At 5:30 a.m., I stumble out of bed in the dark trying not to trip over the sleeping dogs on the bedroom floor. I'm on my way to go for a morning run in the snow and cold. What I really want to do is crawl back into bed, have a doughnut and coffee and forget the run because, let's face it, when winter hits, my motivation for working out is lacking.
Working out becomes a necessity for most of us if we don't want to gain weight over the winter. But what about professional baseball players? Do they struggle with weight gain like the rest of us during the holidays? What do they look forward to doing during the winter?
"I'm excited to take a month off, that's something I'm excited for, let the body rest," Bryce Harper said recently. "Let the body heal a little bit and get as big as a house. ... That's the biggest thing I try to do."
Wait ... what? While the rest of us were trying not to add to many extra pounds over the holidays, Harper is trying to gain weight?
"I want to go into spring training about 240, 245," said Harper, who weighed around 218 pounds at the end of the 2013. "I'll lose about 20 pounds during the season."
Astros strength and conditioning coach Jake Beiting said Harper's approach is common. Lots of guys try to gain weight during the offseason, but it depends on the age of the player.
"The younger player, a lot of those guys are still so much younger and underdeveloped that they put on a lot of weight during the offseason, in a good way," Beiting said. "There are definitely guys that lose weight [during the season], particularly in September, you start to kind of back off the workouts a little bit and just eight months of playing baseball starts to catch up."
Hunter Pence agreed. For him it varies year to year, but he said it is usually a battle to keep weight on during the season.
"You are playing so many games. It's such a toll on the body," Pence said. "When you are playing every day there's a lot of running involved, just in jogging out to your position and back."
Most of us equate weight loss or gain with food intake, but Beiting said weight loss during the baseball season really doesn't have much to do with food.
"There's food around constantly," Beiting said. "That's a struggle just being around the clubhouse. There's always something to eat. A lot of [the weight loss] is just the grind of the season because they just don't have time to recover. It's hard to get really good quality workouts in because they are so tired all the time and a lot of times you have such limited time."
Most importantly, it is the quality of their offseason workouts that will help define success for many players next season.
"It's paying your dues," Pence said. "That's where the seeds of success are planted."
Pence loves to compete, so motivation is easy. He said loves to work out, and for the past two years he's had a different workout routine that has worked for him. That, he said, has "definitely got me in the best shape I've ever been in."
His daily workouts, which he does around noon after he's had time in the morning for breakfast and mental preparation, are different each day and prepared personally for him by his trainer in Tampa. You can take a look at his workout routine here.
"Basically, we just lift legs every day and we switch out the upper body and then we do yoga in between on off days," he said.
Beiting started in baseball in 2004 and said in the last 10 years attitudes about weight lifting have definitely changed.
"Guys really like to lift weights with a little more intensity and be more aggressive than they have in the past," Beiting said. "A lot of it has to do with the thought process in baseball that has continued to evolve with training and strength conditioning in general."
Just like the rest of us, everyone is different in how they handle offseason workouts and their level of motivation.
"Some guys are really, really good with their workouts and need very little guidance," Beiting said. "In those cases I just tell them to do exactly what they did in the past because they show up every year in good shape and they are ready to go, so there's no point in changing what's working."
However, some guys need more guidance, so Beiting helped develop an app for the Astros to track the winter workouts of their players.
"With the app, we just wanted to make sure they had something that's easy access that they could realistically use every day," Beiting said. "They don't have to worry about bringing a binder or a hard copy of a workout. They usually listen to music on their phones, so they can just look down at the workout really quickly, enter some weights in so we can keep track of the weight they are lifting and stay on schedule with the calendar that they are actually going to be using during the year."
From Harper working out and trying to gain weight in the winter, to Pence focusing on getting strong and fast to Jason Kipnis, who has taken to kickboxing this offseason, to the Astros tracking their players' workouts, offseason workouts for MLB players look different for everyone. However, the goal is the same: Get better, stronger and faster for 2014. Although, most of us can better relate to Harper’s approach ... adding weight in the winter.
"Yeah, that's what I do,” said Harper, 21. "My mom can cook, so that's the best part about it."