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7 Tips to Make Early Morning Workouts Happen

You WILL Wake Up at 5 a.m. to Go to the Gym

Article by Shanna Hutcheson

Are you ready for my top seven tips to make early morning workouts happen? You must be, since you’re reading this.

You probably think I’m crazy for believing I can convince you to start waking up even earlier to cram a sweat sesh in before work, but just hear me out. I’ve been doing this for a while, and it has been a game changer for me. Hopefully it will be for you, too.

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How I Got Started with Morning Workouts

I will admit; I definitely eased into this routine. It wasn’t something that I did consistently for a long time, but more so out of necessity when something popped up on my schedule and I couldn’t go later in the day.

A few years ago, Ethan and I joined Health House (a fitness studio here in Kansas City) and got in the habit of going to the 6 a.m. classes together. We loved it so much that we never looked back. Now I would choose a morning workout over an evening workout any day!

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In this post I will tell you WHY I feel that way, and some strategies to help you do the same, if that’s what you are determined to do.

It Isn't Always Easy, But It Is Always Worth It

Like I mentioned, I have been routinely exercising in the wee hours of the morning for a couple years now. I’m not going to sugar coat it. It is still a struggle to get out of bed when the alarm clock sounds at 5 a.m. and the dogs start rustling in their kennels.

For lack of a better term, waking up when it’s still dark out sucks! Unfortunately, it is a part of life we are just going to have to accept.

But I promise you. It can be done. It just takes a little bit of commitment and determination. And adequate sleep.

Here are seven tips to help you make morning workouts happen.

Tip #1: Go To Bed Early 

This is probably the most important tip. You should be aiming for seven to eight hours of sleep each night, whether you’re waking up early to workout or not. Sleep is SO crucial and as an RD, I see people neglecting this aspect of their well-being constantly.

If I am waking up around 5 a.m. in the morning, I make it a goal to be in bed and asleep between 9-9:30 p.m. the night before. I will admit: I’m much better about this when Ethan is not traveling, because he is much more disciplined than I am. Trust me, I understand that you want to do ALL THE THINGS possible before bed. I’m the same way. But at some point you have to call it quits and hit the pillow.

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The reality is, your workout is going to suck anyway if you get five hours of sleep and you’re too tired to even move your limbs. At that point it’s not even worth it!

Moral of the story: pick a bedtime that will get you seven to eight hours and stick to it. You may even wake up feeling rested. ; )

But just in case you’re not feeling rested…

Tip #2: Set Multiple Alarms 

Regardless of how much sleep you got, you still might not feel motivated enough to climb out of your warm, cozy bed. Especially when it’s still pitch black out, maybe cold outside, and no one else is awake yet. I GET IT! I literally moan and groan and hit the snooze every. time. my 5 a.m. alarm goes off.

Thank God for the snooze button. Seriously. If you need a few nudges to get your booty up, set multiple alarms. There’s no shame in that. It gives you some lead time to accept the fact that sleep time is over.

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OR if you prefer to just get it over with and hop up with the first alarm, you go Glen Coco. I admire the hell out of you.

The next one is optional, but SO helpful!

Tip #3: Find a Workout Buddy 

Throughout my time as a dietitian and wellness coach, I have met with countless clients and talked about strategies to help them be more consistent with their workouts.

I have found that this is one of the main things that helps motivate people to begin and/or stick with a fitness routine. Having an accountability partner is HUGE! Someone to motivate you to get to the gym and encourage you to work harder once you’re there.

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More importantly, working out with a buddy can make exercise way more fun and something you actually look forward to. It’s a lot easier to hit the snooze and go back to bed when you’re going to workout alone, but when you know you have someone counting on you to be there, you’re much more likely to make it happen!

If you prefer to workout solo and you’re able to get yourself there, way to go!!! Keep up the good work.

But if you’re struggling to do this alone, try to seek out a workout buddy OR consider joining a gym/studio with group classes. Even if you don’t necessarily go with someone or plan to meet a friend there, the instructor is counting on you to show up!

Okay, you’ve made it to the gym—congrats! Now what?

Tip #4: Warm Your Body Up

This one isn’t rocket science. Warming your body up can not only help you prevent getting injured, but it can also literally wake you up and prepare you for your workout. It’s early AF, remember?

Ideally you want to warm up with dynamic movements rather than static stretches. According to studies cited in this Nerd Fitness article, “static stretching before your workout will not result in the reduction of chance of injury” and it can “actually decrease your potential for strength gains and performance.” (FYI: static stretching is when you just hold a stretch in place for around 10-30 seconds. Save it for post-workout.)

Check out some good stretching tips here.

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On the other hand, jumping around and getting your muscles loose and ready for action with dynamic warm-ups is a great way to prepare your body for a workout. Some examples of this would be jumping jacks, high knees, butt kickers, jogging in place, jump roping, arm circles, mountain climbers, swinging toe touches, etc.

Okay, you’ve warmed up for 5-10 minutes or so. Next.

