Tips to Develop a Morning Exercise Habit
It’s such a common complaint that it becomes a cliche: I don’t have time to work-out. We all have 24 hours in each day, yet some of us have a way of finding timeslots that we can devote to ourselves and our health and well-being, yet others don’t or can’t. What gives?
While I can’t give you a magical 25th hour to your day, I can, at least, provide you with some tips about how you can manage to fit a daily exercise routine into your life. You can do whatever exercise you’d like — weightlifting, yoga, pilates, running, cycling, swimming, whatever tickles your fancy — but what matters most is that you do something. Something is better than nothing, particularly when it comes to your health.
As a busy parent and adult, I have found that the time I am most likely to exercise each day is in the early morning hours, well before anyone in my family is awake and our collective day, as a family, begins. As it turns out, I’m not alone with this feeling. Studies and research alike have suggested that people’s willpower levels are highest during the morning hours, and with this in mind, it’s far more likely that you’ll make good choices regarding your health (such as what you’re eating or your choice to work-out) in the early a.m. hours, compared to the later p.m. hours.
With this in mind, below, I’ll describe some of my best tips to help get you into and to help you maintain an early morning exercise routine. What’s important here to remember is that you’ve absolutely got to be patient with yourself. If you’ve never exercised routinely before, or if you’re coming back to it after a long hiatus, expect that there will be some road bumps along the way. You probably weren’t an expert at something when you did it for the first time, right? Give yourself some flexibility and grace, and just show up for yourself and do the best you can each day. Provided you do that, you’ll have nothing to complain about or stress over.
Below, you’ll find my tips that’ll help you develop and maintain a morning exercise routine:
Set all the alarms at night. Even if you wake up early each day for work, to accommodate a morning exercise routine, you’ll have to wake up even earlier than usual, so it’s best to not rely just on your own internal clock for your rising. Set a few alarms — for AM, not PM, of course (it happens!) — and consider even putting your alarm away from your bed so you can’t just slap it off or hit snooze effortlessly in the morning.
Leave nothing to chance; lay everything out before you retire. When you’re trying to get into a new routine, such as becoming an early morning exerciser, it’s important that you leave nothing to chance. For you, this means taking the time before you go to bed each night to lay out all your fitness accoutrements you’ll need, including the shoes you’ll wear, the clothes you’ll don, any technology you’ll be using (such as a watch), or even putting your keys, purse, or ID out so you can easily grab them. If you drink coffee in the morning, consider putting your coffeemaker on a timer so it gets going right away and your coffee will be ready when you need it. You don’t want to be scrambling around in the morning looking for an errant shoe (and thus, losing your precious workout minutes), and completing this tedious task before you go to bed will help you tremendously.
Once you’re in bed, just read a book and get snoozing. We are all guilty of falling into the abyss of the internet when we should be going to bed, so I implore you: once you’re in bed, if you need extra help unwinding, read a book. That’s it. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’ll “just check” your email or myriad social media accounts for 10 minutes because before you know it, it’ll be an hour later. It’s so important that you get enough sleep at any time in your life, but it’s especially true when you’re working out regularly. In fact, I’d encourage you to get yourself into bed earlier than usual to accommodate your new rising time — by as much as at least 15-30 minutes earlier — because while you may not fall asleep right away, you can at least send “sleepiness” signals to your body that it’s time to begin shutting down for the night.
When your alarm blares, get up, and get out of there! Don’t fool yourself: sleeping for ten more minutes isn’t going to make a difference in how you feel. Once your alarm sounds, get up, get moving, and don’t look back. Snoozing for just a few more minutes isn’t going to make a big difference; instead, it’ll just be a waste of time. Remember, you’ve worked really hard already to get this process put into place; don’t undermine yourself because you’re feeling a little groggy.
Be patient with your new routine. Like I mentioned before, it’s likely that the first time you started something new, you weren’t very good at it. You probably made a lot of mistakes, got frustrated, and wondered if it was worth continuing. Expect the same to follow for your new morning exercise routine. There will surely be times when you oversleep your alarms or when you forget to set your alarms altogether, and I bet there will also be times when you wonder if sleeping more will actually be better (and more enjoyable) for you than trying to improve your health and wellness. Hang in there. Be patient. Before you know it, if you keep at this new habit of yours, it’ll become like second nature, something that you can more or less do on autopilot without much thought, just like brushing your teeth.
The more, the merrier: get a friend in on the action. Having a friend meet up with you for your early morning exercise will be great for not only the fellowship — everyone wants to spend more time with friends, right? — but it’ll also bring you a level of accountability. You surely wouldn’t leave your friend high and dry at 6am outside, waiting for you to show up for a 6 mile run, right? Knowing that your dear friend is waiting for you to get your act together and show up on time can make all the difference between getting out of bed on time or sleeping in. Plus, honestly, it just makes working out so much more fun and enjoyable. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the time passes by when you share your sweat sesh with someone dear to you.
Find what you enjoy. The “best” workout for you is one that you’re actually going to do. If you hate running, don’t think that you’ll somehow magically enthusiastically enjoy running 12 miles one day. Find what works for you — what you enjoy the most — and stick with it. There’s something to be said for having variety, as well, so maybe do what you love most of the time, but periodically try something new, even something that you may not particularly enjoy as much as others.
Set goals to keep you motivated. We are inherently goal-driven people, and when it comes to our health and wellness, having some goals on deck can be great tools for motivation. It’s really encouraging to put a goal out there and to work towards it day in and day out. It doesn’t matter what it is — weight loss, a time goal for a running event, an amount that you’d like to lift, going to the gym X number of days a week, whatever — but be sure that you set a goal that’s realistic, easily quantifiable, and a bit ambitious; remember, you want to work for it! Working alongside a friend or even a personal trainer or coach can also help keep you motivated when you are struggling, too.
It takes time and energy, as well as commitment, to get into and maintain a regular morning exercise routine, but it’s completely doable, and you’re more than capable of doing it. Give yourself some flexibility and permission to fail — what’s more important is that you try in the first place — and I bet you’ll be amazed at what you can do, likely much more than you ever thought possible.