If you feel like your alarm goes off too early as it is, getting up for morning workouts probably seems like the impossible dream. But there’s a good reason to make it a goal: Exercising in the morning can be the secret to actually sticking with a new fitness routine.
“Exercise becomes a habit when you keep doing it consistently, but if you wait to exercise at night, you risk having to stay late at work or getting a text from a friend who wants to meet for drinks,” says Kenna Sullivan, an expert-level personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Chicago Athletic Clubs. In other words, when there’s a full day’s worth of stuff that can come between you and your gym session, chances are something will; in the morning, the only thing in the way is you — or, well, you and a cozy comforter — but unlike work and friends and other responsibilities, those are things you have total control over.
There are other, bonus benefits to morning workouts: Getting something challenging out of the way helps you feel accomplished and sets a good tone for the day. Plus, research shows you’ll sleep better if you exercise first thing compared to at other times.
Now that you’re convinced of why you should adopt morning workouts, here’s how to make getting up easier.
Put your money where your muscles are
Consider hiring a personal trainer, at least in the beginning. “If someone is holding you accountable and you have an appointment, you’re a lot less likely to skip your workout,” says Sullivan. “If you don’t show up, you still have to pay for the session, not to mention that you’ll have to deal with the wrath of the trainer.” If one-on-one sessions don’t fit your budget, ask at your gym about small-group training options.
Mind your sleep hygiene
Even the best morning workout intentions can be derailed if you’re exhausted. “You either need to go to bed earlier, get a better mattress or improve your sleep habits,” says Jen Gentile, a life coach based in Dobbs Ferry, New York. One easy change to make: Well before you turn in, turn off your smartphone and other electronics, whose displays mess with circadian rhythms and make it tough to drift off and stay asleep.
Another tip: Try to wake up around the same time every morning, even on Saturdays and Sundays. “Another big reason people can’t get up, especially on Monday mornings, is that they let themselves sleep in on weekends,” Gentile says.
Make it impossible not to get up
You’ve probably heard the advice to move your alarm away from your bedside. There’s a good reason it’s a familiar tip: It works — getting out of bed is half the battle. “I actually moved my alarm out of the bedroom entirely,” says Gentile. Or, try this genius trick from one of her clients: “He put his alarm near the coffee maker, which he sets to start automatically at the same time. When he goes in the kitchen to turn off the alarm and smells fresh coffee, he’s completely awake.”
Along the same lines, try putting a bedroom lamp on a timer so it switches on when you want to get up, too. Bright light helps signal the body it’s time to rise, so it will likely be more difficult to go back to sleep.
Schedule your sweat sessions
If you simply think, I’m going to start hitting the gym three mornings a week, chances are you’ll put it off, then just decide to start the next week, when the cycle repeats itself, Sullivan says. Instead, don’t allow yourself wiggle room. “Decide exactly which mornings you’re going to exercise and stick to it every single week,” she says. It will be challenging at first, but, like any new habit, it doesn’t take long before it becomes another part of your regular routine. Stick it out those first few weeks and you’ll soon be rewarded.
Have some fun
Even chipper morning people don’t want to wake up early for a boring workout. Test out several different classes or activities to find an exercise, class or amazing, motivating instructor you’ll actually want to get up for — or at least helps you feel psyched once you make it to the gym.
You’ll have even more fun — and further cut your chances of ditching — by getting a pal to meet you there. “No matter how sleepy you are, most people won’t leave a friend hanging,” says Sullivan. Afterward, catch up over coffee rather than happy-hour cocktails; not only will you save yourself the hangover, you’ll feel even healthier.
—Alice Oglethorpe, Tribune Content Solutions