Tip #5: Make a Bitchin' Playlist 

I don’t know about you, but music can make or break a workout for me. I personally prefer rap—think Drake, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, etc.—but fill your playlist with whatever pumps YOU up.

Since I currently workout at a fitness studio in a group class setting, the instructors choose the music, so I don’t have any say in what they play. Luckily, the music is usually on point and contributes to my great workouts. ; )

Did you know there are even studies that show that listening to upbeat music during exercise can help give you the motivation to tackle higher intensity workouts?

Some more interesting fact’s from this article on Runner’s World:

  • Researchers found that when the participants listened to the upbeat, motivational music, their heart rates and peak power output were both higher than when they listened to a podcast or no audio at all.
  • Participants reported higher levels of post-exercise enjoyment when they listened to music, compared to when they listened to a podcast or no audio.

“Motivational” music was defined as anything more than 120 beats per minute.

“…the psychological aspect is big,” Michael Stork, PhD said. “Music factors like lyrics, tempo, and rhythm come together to evoke emotional responses. For example, you might associate ‘Eye of the Tiger’ with Rocky,” says Stork. Or a song by Lizzo could make you feel like a bad ass bitch. Whatever works.

If listening to music can improve your performance AND make exercise more fun, then by all means, GET WORKING ON THAT PLAYLIST. And then send it to me when you’re done. K, thanks.

Tip #6: Choose a Type of Exercise You Enjoy

I know I said the sleep thing was the most important… but I think this is a close second.

I cannot stress this enough. Exercise DOES NOT have to be miserable. It doesn’t have to be a chore or something you dread all day long.

If you absolutely hate going to the gym by yourself to do 45 boring minutes of cardio, then chances are you’re not going to wake up extra early to do it. So, find an alternative! Something you actually enjoy, perhaps?

Sign up for workout classes if your gym offers them, go on walks, hikes or bike rides when it’s nice outside, do hot yoga or even Zumba! The possibilities are literally endless.

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Join Class Pass and try a bunch of different studios around you. (You can try it for FREE for two whole weeks.) Take advantage of new member promotions at different gyms.

On a tight budget? Check out YouTube for millions of workout videos you can do at home and get some inexpensive equipment off Amazon! Also, walking or running outside is totally free.

There are so many enjoyable ways to move your body. Keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. Getting started is the hardest part, but once you get in the habit of exercising, I can almost guarantee you won’t want to stop. It feels so good and the benefits are endless. I promise – you can do this!

Last but not least…

Tip #7: Prioritize Yourself + Quit Making Excuses

Okay, I know that sounds a little harsh. But the harsh truth is this. We are ALL busy. We all have a million things going on and countless reasons why we “don’t have time” to exercise.

This is the number one reason why I love getting my workouts done in the morning. It allows me to get it done first thing and then I have my evenings open to get alllll the things done. Whether that is run errands, go to the store, cook a healthy dinner, or pack my lunch for the next day, etc. Or if you’re a busy parent, that might mean driving your kids all over creation in the evening. I know that is reality for a lot of people.

Maybe morning workouts aren’t realistic for you because you have a baby at home. Go downstairs and do a 20-minute at-home workout? Sneak in a couple of 10-15 minute walks in during the work day or over your lunch break. I bet you can find 30 minutes throughout your entire day to make this happen, whether it’s in the morning or not.

You don’t have to do a crazy high intensity workout seven days a week to see and feel the benefits. Three or four days of activity would be much better than nothing! You can get in a combination of lower intensity exercise (like walking), strength training and/or some higher intensity workouts (like power yoga or bootcamp-type classes).

Finally, All The Reasons I Love Working Out in the Morning So Much:

  1. It wakes me up.
  2. It boosts my mood right off the bat. There is something so motivating about being surrounded by other people who also made the decision to get out of bed and sweat before they start their day.
  3. It is crossed off my to-do list before the day has really even begun. (However, try not to use this as an excuse to be sedentary the other 23 hours of the day. Try to also get up and walk occasionally at work too, if you can!)
  4. I have more time in the evening to do other things that also contribute to my well-being. Whether that is preparing a healthy dinner, catching up with friends, packing my breakfast/lunch for the next day, RELAXING and watching Netflix, working on my blog, etc.!
  5. It’s something I can do with Ethan, which I love!
  6. It keeps me on track with my goal — to maintain and improve my overall health on a daily basis.
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You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself. Even if you feel like you have a ton of other things to do, exercise can be a priority too. It will have so many positive effects on both your physical and mental health. YOU GOT THIS!

So, are you sold on morning workouts yet? Just give it a shot, and don’t knock it ’til you try it! You might be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it is to wake up and go once you get accustomed to it. And if not, that’s what your workout buddy is for, LOL.

The natural mood boost first thing in the morning sets the tone for your whole day, and I bet you (and those around you) will notice a difference.

Follow Shanna Hutcheson @wellnessforthewin

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