As summer drags on, the initial joy of longer days and warmer mornings seems to melt into a sweaty puddle. With a combination of excessive heat and vacations, many are knocked off their workout game. Getting back on track may require something dreadful: early morning exercise before it heats up. If you're like many of us you think "no way". Never been a morning person, never will be.
In reality, using a few solid strategies, anyone can start getting up early to exercise. Once you get over the initial period, the mind and body benefits will be all the motivation you need to keep going!
Here's how to do it:
Morning is when your willpower is the strongest and you're most able to build new habits. A morning exercise routine is the perfect way to take advantage of this.
Extend the Calorie Burn
While any physical activity is good for your health, studies show that morning exercise may be even better. Because of the way your body continues to burn calories for hours (up to 14) after your workout, morning is optimal timing. This process is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. As you consume calories throughout the day, your metabolism is still going at an elevated rate. It uses them more and has less need to store. If you exercise later in the day, you miss some of this benefit as you'd be sleeping during the prime burning period.
Strengthen the Mind
Several hundred studies have shown that exercise has notable, positive impacts on mood, overall focus and cognitive function. For some, in fact, exercise can offer a similar boost to caffeine in their overall alertness and mental performance.
Note: In some areas it's sweltering even before the sun comes up. Be sure to always practice hot weather safety. Learn more here.
1) Getting enough sleep is a must: You'll need all your energy. There are a wide variety of sleep tips, with effectiveness that will vary for different people (here are a few). Avoiding alcohol, late night TV, and heavy meals is known to help with sleep. Those tips in particular will also help with energy levels needed for exercise in the morning.
2) Use an effective alarm: If you're not a morning person, there's a good chance that hitting snooze 10 times is part of your routine. To help ensure getting out of bed, set multiple alarms and make them a distinct (maybe even annoying) sound. Put the alarm far enough away where you have to get up to turn it off. In addition, if you use your phone for an alarm, set multiple alarms and label them with frank messages like "This is your last snooze" or "Get up now. No more chances".
3) Plan everything out the night before: Set out your exercise clothes, shoes, and earbuds. Also know exactly what your exercise routine is going to be before you go to bed.
4) Leave yourself a motivational note: Write out a few phrases or sayings that inspire you on sticky note and place it at your bedside/on your alarm. If you decide to bail on the workout, make yourself read them.
5) Keep your morning routine basic: Get as much ready as you can the night before and keep the "to do" list to a bare minimum. Under 10 minutes is ideal. This helps reduce the number of things that can derail your efforts.
6) Pick a realistic time, then protect it: By doing early morning workouts, you have the advantage of few things competing for your time. Make sure you mentally tell yourself that "this is what you're doing, no matter what". Make sure to let others know, as well.
7) Eat a snack with a promise of more: You'll need a boost of energy, but you don't want to hit the grind with a full stomach. A few bites of a protein bar or banana would be ideal. A WonderSlim meal replacement bar fits the bill with 15 grams of protein and just the right amount of calories for fuel.
Most importantly: Plan a full breakfast to refuel after your workout, and keep it in mind as something to look forward to.
8) A little water and maybe coffee: Hydrating with water before a workout is a must. Drinking a little the night before and in the morning is ideal. Many also find that drinking a bit of coffee before their workout gives a noticeable boost.
9) Add a partner: Accountability is key for any exercise routine. Pick someone you enjoy spending time with to make the effort something that you'll look forward to.
10) Start realistically and build a habit: You don't want to get overly ambitious, which could mentally (or physically) increase the chances of failure.
One great way to start, especially if you are relatively new to exercise or waking up early, is to use micro habits. This model helps you conquer a seemingly huge goal by starting incredibly small. The idea is to build momentum by starting so small that you cannot fail. An example would be:
Before you know it you'll start developing a habit and then building on it towards the workout that you want.
11) Consistency and frequency is key: The first few times you wake up and exercise will probably feel like a chore. This feeling eventually goes away, unless you only do morning workouts sporadically. Skipping sessions or only planning 1-2 per week likely won't build a habit, and your body won't start to physically or mentally adjust. Each time will feel almost like starting completely over.
If you're ready to start getting up early and enjoying the benefits of morning exercise, the type of exercise to get started isn't important. You can take advantage of the cooler temperatures to get a good jogging, running or cycling workout in, of course. If you want to start slower but still get a great grind in, however, there are plenty of other options to get the blood pumping. Check out these calmer workouts, like the hollow body hold, inchworm push-up, and more here.