Tips to Become a Regular Early Morning Exerciser
By now, we should all know how important it is that we take care of ourselves. It goes without saying, right? We spend so much time looking after our young children — and perhaps also our aging parents — but for many of us, we neglect our own self-care in the interest of serving others. While this may be altruistic, it can unfortunately be pretty detrimental to our own long-term health if it’s something we do all the time.
Devote some time to self-care
I don’t think I’ve ever met a single adult out there who has complained that he/she had too much free time. Instead, more often than not, the opposite is true: we’re all looking for some magical and elusive 25th hour in each day because it’ll be then — and only then — that we’ll finally be able to devote some time to self-care and health. It’ll be in that 25th hour of each day that we can make healthy meals, eat right, and get a good hour long sweat session in each day, making us into the banner children of perfect health.
Unfortunately, there is no 25th hour. We all have just 24 hours in each day, and it’s up to us how we use them. Though it’s easier said than done, it’s imperative that we all take care of ourselves just as we do our children and/or our parents, and while I can’t give you a 25th hour, I can give you some tools of the trade to help you become a regular morning exerciser.
Take care of ourselves
For many of us — myself included — I am most likely to exercise if I do it in the early morning hours, before the rest of my household awakens, and I find that having that little bit of time to myself makes a huge difference in how I feel and how I interact with others for the rest of the day. Sure, getting up a little earlier than usual, and going to bed a little earlier than usual, can be rough-going, but I promise you: it’s worth it.
Below, I’ll describe some of my “best practices” that’ll help get you on the path to becoming a regular morning exerciser. They include:
At night, before bedtime
Rely on alarms at first. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll just magically wake up when you need to, especially if you’re going to be waking up earlier than you usually do. Give yourself some leeway and set a few alarms (for AM, not PM – I’ve made that mistake before!), and consider even putting your alarm away from your bed so you can’t simply swat at it and hit snooze in the morning.
Make your morning effortless. This is incredibly tedious, but takes 15 minutes at bedtime each night to prepare all your morning exercise “stuff.” Ideally, you want to make your morning routine pretty seamless and autopilot-able. Display the clothes you’re going to wear, from the socks and shoes to the tops/bras/shorts; charge whatever piece of technology that you’ll be using; prominently place your keys in a place where you can find them; put your coffeemaker on a timer so it has a cup waiting for you when you awaken … you get the picture. Leave nothing to chance. It’ll be a lot easier for you to simply get up and go rather than having to get up and scrounge around your home, looking for an errant shoe or your missing keys. Trust me; I’ve been there. I know!
Get to bed earlier than usual, and log off. When you’re getting up earlier than usual, it makes sense to go to bed earlier than usual, but that’s easier said than done. Negotiate with yourself; even if you go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night, it’ll add up over time. It can be really tempting to get into bed and mindlessly scroll the internet, YouTube, Facebook, and all the other thousands of social media channels, but don’t fall down this rabbithole. If you get into bed and aren’t yet tired, read a book — a real life book, not an eBook. Perhaps play quiet, calming music. Invest in some blackout curtains so your physical environment can help send your body signals that it’s time for sleep. Sleep is probably one of the most important aspects of exercise and training (and a healthy lifestyle, in general) and yet is probably one thing that most people simply don’t respect enough. As you get used to your early morning routine, you’ll likely find that your body naturally craves an earlier bedtime each night, so please be patient. It’ll get easier over time. You’ll get used to it.
In the morning
Be patient with your new normal. Chances are high that the first time you did something, you weren’t very good at it. Maybe it took you a long time to fully master a skill, and I bet that you even messed up a few times here and there, making mistakes as you became more capable. So, too, will it be with getting used to becoming an early morning exerciser. It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to do this effortlessly from the get-go, that you’ll happily and enthusiastically spring out of bed each morning ready and rearing to go. Instead, be realistic with yourself. Manage your expectations accordingly. Realize that there will probably be some days that you miss your workout because you turned off your alarm, forgot to set an alarm, were sick, had to attend to your kids’ or parents’ needs, or any other host of reasons. Be patient and gracious with yourself. You’re a work in progress, and as you have more experience with your new normal, you’ll figure out ways to better streamline and improve your process; it just won’t likely happen overnight.
Get a buddy to join you for the fun. Most things are more fun with others, and I strongly believe that when it comes to working out early each morning. Having a friend meet-up with you will be great for both of you, since you’ll both not only benefit from the social aspect, but you both will be giving each other an implicit accountability partner. You probably would feel like a jerk if you stood up your friend, right? Sometimes knowing that someone is waiting for you at the gym at 5am or on the street for a run in the rain will be the difference between you rolling over in bed, turning off your alarm, and actually getting up and getting after it. Plus, if you have a dog who likes morning walks or runs, that’s great, too! Your buddy can be furry and four-legged.
Find something fun to you. The nice thing about exercise is that you have so many options. If you don’t like running but love swimming, then obviously don’t run. When you’re developing a habit for the first time, it’s important that you find something that you enjoy doing because, simply put, it’s more likely that you’ll actually do the thing in the first place. Maybe after you swim for a few weeks or months you’ll want to branch out to something new, like weightlifting or cycling, but if swimming makes you happy and gets you to the gym each morning, by all means, go with it. You’ve got endless opportunities here, so please don’t feel afraid or intimidated. Try something new — especially with a buddy! — and who knows? Maybe you’ll find the next big thing that you love doing.
With time, practice, flexibility, and patience, I have no doubt that you’ll find your groove and become a regular morning exerciser. Research has shown time and again that people’s willpower levels are typically highest in the morning, so it makes sense that so many people — busy parents and caregivers especially — devote their early waking hours to getting their sweat on. Starting the day with an enjoyable workout can set the tone for the rest of the day, and over time, I bet it’ll become as routine to you as brushing your teeth or showering: something that you just do, something that doesn’t require much thought. Finally, if you fail at becoming a morning exerciser your first go of it, don’t sweat it; just try it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. There’s something to be said for tenacity.
Dan Chabert is a long distance runner and an entrepreneur at the same time. He owns several websites, namely: Runners101, Runnerclick, Nicershoes, and That Sweet Gift. When he is not busy managing his websites, he usually travels to popular marathon destinations.