Students
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These fanatics start every day at the gym

The 7 AM Club


Working out at 7 am? Getting up at six in the morning, every single day, and going to sleep at ten at night? The 7 AM Club does it like it’s nothing. ‘If I let the laziness win, my day is ruined.’
By Remco van Veluwen / Photoos by Reyer Boxem / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The Munnekeholm is quiet. It’s barely seven in the morning and most of the world hasn’t woken up yet. Some people bike along, probably on their way to work. Their eyes are glazed over; they’re clearly not quite awake yet. Supply lorries are parked on the sidewalk. A single fanatic runner jogs by.

But the old post office at the Munnekeholm, which was turned into a Train More facility a while back, is wide awake. The doors are open and techno blasts from the speakers inside. Inside, barely a dozen people are working out on one of the many elliptical machines, treadmills, and dumbbell stations.

Change management master student Tulio Cavallero approaches from the back of the room, his hand raised in a greeting. You wouldn’t know he got up with the sun this morning. A large towel is draped across his shoulders and his tight sleeveless shirt reveals some impressive muscles. He clearly just worked out, but he’s barely sweating. ‘Espresso?’ he grins.

He doesn’t seem affected by the early hour. This is his element. Tulio has been going to the gym every morning at seven for over a year. ‘When I was studying in Norway on an exchange I had this friend, an ex-soldier, who had this great discipline. He wanted to work out together in the morning.’

Super early

Tulio allowed himself to be convinced. As the challenge turned into habit, he realised that working out super early had become important to him. Even if it wasn’t always easy.

You know there’s a treasure waiting once you defeated the dragon

‘You have to work for it, but you persist, because you know there’s a treasure waiting for you once you defeated the dragon’, he says. ‘I always feel good afterwards. I’ve had a good workout and met some nice people. I really feel that I’m ready to start my day.’

It does mean he has to go to bed early: ten o’clock. He also gets up early: six in the morning. It never gets any easier. ‘But I’ve already done so much by eight thirty’, he says.

And now if he skips his morning workout, it’s like something is missing. ‘If I let the laziness win, my day is ruined. I’m enjoying it less and I’m not as productive.’

It’s healthy, and it makes him stronger. Not just physically, but mentally as well.

Fitness bug

Tulio isn’t the only student working out at this crazy hour. Elsewhere on the floor, student of chemical engineering Celia López Escribano is doing sit-ups. Behind her, PhD student of cultural geography and urban sociology Reza is on the rowing machine. And master student of strategic management Marc Tuinier sweats while lifting up an impressive-looking barbell.

They’ve all caught the fitness bug, thanks in part to Tulio. Marc, his start-up business partner, would never be here if it wasn’t for Tulio. ‘I had been looking for a more efficient way to manage my time’, says Marc. But I was never able to push myself.’

Tulio started pushing him, and kept trying for a whole year. ‘In the end, we shook on it and I promised him I’d be in the gym at seven in the morning every single day for the next three months.’ That was four months ago. ‘It’s just part of my day now.’ He even goes when the students next door had a party the previous night that didn’t end until one in the morning. ‘I’m here every day’, he says happily.

So how has it changed his life?

‘I’m combining running a start-up and finishing my master, so it’s important to utilise every single minute of free time’, he says. ‘I’m ready to go every day at nine thirty.’

Change of routine

Celia also decides to change her life last year. ‘I was so done with being a layabout’, she says, lowering herself from a climbing rack. ‘I wanted a complete change of routine. I wanted to be more efficient, use my time better.’ Getting up at five in the morning makes her feel so much better.

Physical health also improves mental and cognitive capacities

Reza feels the same way. The PhD student has finished his workout. He says working out is so much more than just a physical activity. ‘I’d feel down and it would severely affect my productivity. My physical health has also improved my mental and cognitive capacities.’

They’re all part of a WhatsApp group that Tulio created on a whim a year ago. ‘It was a spontaneous thing’, says Tulio. ‘I just ran into the same group of people every morning at seven.’

WhatsApp group

They all knew each other by sight, but never actually spoke. Sometimes they’d smile politely at one another. ‘But then we started introducing ourselves. And I was like, we should have a WhatsApp group for all the people who are here in the morning’, he says, holding up his phone. ‘So I made one.’

The group called themselves the ‘7 AM Club’. Over the past few months, they’ve become a diverse, close group of friends consisting of students, PhDs, and people with regular jobs. Together, they push themselves as far as they can. They hold each other accountable. They go out for sushi, and sometimes they even have drinks together.

‘Absolutely. I’m not a monk’, says Tulio. His schedule might be gruelling during the week, but on the weekends, he does go out. ‘I enjoy a good time, like everyone else.’

‘As do I’, says Marc. ‘But I don’t stay out all night.’

You simply can’t combine early morning workouts with an active night life. ‘You have to go to bed early’, says Celia. ‘My friends used to whine about it and call me a boring grandma. But I got used to it and they’ve accepted it now.’

Instagram

Marc recognises this attitude. ‘Ooh, you’re so boring, they say. But they know why I go to bed at ten. It just took time for them to adjust as well.’

A friend of mine was jealous

What’s more, the fitness bug appears to be contagious. His colleagues at work have become more motivated to work out ever since they realised how happy and energised Reza felt. ‘While they still need caffeine to wake up, I’m already fully awake. A friend of mine even said he was jealous. He was very interested in joining.’

‘One of my friends has started coming in at seven as well’, says Celia. ‘And I’ve received a lot of positive comments about my lifestyle on Instagram.’

But how much time your studies take up does matter, says Marc: ‘I wouldn’t have been able to do this during my bachelor. I went out every night and was just generally enjoying life, and I wouldn’t have been able to combine that with this workout schedule. I didn’t have a regular enough schedule to do this yet.’

Two weeks

Celia has a tip: ‘Take the summer to make a plan. Write down all your ambitions and goals. Base your schedule on those.’ Don’t just start all willy-nilly; make a plan and make sure you can stick to it from the start. You have to be truly motivated.

‘Go for it, and just keep it up for at least two weeks’, says Celia. ‘It’s a whole new world. It’s honestly amazing. You won’t regret it, I promise.’

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