One of the top reasons we stop making fitness a priority in our lives is due to a perceived lack of time. Life admittedly gets incredibly hectic as we get older. Increased work responsibilities, potentially the need for a second job, a significant other, children and not to mention also trying to balance a social life as well.
Finding the time to make a consistent gym routine a priority is an extreme challenge- especially when exercising in a public, social setting, may not be something you love in the first place. It is very easy to let a fitness routine fall by the wayside, as the whirlwind of life rolls days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, since the last time you set foot in a gym.
There’s always one piece of advice I give to anyone who truly wants to make fitness a priority, but struggles with the time commitment- adjust your schedule so you can go to the gym first thing in the morning. There are innumerable physiological benefits to why working out in the morning will enhance your fitness results- increased energy throughout the day, consistently better food choices, better focus and improved sleep patterns, just to name a few- but the most important one I feel is the ability to not let ‘life’ get in the way of your consistent gym routine.
When you exercise early in the morning there is [usually] only one obstacle to you getting to the gym- your own willingness to drag your ass out of bed and go! There are no PTA meetings, Happy Hour Drinks with co-workers, or dinner with your parents happening before sunrise. Once you establish an early morning gym routine, you’ll be amazed at how infrequent you miss a planned training session. This in turn gives you great consistency in your training frequency that will ultimately allow you to achieve your fitness goals!
The question is, when being a morning person is so unnatural, how can you can make an early-morning gym routine a reality instead of just a pipe dream?
3 Tips to Make an Early Morning Gym Routine Last
- “Failure to prepare is preparation to fail.”
The key to making an early morning exercise routine consistently work starts the night before. There is a whole series of steps I take before I go to bed, that makes the next morning go infinitely smoother. I program my coffee maker, set my clothes out, pack my gym bags and leave them by the front door. My normal routine involves walking in the gym doors to train myself anywhere between 4:15-5:30 AM, and one key I’ve found after years of doing this is: the less trivial thinking you have to do first thing in the morning, the less daunting the wake-up routine becomes. For example, something as simple as laying your clothes out the night before, immediately takes the thinking out of “what should I wear?”
Whether you drink coffee, a pre-workout supplement, or just solely water before your workouts, set everything out the night before. This way there is no rummaging with coffee filters or shaker bottles. Especially if being a ‘morning person’ is not natural for you, the more ‘grab and go’ aspects you can create for yourself, the better. Your goal for preparation needs to be making things as easy as possible on yourself to get out the door.
2. Set your alarm earlier than you need to get up and RESIST hitting the snooze button
A conversation I routinely had with college athletes when they had 6 AM lifts was: don’t set your alarm for 5:45 and expect to be fully functional and be ready to go at 6. This is extremely common with night owls, or anyone that wants to get every second possible of sleep- they will set their alarms for the last possible second before they have to get up. This is a recipe to either be late to the gym and cut your session short, injure yourself because you’re rushing and didn’t warm up properly, and/or ultimately feel worse throughout your morning routine because you’re waking up as you’re doing vigorous activity.
What I’ve found is that as uncomfortable as it is, give yourself a running start. Set your alarm significantly earlier than you need to be up. While this will technically result in getting maybe a half hour or 45 minutes less of sleep, you will wind up feeling so much better if you use this extra time to ease into your morning.
For example, if you’re the type of person that needs to work out with food in your stomach, you should get up an hour (at least) before your planned workout and have your pre-workout meal (Apple with peanut butter, oatmeal or a power bar are a few great options). This will give you plenty of time to digest and leave you ample time to properly hydrate and implement another healthy routine- such as meditation, journaling or reading- that will help get you in the right frame of mind to crush your day. Giving yourself the extra time in the morning so that you’re fully functioning mentally by the time you walk in the doors of the gym. This practice will greatly enhance the overall quality of your workout from start to finish.
3. Chug water when you wake up
For all of us caffeine addicts, typically our first instinct in the morning (regardless of what time we’ve woken up) is clamoring for the coffee pot. Consuming some caffeine before a morning workout could be essential to you having a successful morning routine, however, fight yourself to not let it be the very first thing you drink. Whether it’s a cup of coffee or a pre-workout supplement, put them on hold until you’ve drank 16-32 ounces of water. Personally I like my water to be room temperature so I can get through the whole amount in about one sitting, however, others love ice cold water because they say the shock of the coldness aids in waking them up. Regardless of your preference, the importance of water consumption is unprecedented when it comes to ‘feeling awake’ first thing in the morning.
The main reason for consuming water first thing upon waking up is simple: we wake up from a night of sleep in a dehydrated state. Consuming any sort of caffeine will further dehydrate you, which is not what you want going into a workout. Also, a common side effect of dehydration is feeling tired. Especially at first, you’re already going to feel tired transitioning to an early morning gym routine, so don’t compound the issue by also being dehydrated.
If an afternoon gym routine is ingrained in your schedule, and you don’t let hell or high water impact your consistency of getting workouts in, then honestly I wouldn’t change a thing. There are plenty of scientific studies that tell you when the “best time” to exercise is, however, I would argue the best time is simply whatever time you can repeat day after day, week after week, month after month.
If you can consistently get in the gym after work with high energy levels, then that’s awesome! Keep it up. But, if you keep missing your planned 5:30 PM lift, because the couch at home is more appealing than the Squat Rack- especially after a long day at work- I highly encourage you to try a few (if not all) of the tips I laid out above and attempt integrating a morning gym routine.
By adding exercise into a morning routine, inevitably you will wind up making healthier decisions throughout the day as well. You tend to eat healthier, have more energy and possess a huge sense of accomplishment that your workout is already out of the way. Any activity (such as an after-dinner walk) you do throughout the rest of the day is gravy and will only add to your health and fitness routine. Just like anything, don’t expect an early morning routine to be easy at first. It will be difficult, and initially you will be more tired. However, your body will ultimately adjust and after about a month of consistently hitting early AM lifts, you will find the routine to be more second nature.
The biggest key to getting results, regardless of your training goal, is consistently exercising and eating healthy. An early-morning gym routine tends to naturally put most people on this track, which allows for sustainable long-term success!
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.