Unless you're a die-hard, set-in-a-routine kind of gymgoer, working out is hard.
Not so much the actual running, weightlifting, yoga, or whatever it is you do to get fit. Sure, that's a challenge, but the real struggle is getting into your gym gear in the first place. Doubly so if you exercise in the evenings, after a long and stressful day at the office.
The good news is that I've got a solution. The bad news is that you're not going to like it.
Why You Should Exercise Early in the Morning
This is a hard sell, I know. But if you can get past the initial grogginess of waking up before sunrise to lace up a pair of sneakers, there are so many benefits. Like:
The gym is less crowded. The after-work crowd at any gym is awful. Every machine is taken, weights are scattered all over the place, and you can't take two steps in any direction without bumping into someone. The pre-dawn crowd, on the other hand, consists of only the most dedicated of gymgoers. No more waiting in line for the squat rack or running elbow-to-elbow with other people on a fully occupied line of treadmills. Obviously, this can vary based on your gym, but it's a safe assumption that any gym is going to be way less busy at 6 am than it is at 6 pm.
Everything is nice and calm. There's something about the early morning that puts everything in perspective. No rush hour traffic jams or crowded sidewalks – just a quiet, relaxing calmness.
It starts your day off on a good foot, with the exception of the first two minutes after your alarm goes off when you're tired and cranky. Once that wears off, being up and active in the morning feels like an accomplishment. You can get in a solid workout, eat some breakfast, read the paper, and plan out your day, then head into the office with a sense of productivity already under your belt. Once you get used to that feeling, it's addicting.
No more after-work workouts. Once you've made it through another afternoon of meetings and deadlines at work, going to the gym is the last thing that most people want to do. I don't blame them. But if you already got your workout in at the beginning of the day, you're free and clear to go home and kick your feet up. This is especially helpful if you've got an active social life, too – you don't have to choose between happy hour or sticking to your workout schedule.
But recognizing the advantages is the easy part – it's a whole lot harder to actually put this into practice. To help, you're going to need a few tips.
Obvious, but important. The simplest route, assuming you're a coffee person, is to set your machine to brew just before you wake up, or keep some cold brew in the fridge.
If you want something even quicker, buy some pre-workout powder. They're easy and effective – sometimes too effective, actually, because they can contain really high doses of caffeine. If you go this route, start slow to figure out your tolerance. Mix up a glass before you go to bed and leave it on your nightstand, so it'll be ready to perk you up as soon as the alarm goes off.
If you like that quick-acting idea but don't want to mess around with whatever other mystery ingredients are in pre-workout mixes, you can buy caffeine in pill form. A 200 mg capsule with a gulp of water will get you out of bed, into your workout gear, and ready to roll.
Put Your Feet on the Floor
When your alarm goes off, you're going to want to snooze it. Then you're going to want to snooze it again. Then you're going to want to lie under the covers, groggily scrolling through your phone, for another twenty minutes while you try to convince yourself to get out of bed.
Don't do that. The second you wake up, swing your feet out of bed and onto the floor. Go brush your teeth or get a glass of water if you have to. The first few minutes are tough, but once you're out from under your sheets, the rest is easy.
Don't Overthink It
It's very easy to convince yourself that it's fine to skip a workout and fall back asleep once a pre-dawn alarm jolts you awake.
"I could just go after work today." "I went yesterday... maybe I'll just take this one day off." "Leg day isn't all that important, right?" I've used all of those and then some to justify tossing my phone across the room and getting back in bed.
The solution is to not think at all. View your early morning workout schedule as a consistent, completely inflexible part of your day. Once you stop considering it to be an optional, once-in-a-while thing, sticking to an early routine gets way easier.
Get Enough Sleep
If I get anything less than five hours, odds are that I'll sleep straight through my alarm. Or I'll be so tired when it goes off that I say "screw it" and go back to sleep.
That's not a path to success, for fitness or for mental well-being. Because consistent lack of sleep doesn't just make it harder to wake up early – it'll ruin your daily disposition, too. I was irritable and grumpy all the time when I tried to skimp on sleep for a few weeks so that I could fit in some extra training. It's not enjoyable for you, or for anyone who has to put up with you.
The standard advice is that you should get eight hours of sleep a night. That might be a bit ambitious for most people, but aim as close to there as you can manage. The earlier you go to sleep, the more rested you'll feel when you wake up early.
Even with all that, getting out of bed and into your sneakers at the crack of dawn isn't easy. But it's far from impossible – and the more you do it, the easier it'll be.