Depending on the day, Justin Case is out of bed by 3:45 a.m.
It’s not something that’s out of the ordinary for him as a former Marine, but it’s also not always easy.
“I’m lucky to have an amazing team at Underground Athlete so I don’t have to pick up as many of those early morning sessions as I used to,” says Case, the owner of Underground Athlete, a personal training business based in Fairfax.
He starts his day with an early-morning shower. Sometimes, as cold as it can possibly go for the last 30 seconds, just to shake off any extra fatigue. Followed by a glass of water, a pour-over cup of coffee from his Chemex and an entre-leadership podcast, Case is off and running for the day.
We had him take us through his daily grind and fill us in on his favorite tasks while owning his own gym. Highlights from our conversation are below.
Take me through a normal morning routine after your much-needed cup of coffee.
On days that I’m not coaching early, I usually wake up around 5 a.m. before the kids get up and I’ll meditate using the Headspace app, then follow it by jumping right into following up with inquiries and leads, checking in on our members that do online training and then reading or writing, depending on the day.
Once the kids wake up around 7 a.m., I put work on hold and get some quality time in before I get them off to school. And at 9:30 a.m. it all starts over again with re-focusing. I also make sure to theme my days to keep focus, too. Mondays are for meetings, Tuesdays are for my team, Wednesdays are for marketing, Thursdays are for members and Fridays are for finances.
Transitioning into your midday schedule, what are you up to?
Underground Athlete is closed between 1 and 3 p.m. every day, so this is when I typically meet up with the other coaches and we do our own training and workouts. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we do total-body strength training workouts, and we’ll occasionally throw in some barbell complexes, non-traditional anaerobic intervals or traditional high-intensity intervals at the end of the sessions. Tuesdays and Thursdays are light cardio days for recovery.
And getting into the evening, are you back at the gym and still moving?
If I’m coaching, evenings consist of back-to-back one-hour coaching sessions from 3 to 9 p.m. If I’m not coaching, I’m usually meeting potential new members for consultations. If not, it’s all family from 5 p.m. until the kids are asleep around 8 p.m. From 8 to 11 p.m. I’ll be following up on administrative requests and membership inquiries, and after that it’s more reading or writing, unless my wife has gotten me into something good on Netflix or Prime Video.
What’s something you would want people to know about your schedule that they may not realize?
I think there’s a big misconception that as personal trainers and gym owners, we’re in the gym a lot and that we’re always working out. The truth is, it’s hard to fit in workouts for a lot of trainers. It was much easier to stay in shape when I wasn’t a personal trainer (and full-time business owner) because if you’re coaching others, you shouldn’t also be working out yourself at the same time. So, all of your workouts require you to stay at work longer to fit it into your schedule. And I think people believe trainers get plenty of sleep, drink water all day, do all their meal-prepping on Sundays, never sit, never snack on M&M’S
… but late-night coaching at 9:30 p.m. going right into 5:15 a.m. coaching doesn’t leave much room for sleep. And then add kids into the mix. Most trainers that have been in this business for a while aren’t as much gym rats, perfect calorie counters or meal preppers, they are just really good at optimizing the time they do have to improve their fitness. It also proves that you don’t need to be killing yourself at the gym five to seven days a week just to see results. In fact, most of us and our clients only train two to three days a week.
What’s your favorite part of the day?
I’m extremely fortunate. I love all parts of my day. What I love most is that I have the ability to choose what I’ll be doing at any given time. If I feel like coaching, I can jump in and help coach; if I feel like being creative, I can isolate myself and write or work on marketing pieces. My own workouts are non-negotiable and probably the highlight of my day. Hopefully our members feel the same way! But in the end, nothing compares to quality family time. My workouts enable me to make the most of the time I have with my family.
And any tips you have for readers that they can learn from your daily routine?
Black coffee is great, but nothing works like loving what you do. When you love what you do, it’s easy to wake up early. You’re anxious to get started. Personally, I have a harder time going to bed because I want to keep going. Fortunately, I realize how important sleep is and how my own training will suffer if I don’t get enough. Fasting also works for me, since I follow a metabolic flexibility program and fast once a week, most of the time. I love the way I feel and it helps me be more productive. But from what I see, most people in this area need to focus first on getting enough protein, getting enough sleep and managing their stress. Once you’ve gotten that in order, the rest is easy, but you won’t make much progress in the gym or on your body if you can’t control those three things.
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