As a personal trainer, getting up at 4:30 in the morning for my 5:45 client was a challenge at first, especially during the dark, cold winter months. One of the big issues was that I only had this client a couple of times a week, so the days when I did not have to wake up early, my schedule was all over the place. I often asked myself and then eventually my client, why he decided to commit to such early hours. His response, was as expected: His work and family commitments tied up his evenings.
I have struggled to find the motivation to get up before the crack of dawn (unless work required it) to work out. It's not that I couldn't, as for a few years I would have no problem waking up before the early bird got his worm, to head out for morning basketball sessions twice a week before my workday.
Why I had no issue waking up to go run and jump and shoot a ball, but could not see myself throwing plates and weights around didn't really seem to make sense. Both are athletic activities, but the draw of one was much more appealing than the other.
So why is it that some people are more likely to engage in crack-of-dawn workouts, whereas others prefer the grit and grind later in the day? Is there more health and wellness benefits from an early session? Does it make you a better person?
For some people it is as routine as having their morning coffee and maybe that's exactly it—a routine.
Although neither preference for a workout time is wrong, let's take a look at the benefits of being part of the breakfast crew and tips for how to make it more appealing for you.
Roll Back the Clock
Changing your wakeup time can be a challenge. We are creatures of habit. Instead of trying to instantly wake up tomorrow morning 90 minutes earlier, try setting your alarm for 15-20 minutes earlier and spend the time doing a morning stretch routine or quick bodyweight session. From there, slowly bump your alarm clock another 15-20 minutes each week and add to your early morning session. If you aren't a morning person on the best of days, doing this during the sun-filled spring and summer months may be easier than the dark dreary days of winter.
Enjoy the Access
Hitting the gym or the track early in the morning will most likely result in you having the ability to access equipment that you may not be able to get to later in the evening due to high volume of people competing for space and equipment. Same can be said for the track (or your favorite running trails). Instead of trying to battle the lunchtime or after-work crowds for a set of weights or having to navigate through slower runners in front of you, the peace of mind and quiet of a morning workout can be very therapeutic.
It sounds simple, but for many people reaching over and hitting the snooze button repeatedly is their form of an arm workout. One of the best ways to make sure you get up is to make turning off your alarm less convenient. Place your phone or alarm clock (for those who still have such thing) across the room. If you have trouble answering the bell and you need those extra couple of Zs, set one alarm close to you so it cues you to wake up and then the other farther away set to go off 5 or 10 minutes later.
Set the Tone for Your Day
An early morning workout could add a little pep to your step, give reason for healthier food choices and fire up your mental awareness. Instead of relying on a cup (or more) of coffee, a morning workout provides a healthier and more beneficial alternative. Would you really want to ruin a 6 a.m. workout session by pounding a couple of breakfast donuts? While the first few early morning sessions may start with some grunts and groans even before you get to the gym, chances are your mood will pick up throughout the day as a result of the increased endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. With all these feel-good chemicals rushing through our body, stress levels are likely to lessen, resulting in a happier and healthier state of mind.
Put Away Your Device
Answering late-night emails or surfing social media takes away from capturing the important undisturbed sleep we all need. In fact leaving those emails and Instagram posts alone until after your morning workout session is equally as important. It is challenging enough to get up before the crack of dawn, but adding the distraction of a work email or mindlessness of social media can easily distract your mind from focusing on the task at hand.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses.
Let's be honest, there isn't a lot going on at 5 a.m., unless your work shift starts early in the morning or you have a newborn waking you up. An early morning workout takes away any opportunity for excuses such as having to work overtime, impromptu plans with family or friends or any other distractions that could happen as your day comes to an end. Now instead of missing your child's basketball game or piano recital or skipping your workout because of it, you have the best of both worlds and everyone is feeling that much more happier.
Prepare In Advance
There are few things worse than having to wake up early and stumble around in the dark (if you have a significant other, child or roommate) looking for your gym stuff. Prepare yourself the night before by setting aside your clothes, pre- and post-workout food/drink and bags. Also make sure that you have your morning motivational play list cued up not only for your time in the gym, but also for your commute there. Having your workout written out or set up on your app will also help save time in the morning and give you something to look forward to.
We are all human, we all have those mornings when getting out of bed can be a challenge. Sleep and rest are just as important to our body and mind as are our workouts. If for whatever reason you cannot make your regular morning workout session, there is always an opportunity throughout the day and evening to fit in at least a quick 30-minute session. When you save your workouts for the evening, the clock strikes midnight a lot quicker and soon the day will be lost.
After you get your full eight hours (if possible) rest, your body is dehydrated. Chances are you hit the bathroom first thing after waking up, which means your body loses even more water. Having a glass of water first thing in the morning and a water bottle ready to go on the way to your gym is key. On average drinking 1 cup of water per every 20 minutes of exercise is recommended. Depending on the intensity of your workout, sipping water between exercises is more ideal than chugging down a water bottle.
Kick Your Metabolism Into High Gear
Our body burns more calories after hitting the gym for an intense workout session. In scientific terms, it is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In simple English it means that a high-intensity workout will require more oxygen. As a result our body continues to burn calories at a higher rate throughout the day as we move, rather than what it might normally later at night after an evening workout.
Whether it is a personal trainer, a pre-paid class, an app or a workout partner, having someone or something to check in with and commit to is key to keeping you on task. As we all know, peer pressure goes a long way, and while it may be easier to find a workout buddy who will hit the gym with you later in the day, even something as simple as an app that you check in on could be enough to keep you committed.
It has been said that to create a habit, it takes roughly two months of continuous effort. Yes this could be a challenge for the first couple of weeks. But put it this way, if you can find a way to drag yourself out of bed before the early bird gets the worm, then just imagine what else you are capable of doing with your life. From simple things like finishing that home improvement task to kicking a bad habit, if you can find it within yourself to get up and put in 60 minutes of work early in the morning, anything is possible.
With everything taken into consideration the key to a successful workout is finding out what works for you. However for those who have taken up being part of the breakfast crew at the gym, they have found they have an increased level of focus, accountability and reliability at work and home. In addition, less stress, a loss of weight (in a good way) and an increased amount of "me" time has led to a healthier and more enjoyable lifestyle.
Photo Credit: oatawa/iStock
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