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Dawn Patrol vs. P.M. Crew


Classic CrossFit debate: Better to train before sun up or at sun down?

For many of us in the community this option really is not always available. We are slaves to the time clock. Therefore, our jobs, commitments, coaching and families dictate when and how long we can train each day and week.

When I began in 2010, it was easy. I was the only member in my on-ramp program. I was the head soccer coach, so every day, in addition to my eight hours of teaching, I had a minimum of two hours of practice or games in the afternoon, six days a week. This made the decision easy: I was thrust into the Dawn Patrol (see: morning training).

Much like giving up soda, this was no small feat for me to transition into. I don’t like getting up early. I know and recognize that there are those “morning people” who exist in our society. I applaud you, but I do not understand you. Given that my class (just me and my coach Brian) started before 7:00 a.m., I had to make early wake-ups a part of my life. I gave up the late-night television and video games and started to get to bed more in the 9:30–10:00 p.m. range. I got to the point where even on the weekends my biological alarm clock had me “sleeping in” no later than 7 am.

More background: as a college student, I NEVER took one class before 9:00 in the morning the entire time I was there. Believe me, even the few 9:00 a.m. classes were a struggle.

Since I do have the capacity to get into a routine, the Dawn Patrol became my domain, my people. As our little affiliate grew and grew and grew and switched locations for bigger and better, I remained loyal to the early morning movers and shakers. Even when we added classes at 5:15 a.m. and moved the second session to 6:00 a.m., it remained habit to drag myself in before the sun had begun to shine upon the Midwest.

But then, something prompted a shift…the coldest winter in years.

My pattern was broken this past January through March as we were slammed with day after day of record snowfall and bitter cold. I figured something out. Since I didn’t have practice from November to March, and it was unnecessarily cold in the morning a though occurred to me: I could get another hour or more of sleep and train when it was warmer later in the day (we don’t have a heater at our box).

This began a new life and a new way of training. I had to manage what I ate during the day because I didn’t want it to make me sick by the time I worked out. I was more awake and more alert in the afternoon. I met new people and made new friends with these strange folk who got to run outside when there was still sunlight. I even attended our 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. classes and trained before my dinner.

Now, I am in no-man’s land as I am trapped between the occasional return to my early risers and still heading in to train with the p.m. crews as well (schedule allowing). Since so many others are primarily like the old me (creatures of routine and habit) I feel that I have now successfully integrated myself into both groups, a hybrid of both groups. If you are ever given the chance, I would highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone in this way. Train with new people and at different times, too. It might be yet another way to really test your functional fitness besides just finishing the challenges of the WOD.

What group are you in? Do you have any experiences with jumping around to different times and different classes? What was it like? Share your stories with me at

Stay on the Grind.

Jamie Toland (JTol)