pattern for a while at least.


  10. I feel your pain totally. It seems like I have to cram in 40 hrs of productivity into my 9-6. You are right. It is so tough trying to find balance. What I’ve had to do to save my sanity, marriage, health and, ulitmately, even my job, is to just work out at home 3 days a week. I get up @ 0500, put on my headphones and walk/jog on my treadmill. For variety, I pop in a video of kickboxing. It isn’t perfect, but it has helped me find a semblance of a normal life.

  11. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment. I don’t have the will power or the extra space to work out at home. Would sure be convenient.

    They changed up our 1 hour weight pump routine this week. It has 800 reps, which the instructor says is more than double what the average person will do on a standard self-workout routine. Plus, like I said earlier, I have someone yelling/encouraging me to push longer, do more, and don’t quit.

    Just completed week 6 this morning. Down 12 pounds, 19 to goal to my goal. 🙂


  12. Hi Steve. Wow, you are really kicking it. Congrats on the weight loss. I have to ramp up my efforts a bit more, or so my wife tells me. I may give the local gym a go, as it is on my way to work and has a fantastic weight room. Like everything, I need spice my routine up a bit without making it too crazy.



Leave a Comment