I didn’t start out being an early morning exerciser. I started out going to the gym after work, fighting for equipment in an over-crowded gym with tons of other folks.
But once I made the switch to early morning workouts, I’ve never looked back.
Although there’s no ‘best’ time to exercise – you should do it whenever it works for you – there are some distinct advantages of exercising first thing in the morning:
- It’s done & over with – you don’t have to think about it again.
- Nothing gets in the way of working out in the morning – no last minute meetings, drinks with friends, or traffic.
- The gym isn’t typically crowded, so you don’t have to fight for the use of equipment or space.
I made the switch when I started volunteering for a women’s shelter, and committed myself to going through training after work. Once I got used to exercising in the morning (and it does take some adjustment), I now dislike exercising later in the day.
There are a few things that I do so that I set myself up for success when it comes to working out in the morning. Because what is going to make this habit stick, is making it easy.
1. Lay It Out
This is a MUST! Everything that I need for the next day gets laid out so that I don’t even need to think about anything: workout clothes & shoes (don’t forget the socks!), shaker bottle & BCAAs, keys, towel, earphones, phone, whatever I need the next day is lined up and organized so that I don’t have to think – because thinking in the morning is difficult, and the best way to derail a morning workout is running around searching for something that you need.
Get organized the night before.
You could stop your organization at what you need to do to get out of the house on time, but why stop there? Make sure that you have everything in order when you get home so that you can get to work on time too! Coffee ready to go, breakfast ready to go. Just get as organized as you can so that you can have a smooth morning, and not regret the time you took to exercise.
2. Count Backwards
So you have a meeting at 9:00? Okay, how long does it take you to get to work? How long does it take you to get ready – eat/shower/cool down (this might be different in the summer months than the winter months)? How long do you want to workout for? Does that include warm up and cool down? Do you need travel time to get to the gym? How much time do you need to wake up before getting going?
Add all that up, subtract that from your meeting time, and that’s when you set your alarm to get up in the morning. If you’re organized (see step 1), you might be able to shave some time off of that.
3. Go to Bed Early
Counting backwards again, how much sleep do you need? Everyone is a little different in how much sleep they need. Some folks need 9 hours while others I’ve known to only need 5 or 6. Set your bed time schedule. If you like to read, or need to wind down to fall asleep, you may want to pad that time for when you need to be ‘in bed’ versus ‘lights out’.
Working out early in the morning has put a damper on my social schedule. We often have to leave social engagements earlier than we’d like because we need to get our sleep. Sometimes we’ll push it a little, knowing that it’s an isolated incident, but overall, we try to stick to that bed time that we’ve set for ourselves.
4. Have a Consistent Wake Time
One thing that will certainly sabotage your efforts is having varying wake times. Let’s say that you exercise 3 times per week before work, and that means that you have to get up at 5:30 am. But on days when you don’t workout, you sleep in until 7:00 am. In wake times, that’s a really big difference!
If you’re used to waking up at a later time, and the alarm goes off 1 1/2 hours earlier, your chances of blowing off your workout are pretty big.
On the other hand, it seems kind of silly to wake up so early if you don’t have anything to do. So, find something to do.
Seriously. I used to get up an hour before I needed to start exercising just to get my day organized, and start writing. I loved the quiet, and I was able to be so productive during those early morning hours.
Even if you split the time between the two wake times, anything you can do to make it easier to get up at the earlier time will help.
5. Set an Alarm, or Activating Event to get going
Some of us need a bit more time to get going in the morning. I prefer to have a cup of coffee and scroll through my newsfeed for a while to wake up before I head out.
I was talking to one of my clients about her motivation to exercise in the morning. She was doing everything that is outlined above. But what was happening, is that she’d have a cup of coffee to wake up, and before she knew it, it’d be time to get ready to go to work. I totally get having a cup of coffee, & think that’s a fantastic idea. In fact, research shows that caffeine helps with exercise performance.
What we realized is that the second cup of coffee was the nail in the workout routine coffin. We set a rule that she couldn’t have a second cup of coffee; that after her first, she needed to get up & do her workout – 5 minutes or 30. It didn’t matter. But she couldn’t sit on the couch/at the table.
Whether it’s coffee or surfing your social media sites, it’s easy to get sucked into the time warp. Set a timer to go off, that gives you some time to relax, but not so much that you blow off your workout.
When i’m not feeling it in the morning, I opt for high intensity, shorter workouts. Like the workouts that are in my 20 minute workout series. They’re the workouts that I use on myself because they’re cardio and strength training all rolled into one 20 minute segment, and they really work.
Making the change to working out in the morning is tough. I’m not going to lie. BUT when it’s over, it really gives you a sense of accomplishment, and you don’t have to think about it again.
If you can stick it out for about a month, it will get easier. There are lots of different opinions on how to acclimate to an earlier bed and wake time. Most suggest going to bed 10 – 30 minutes earlier a week at a time until you’re at your designated bed time/wake time. But some folks prefer to rip off the band-aid and dive right in.
Either way you do it, I promise, you won’t regret the feeling of accomplishment when you’re headed to work and you can say that you’ve already exercised.
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