Cole Sager is a big-time athlete with an even bigger heart. The former college football player turned professional CrossFitter has become known for his motto, “Be kind, work hard.” His unwavering positivity and drive have made Sager the good guy of the CrossFit Games—an event in which he’s participated seven times.
His ability to maintain an elite fitness level and perform so consistently is a testament to his preparation, fueling, focus, and relentlessness in the gym.
“I have always been one to get up early and go to the gym because I had goals and ambitions and it made the most sense to get up and get after the work,” Sager says. “Discipline is naturally in me. I’ve never known anything different.”
Sager took us through the morning routine that allows him to be the best version of himself for his athletic career and his family, which recently grew as Sager and his wife welcomed their first baby boy. Watch below and read on to see what you can learn from Sager’s morning mastery. Here’s a tip: stay hydrated.
6:30 a.m.: Rise and shine and feed your mind
Sager believes the one thing that separates the average from high performers is mental health. That’s why he starts every day by prepping his mind.
First, he does something he enjoys in order to put his mind in a calm, happy state. For Sager, that means preparing a cup of coffee with his trusty AeroPress. It involves a few more steps than popping a pod into the machine, but that’s what Sager loves about it. Going through each step of the process, meticulously building his way from water and grounds to a fresh, aromatic, piping hot cup of joe helps him lock into a rhythm, which sets the tone for the rest of his routine and alerts his mind that it will soon be time to kick start his body into gear for the day.
It’s also during this time that Sager often does another vital mental exercise: journaling. It’s an inexact science; he tries not to think and simply unloads whatever is on his mind in a stream of consciousness. The point is to get his thoughts out of his brain. The result: a clearer mind with which to focus on each subsequent step of the routine.
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast and hydration
Next up, specifically, is breakfast. Steel-cut oatmeal for sustained energy, alongside a tasty scramble of two eggs, four ounces of ground beef, eight ounces of sweet potato, plus cabbage and spinach for a blend of protein, carbs, and key minerals and vitamins.
All that is paired with lots of water and his favorite sports drink, BODYARMOR LYTE, which gives Sager the essential nutrients and electrolytes to fuel his training session with only 20 calories and no artificial sweeteners or added sugars.
8:30 a.m.: Time to hit the gym
And he’s absolutely going to need all that fuel because every session with Sager is a monster. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are Sager’s primary training days, and each one encompasses two- to three-hours worth of intense, debilitating training that Sager says requires serious mental strength.
Today, Sager starts with plyometric work. He cranks through five sets of three box jumps progressing from 85 percent to 90 percent of his one-rep max height. Next, he moves to pure strength with heavy front squats: six sets of three reps progressing from 85 percent to 90 percent of his one-rep max. That leads into a CrossFit workout: four rounds for time of a 20-calorie bike, five clean and jerks at 205 pounds, and 20 toes-to-bars.
11:00 a.m.: Rehydrate, regroup, and finish the work
At this point, a casual two hours or so later, Sager finally takes a break. Just long enough to down another BODYARMOR and breathe his way through some mental cues before the final phase of his marathon workout morning, endurance work like biking or running. Today, it’s intervals on the stationary bike: a 20-minute warmup followed by 15 rounds alternating 30 seconds hard/30 seconds easy, then a 15-minute cooldown for a total of nearly an hour on the bike.
“There are plenty of days when I have to drag myself to the gym,” Sager admits. On those days, he finds added motivation in his journal and thinks about those who depend on him to give him that extra push. Not just his wife and newborn son, but folks he might never meet.
“I remind myself to ‘Be The Impact.’ Essentially, if I want to be the change I hope to see in the world, then I have to get up, get after it, and make it happen,” Sager says.
“I put myself through this to gain strength and challenge myself, but more so to inspire and help others who might need strength of their own down the road,” he continues. “If one person is inspired, it’ll have been worth it.”
“Training is my job, but family is paramount, so I build my day around that,” Sager continues. “If that sometimes means I have to bump my training time back, then I will, but that is why I set myself up for success in the mornings—so I can pivot if and when I need to.”
Sager’s advice for those looking to make the most of their mornings: keep it simple. For him, that means building his morning routine around things he knows he will enjoy
“Make time to do something that’s fun for you and start your day on a positive note. That’ll help set the tone and prepare you mentally to have a great day.”
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