8 Tips to Becoming an Early Morning Exerciser
It’s interesting to see people’s reactions when I tell them I work out at 5 a.m.
I’ve found it’s generally one of the following:
(a) Utter shock/confusion: “Wait, you work out at 5 a.m.?”
(b) Skepticism/sanity-questioning: “Whoa. Are you completely insane?”
(c) Awe: “How do you do it?!”
I only became an early morning exerciser once I became a mom.
I realized that if I had any hopes of getting in some sort of daily exercise and finally losing the baby weight, waiting until Buddy went to bed was soooo not the right approach. I’d be exhausted from working all day, then would want to soak up as much time as I could with him before he went to sleep. By the time that happened, I’d be so burnt out that I’d routinely blow off the treadmill for the couch.
Then an Anytime Fitness opened up near me — like a three-minute drive away — and began offering 5 a.m. Les Mills Body Pump and RPM (spin) classes.
So I started going. Or, more accurately, I forced myself to go.
I’m not gonna lie. It was rough at first. My body rebelled when that alarm went off at 4:40 a.m. Every morning I had to fight the strong urge to say, “Screw it,” hit the snooze button, and go back to sleep. I never leapt out of bed, all, “Yippee, I get to work out now!”
I still don’t!
Even now, 5+ years later, some mornings are a battle and there are occasions when I let my inner sleepyhead win.
And don’t get me started on those cold winter mornings, when your bed is all warm and cozy!
But there is something invigorating and reassuring about walking back in the door at 6:05 a.m., knowing my workout for the day is complete. It’s not hanging over my head all evening as I try to spend time with my family.
I also find I make healthier food choices during day, almost as if my morning workout has put me on a healthy path. And don’t forget: you continue to burn calories after the workout is done.
Research has shown morning exercisers are more likely to stick with their routines and reach their goals, and are more likely to work out harder and longer than afternoon or evening exercisers.
Sure, the downside is that I am in bed most nights by 9:30-10 p.m. I was never a night owl to begin with, but now that I’m getting up so early 4-5 mornings a week, it’s reaaalllly tough for me to stay up past 10:30 p.m., even on a weekend night. But it’s definitely a worthwhile trade-off.
If you’re struggling for ways to squeeze in daily exercise, consider the early morning — whether it’s going to the gym, a walk around the block, a workout DVD, or a basement treadmill.
Here are some tips on how to get started:
1. Prep ahead of time. Lay out all your gear — workout clothes, shoes, car keys, water bottle — the night before, so it’s just a grab-and-go. I’ll admit that for the first few weeks that I would sleep in my exercise clothes. It’s hard to rationalize skipping the gym when you’re already dressed to go. And don’t forget to have food or coffee ready if you need some fuel before your workout.
2. Find a buddy. Our 5 a.m. gym crew — mostly other moms in town, like me — has grown tight over the years, and I’ve gotten to know all my instructors. As a result, there are a lot of laughs in the gym, turning these early morning workout sessions into a social event. On the other hand, I have some friends who meet a running buddy in the morning or who take their dogs for early morning walks. Either way, knowing that someone else is relying on you makes it harder to hit that snooze button.
3. Get a good night’s sleep. This one’s a no-brainer. There’s no way you’re going to wake up refreshed and ready to go without a sufficient amount of zzzzzs the night before. So you may need to turn down that late afternoon cup of coffee.
4. Listen to your body. There are some mornings when it’s just not gonna happen. Particularly if I’ve had a bout of insomnia or if I’m not feeling well. Because while regular exercise is incredibly important to me, I also need to be productive (and alert!) at work. The trick here is to be honest with yourself and not use “listen to your body” as an excuse.
5. Plan it. I’ll note on paper (or sometimes here on the blog) what workouts I’ll be doing each week. I feel like once I’ve committed it to paper (or the blogosphere) that I can’t back out.
6. Be realistic. Personally, it’s hard for me to wake up super early five weekdays in a row. Unless it’s a week when my husband has been traveling and my routine has been thrown off, I usually need one morning — usually Wednesdays — when I can “sleep in.” So I’ll either make that my rest day or I’ll do a quick 5-10 min ab/core workout or I’ll try and sneak in a lunch time workout.
7. Reward yourself. In the beginning, I treated myself to new workout gear periodically as a reward after keeping with my 5 a.m. workouts.
8. Make sure it’s exercise you enjoy. Someone who detests running is not going to feel motivated to get up at 5 a.m. to pound the pavement. So whether it’s Zumba, yoga, strength training, or walking, make sure it’s physical activity that you truly enjoy.
What time of day do you typically work out?