By Elle Penner, M.P.H., R.D.
Over the years I’ve grown to love exercising in the morning. It frees up my evenings, leaves me fewer excuses for skipping out on a workout, and helps me feel more alert throughout the day. Research shows morning workouts can also improve sleep, acuity, and productivity, as well as positively impact diet and exercise habits.
However, just because I love morning workouts doesn’t mean I leap out of bed at the sound of my alarm, eager to exercise every day. Even us morning people might find it tough to head out for a run before the sun rises or attend a 6AM burpee bootcamp. I’ve skipped my fair share of early workouts, but I’ve also gotten quite good at not skipping them too, thanks to a little strategic planning, preparation and positive thinking.
If you’re wanting to become more of a morning exerciser, here are some of my top tips. Maybe they’ll help you too!
1. Ease into it. If you’ve never exercised in the morning before, don’t sign up for 6AM personal training sessions five days in a row. To start, schedule one morning workout per week. Try choosing a day you have something fun planned for that night. Knowing you can’t put your workout off might give you more incentive to get out of bed and exercise that morning. When you start to feel okay with one day per week, bump it up to 2. Gradually your body (and brain) will get used to sweating before 7 o’clock.
2. Write a workout schedule for the week. This is helpful no matter what time of day you prefer to exercise, but building your day around a morning workout really does give you fewer excuses to skip it. Besides a horrible night’s sleep, there are few things that can get in the way of you and your morning workout. When writing your workout schedule, also consider things like work deadlines, events and travel plans, so you can let your really busy days be rest days!
3. Enlist a morning workout buddy. It’s a lot harder to skip a morning sweat session if you have someone counting on you to show up. No one wants to be that person who bails!
4. Before you go to bed, decide exactly what morning workout you will do. For example, instead of saying, “I will exercise before work tomorrow,” say “I will jog 2 miles and do 30 pushups before work tomorrow.” Workout agendas maximize efficiency by eliminating wasted minutes spent debating which piece of cardio equipment to hop on or which strength move to do next. This allows you to budget just the right amount of time you’ll need to fit in your workout. It also prevents you from dozing back off to sleep while pondering what type of exercise you’ll do.
5. Lay out your exercise clothes the night before. This gesture alone is a sign you’re committed to getting out of bed for exercise in the morning. It takes the guesswork out of dressing for the weather, which can be overly complicated if you’re groggy from a good night’s sleep. Check what the low temperature will be overnight and plan your workout attire accordingly. If your workout is fairly early, chances are the temperature will be at or near the low temperature for the night. Your still-sleeping significant other will appreciate not hearing you fumble around in the dark as you look for your favorite pair of socks.
6. Pack your gym bag before you go to bed if you plan on showering elsewhere. You’re much less likely to forget critical belongings like deodorant and underwear. I’ve done both and it doesn’t make for a great start to the day. Take it one step further and write down a list of essential items such as shampoo & conditioner, towel, deodorant etc… and take a quick peek at it as you’re packing. Eventually, you’ll have it memorized!
7. Get a good night’s sleep. Like I mentioned above, there are few things that can get in the way of you and your morning workout, but sleep deprivation is one of them. It’ll get the best of you almost every time.
8. Think positive thoughts. When your alarm goes off, don’t dwell on how much you’d rather fall back asleep or how tired you are. Instead, focus on what you’re excited to do with your free time after school or work, or how great you’ll feel the rest of the day for sticking to your goal. Remember, the only workouts you regret are the ones you don’t do!
Working out in the morning isn’t for everyone, but if you want to start then it’s entirely possible to make it a healthy habit with enough planning, preparation and positive thinking. I’m proof—and I hope these little tricks will help you too!
Do you prefer morning, afternoon or evening workouts? What helps you early exercisers get out of bed in the morning?
Elle Penner, M.P.H., R.D., is the Registered Dietitian and Food & Nutrition Editor at MyFitnesssPal, as well as an active runner and food-enthusiast. For more healthy living inspiration, connect with her on Twitter andPinterest.